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Innocents Lost: When Child Soldiers Go To War Hardcover – International Edition, July 6, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Briggs does not lack for material—an estimated 10% of the world's fighting forces is under 18—or real empathy for the subject, but his intention to make visible a "tragedy hidden in plain sight" often fails. In part, that's because some stories are so gruesome, it is difficult to keep one's eyes on the page. Many sections move too quickly for readers to get to know the children or the places they live. In other spots, Briggs's research-heavy drill of acronyms and statistics is numbing. The exception is the chapter on the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda, in which Briggs, a Life journalist, stays with the brutal story of the army's kidnapping of a dormitory of Catholic school girls. The attention on a single episode and deft rendering of an Italian nun, forced to choose which of her students would stay with the army and which would be released, brings the horror of child warriors and the conditions that create them into focus. Otherwise, the loose collection of research, notes and interviews, including a chapter on the first American soldier killed in Afghanistan that is only partially related to the topic, offers neither a crafted narrative nor a meaty exploration of the politics of war or the failure of humanitarian intervention. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author

From covering violence in minority communities to investigating rights abuses, the personal stories of disadvantaged youth have been the focus of Jimmie Briggs' decade-long career. Over the last four years he has focused on child soldiers. As a reporter at LIFE, Briggs was awarded the John Bartlow Martin Award from Northwestern University for a story on the Gulf War's impact on children and became a finalist for the National Magazine Award. In the summer of 1998, he earned an honorable mention in the Dorothea Lange-Paul Taylor Prize competition, and an Individual Project Fellowship from the Open Society Institute to study war-affected children. A year later, Briggs received a commendation from the Congressional Black Caucus for his coverage of AIDS in the black community. He has written for The Washington Post, The Village Voice, EMERGE, VIBE, George, The Source, Junior Scholastic, XXL, The New York Times Magazine and LIFE. He lives in New York City.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; Export Ed edition (July 6, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465007988
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465007981
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.4 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,226,462 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Ndubuisi Madubuike on February 18, 2006
Format: Hardcover
One of the most alarming trends in modern armed conflicts is the practice of using children as soldiers. These children are deployed both by government forces and guerilla groups. Inspite of several international initiatives to stop the child soldiers, including the United Nations practice of 'naming and shaming' the parties engaged in this practice, children continue to be used as soldiers in armed conflicts around the world.
Jimmie Briggs attempts to deepen our understanding of this terrible phenomenon by using the personal stories of some of the children in these conflicts. The book begins with the story of Francois Minani, a 16-year-old Rwandan son of a Tutsi mother and Hutu father who was forced by Hutu militiamen to kill his Tutsi nephews in other to prove his allegiance to the Hutu tribe. The story of clementine and her four brothers and sisters addresses the plight of " unaccompanied children" ie. those under eighteen without parental or adult member custody.

The book discusses the problem of child soldiers in the conflicts in Colombia which have been going on for a long time. According to the author, the conflict in Colombia is not solely about drugs but also about class, economics and power. Cocaine is merely the ugly means for perpetuating an unseemingly unwinnable war. Consequently, children have been the main casualties both as victims of violence and as perpetrators of it. Jimmie Briggs also used the conflicts in Sri Lanka, Uganda and Afghanistan to show that the methods used by these armed groups to recruit children are the same all over the world.
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Format: Hardcover
Having studied and written about the horrors of child warfare myself, I appreciate the way Jimmie Briggs helps us understand this terrible phenomenon. Using children as soldiers is not a modern innovation, but he shows how it has evolved in an age of light, cheap weapons and insidious guerrilla warfare.

The greatest strength of Innocents Lost is the way personal stories of children pressed into war are put into the context of the larger conflicts in which they fight. Briggs also does a good job of showing the effects of the phenomenon on not just the children but on their families and others as well.

I particularly appreciated his refusal to sensationalize the children's stories. Briggs is a journalist, not a dramatist, and he used his skills to present the individual stories with passion while resisting the urge to make us wallow in pathos. Even with his objective tone, it is difficult to read the accounts--often told in the children's own words--without being deeply saddened.

While much of the research behind this book was done several years ago, it should be noted that all five of the conflicts Briggs investigated are still going on in one form or another. As recently as October, 2008, there were reports of Rwandan children being sent to fight for the CNDP, a rebel force in the Democratic Republic of Congo that has since been integrated into the Congolese army. And Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army continues to ravage southern Sudan and the DRC, kidnapping children just the way Briggs describes.
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Format: Hardcover
Great overview, very readable, great mix of personal stories of children, overview of the situation and what is being done about it, and even a bird's eye view of being a journalist in these situations and getting to know these youth. I've also seen Mr. Briggs speak with youth about the situations of child soldiers, and he's great at connecting with youth here in the States and making the situation real and not sensationalized to them.

One of the things I like best about this book is that it goes beyond the perception of child soldiers as an "African" problem, and looks at the use of child soldiers globally, including girls. If you're interested in learning about child soldiers, this is a great place to start!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Although children have never been fully excluded from acts of war, the rates of child participation in armed struggle has increased dramatically in the past decades. As such, a growing literature is emerging on the subject and drawing light to a growing global problem. Riggs work spans the developing world in the search of personal accounts of children at war.

The author speaks personally with children who participated in war, their families, and others affected by armed conflict. The book spans the globe, ranging in location from West Africa to South Asia, and examining the present conflict in Afghanistan. With each location the reader is given an eye witness account of the brutality of child conscription. All though much of work is based on anecdotal information, the book contributes significantly to the cannon. The case studies provide food for thought regarding a variety of geographical regions and provide significant background to a host of conflicts employing child soldiers.

The limitations of the book mainly arise from the limited scope of the work. Riggs avoids an examination of the unique socio-economic circumstances that accompany many of the conflicts employing child soldiers, or truly addressing the long-term repercussions for a nation embroiled in conflict with child soldiers. In addition, it would be helpful if Riggs would have examined in greater depth the many development programs addressing children at war. Nevertheless, Riggs provides an enlightening and readable book and will not disappoint those attempting to better understand the emerging problem of children at war.
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