A Long Way Gone

Ishmael Beah

This is the story of how wars are fought now: by children, hopped-up on drugs and wielding AK-47s. In more than fifty conflicts going on worldwide, it is estimated there are some 300,000 child soldiers. Ishmael Beah used to be one of them.

What is war like through the eyes of a child soldier? How does one become a killer? How does one stop? Child soldiers have been profiled by journalists, and novelists have struggled to imagine their lives. But until now, there has not been a first-person account from someone who came through this hell and survived. Ishmael Beah, now twenty-five years old, tells a riveting story: how at the age of twelve in Sierra Leone, he fled attacking rebels and wandered a land rendered unrecognizable by violence. By thirteen, he’d been picked up by the government army, and Beah, at heart a gentle boy, found he was capable of truly terrible acts.

This is a rare and mesmerizing account, told with real literary force and heartbreaking honesty. Ishmael Beah came to the United States when he was seventeen, and graduated from Oberlin College in 2003. He lives in New York City.

Reviews of A Long Way Gone

  • ‘A corrosive, eloquent and illuminating account of a child soldier’s life, and it makes you look at the news with a fresh eye. What he has done is to make his situation imaginable for us, and stop us from simply turning away in horror. That is the best gift he could give the world.’ Hilary Mantel

    ‘The arming of children is one of the greatest evils of the modern world, and yet we know so little about it because the children themselves are swallowed up by the very wars they are forced to wage. Ishmael Beah has not only emerged intact from this chaos, he has become one of its most eloquent chroniclers. “A Long Way Gone” is one of the most important war stories of our generation. We ignore its message at our peril.’ Sebastian Junger

    ‘A ferocious and desolate account of how ordinary children were turned into professional killers.’ The Guardian

    ‘A remarkable book…makes you wonder how anyone comes through such horror with his humanity and sanity intact. Ishmael Beah seems to prove it can happen.’ William Boyd

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