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War Child: A Child Soldier's Story Hardcover – February 3, 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1 edition (February 3, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312383223
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312383220
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,315,091 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

As a young kid barely able to carry a gun, Jal, one of the Lost Boys of Sudan, witnessed and perpetrated unspeakable brutality in his country’s civil war, but he has not only found refuge in the U.S. but also become an international rap star for peace. His violent memories are graphically relayed in this powerful autobiography. At age 9, he smashed faces with machetes as his friend plunged a bayonet into an enemy’s stomach. What is amazing in this story is how Jal has been able to let go of his rage. His family gone, he was adopted by a British aid worker, who took him to Kenya, where he struggled in school. But eventually, inspired by Gandhi, King, and Mandela, he turned to music and the idea of rapping for peace (“no tribalism, nepotism, and racism in my motherland”). And his songs climbed the charts. With the intense personal story, Jal also brings in political issues not confronted in other books about the Sudanese War, including the crucial role of oil (“black gold”) in the ethnic conflict. --Hazel Rochman

Review

"Disturbing and visceral...Jal tells his story in spare, direct, and searing prose that leaves nothing to the imagination and offers a close-up view of the damage done to the psyches of children turned into warriors." --Library Journal
 
"Frank, unsparing...[A] searing portrait of a war-torn youth turned community advocate and role model."--Kirkus Reviews
 
"Powerful...[an] intense personal story." --Booklist
 
"There's no glamour here, no pitched battles, only unimaginable misery... Utterly grounded, specific and real... You'll come away from this book loving Emmanuel Jal."--Washington Post
 
"Fast-paced...stark...a provocative challenge." --The New York Times

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Customer Reviews

Bravo, Emmanuel Jal!
Eileen Cunningham
I have to say that this was not only a hard book to put down, but at times it was a hard book to read.
Shawn Kovacich
This story is one that should be told and it should affect us.
Jacob & Kiki Hantla

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Jojoleb VINE VOICE on December 2, 2008
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
There are few first person accounts from Sudanese refugees and none that I know of from former 'lost boy' who actually served in the SPLA. This frightening, honest, gritty, and often unsettling account of the events that shaped Jal's life is well worth reading. It is one of those books where the substance is so critically important that it overshadows any shortcomings in the writing.

War Child is the autobiography of Emmanual Jal and details his journey from Sudanese refugee to international rapper. From the outset, we know the beginning and the end of the story as it is outlined in the first chapter.

Jal's story begins as he is forced to flee with his family from village to village in order to escape civil war. At age 7 he is told that he is to go to school so that he can be part of Sudan's future. But given a turn of events he is 'educated' by the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) and becomes a child soldier. Eventually, he becomes a 'Lost Boy' adoptee of British aide worker, Emma McCune which leads him on a path to spiritual and emotional healing. The book leads up to the present day where he is a popular Christian rapper and social advocate for change in the Sudan.

But this book is not an easy read. And it is not for the faint of heart. It deals with a young boy growing up in a brutal and unforgiving environment. He speaks of all the atrocities that occurred (and continue to occur) in Sudan. This includes the brutalities of war, cold blooded killing, rape, starvation, and death. Jal's survival is as much due to luck as it is due to his intelligence and his skill. Jal writes in short, punctuated chapters. The sparse prose may reflect the fact that English is his third language but also suits the subject matter well.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on June 18, 2009
Format: Hardcover
We hear about the wars and conflicts and suffering in Africa but as soon as you turn off the TV or close the magazine or put down the paper it goes away and it is easily forgotten. This book changed that for me. Since reading this book it has continued to come back to me. It seems that it is not so easy to forget once you know someone this has happened to. The atrocities are almost surreal, but I know they are real and I started to care about what was happening to this boy. While not a perfect book it made what has and is still happening very real for me.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Matthew Smith on December 24, 2008
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is a disturbing tale of life in war torn Sudan, and unfortunately it is a familiar tale for too many nations in Africa. The use of child soldiers has become a heavily documented phenomena, whether it is in Sudan, the Congo or Uganda and elsewhere this is a terrible practice that is destroying the youth and the future of this tormented continent.

Jal's story is a horrific tale of loss and suffering. It details the way in which normal kids are turned into unfeeling killers. Instead of learning to read or write children like Jal are taught to endure pain, how to shoot and kill their enemy and how to suppress every emotion except for their hate. The process starts with seeing bodies and death all around them as they are forced to flee one war torn area after another. As one by one their family members disappear or are killed in front of them. This goes on until finally a militia gets a hold of them, and once that happens their fear and confusion is directed into hate for the ones who have caused them so much pain.

The reason this story is so awful is because it is so common. Jal's story is not unique, but it is just one of many thousands. As more and more of these books are written the story adds greater texture to the whole picture, and what becomes more and more apparent is the commonality of the story. While each militia in all the different areas may have different techniques for creating child soldiers, in the end the process boils down to brutalization.

These books are never easy reads, and the endings are never quite happy but they are a necessary read nonetheless.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Paul J. Escamilla VINE VOICE on July 16, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I have to admit, I was not strong enough to get all the way through this memoir. Although it is extremely well-written, gripping and vivid, the tale it tells is just so awful and depressing that after a few chapters, I could not read any more. The same thing happened to me recently when I tried to read "The Grapes of Wrath". Due to the current economic climate, Steinbeck's great novel was just too painful a read.

Would I recommend this book to others? The answer is definitely "yes" if the reader wants to know more about the horrors of war and racism. It is also a good book to read if you find yourself thinking that you are living a hard life or that life has been unfair to you. This book will make you count your blessings. It is like a hard slap to the face.

The curious thing is that I have no problem watching films that deal with these types of horrors. As upsetting and depressing as they may be, they only last around 2 hours. A book like this takes me many more hours to read, and I found it just too emotionally grueling. I am almost ashamed to admit that. But it is the truth.

I may go back and read more, because the story apparently has a somewhat happy ending...I just need to grit my teeth and gird my emotional loins.
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