A Long Way Gone

By: Ishmael Beah


A Long Way Gone is the true story of Ishmael Beah, who becomes a boy soldier during a civil war in Sierra Leone. When he is twelve years old, his village is attacked while he’s performing in a rap group with friends. There was still fighting and violence that forced Ishmael, his brother, and his friends to search the village for food and shelter. Their day to day life is a struggle of survival. The boys start realizing they are stealing food and money from innocent children. It’s just a fight for your life every day.Soon Ishmael is captured by the army and is sworn in, and he is the thing he feared most, a killing machine who thinks nothing but violence. The army becomes his family and he is brainwashed into believing that each rebel death may avenge his own family's slaughter. The boys are soon addicted to cocaine, marijuana or “brown brown” which give them the courage to fight and helps them forget about the pain of the war.

Favorite Passage

  1. These days I live in three worlds: my dreams, and the experiences of my new life, which trigger memories from the past.After a month of living in the relative safety of New York City, Ishmael Beah is still haunted by nightmares of his time fighting the war in Sierra Leone. His new life is unfamiliar to him and cannot protect him from returning to the past terrors of his young life. Worse still, his vivid dreams constantly draw him back to the terror of his life in Sierra Leone as a victim of the RUF violence. He is a young man divided against himself, as his country had been divided against itself - in both cases, due to the rebels' violent actions.

    Ishmael Beah- pg. 20

Main Characters

Ishmael Beah: The book's protagonist. Ishmael was a child soldier for the Sierra leone armed forces. His parents, brothers, grandmother, and aunt were killed by the revolutionary united front, or RUF. After being rescued by Unicef and rehabilitated, he went to live with his Uncle Tommy. While there, he was recruited to travel to the United States to speak at a United nations event about child soldiers. Returning to Freetown after his speaking event, he eventually made his way back to the United States. After a time, he was able to forgive himself and love once again.

Junior Beah: Ishmael's older brother by one year.

Alhaji: One of Ishmael’s closest friends. Alhaji was part of the group of boys from Mattru Jong that Ishmael met in the wilderness. Alhaji and Ishmael formed a close bond during their years as soldiers, and were part of the same squad. Alhaji was nicknamed "Rambo" for his combat skills that were heavily influenced by the film. Alhaji and Ishmael were eventually taken by UNICEF and put into a rehabilitation shelter in Freetown. He apparently moved from foster home to foster home following the events of the book.

Kanei, Musa, Saidu, Jumah, and Moriba: Ishmael’s friends from his home village whom he meets in the wilderness after being separated from his initial group. Saidu is the first of the group to die; he dies suddenly two nights after he and the other boys eat a crow that fell from the sky. Kanei is the oldest of the group by 3 years, although Alhaji is confused as being older because he is taller. He becomes junior sergeant, and later is chosen to stay behind because he is older while Alhaji and Ishmael are sent to rehabilitation. It is unknown what happens to him. Musa is the group's storyteller; he is killed in the first battle that Ishmael and his squad fight in. Jumah and Moriba also become part of the army. Jumah is assigned to another squad in a different village, and is last seen preparing for another village raid. Moriba is killed in a fight some time during Ishmael's time as a soldier, however, his death is not thought much about.


What Beah saw and did during the war has haunted him ever since, and if you read his book, you'll be haunted, too . . . It would have been enough if Ishmael Beah had merely survived the horrors described in A Long Way Gone. It's hard to know he could still live his life I New York and rewrite these memories. If your looking find out about the way war really is in second world countries. Ishmael beahs book is a very good place to start.