A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah

In 1993, when the author was twelve, rebel forces attacked his home town, in Sierra Leone, and he was separated from his parents. For months, he straggled through the war-torn countryside, starving and terrified, until he was taken under the wing of a Shakespeare-spouting lieutenant in the government army. Soon, he was being fed amphetamines and trained to shoot an AK-47 (“Ignore the safety pin, they said, it will only slow you down”). Beah’s memoir documents his transformation from a child into a hardened, brutally efficient soldier who high-fived his fellow-recruits after they slaughtered their enemies—often boys their own age—and who “felt no pity for anyone.” His honesty is exacting, and a testament to the ability of children “to outlive their sufferings, if given a chance.”

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