A Long Way Gone: Memoir

Ishmael Beah

About The Author

Ishmael Beah was born in Sierra Leone in 1980. He moved to the United States in 1998 and finished his last two years of high school at the United Nations International School in New York. In 2004 he graduated from Oberlin College with a Bachelors in political science. He is a member of the Human Rights Watch Children’s Rights Division Advisory Committee.

Seirra Leone Civil War

The war was between the Rebels and the Tutsi people (anyone not a rebel). The war was about the control of government and the power of the military and people. The Rebels wanted to kill of the weak to form a strong country. It wasn't really a war considering only one side was killing others. It was more of a massacre for years.

Book Summary

The point of view is from the author at his age during the way. It's on the side of the Tutsi and civilians. It goes through the struggles of survival and the reality of war as a boy. And goes into the actions humanity is capable of with the wrong treatment when he becomes a soldier with the rebels after he was taken up by them. Eventually he is released but his horrors and actions while as a soldier haunt him as he struggles going back into society and moving to New York where no one understand the loss and pain he has been through.
“When I was young, my father used to say, ‘If you are alive, there is hope for a better day and something good to happen. If there is nothing good left in the destiny of a person, he or she will die.’ I thought about these words during my journey, and they kept me moving even when I didn’t know where I was going. Those words became the vehicle that drove my spirit forward and made it stay alive.”
“I joined the army to avenge the deaths of my family and to survive, but I've come to learn that if I am going to take revenge, in that process I will kill another person whose family will want revenge; then revenge and revenge and revenge will never come to an end...”
“We must strive to be like the moon”

Reaction & Recommendation

I've been wanting to read the book and I was not disappointed in choosing to read it. The stories were real and heart break and loss were real. I grew a stronger love for the people in South Africa after reading this book. I couldn't believe humanity could do such things but this war and book show you how such things are possible.

I would recommend for mature high schoolers who are interested in true stories. This isn't much about the war as it is about the struggle of living through a war where you were the one running and hiding away.

Authors' Purpose

Ishmael wrote this memoir to accept the actions and past and to tell the world about the struggles he went through and that other kids and adults are still going through today. Not only in Sierra Leone but all over South Africa.


War is Hell: The war was tough and not peaceful. The pain caused felt as if you were living in hell everyday.

There will always be love, even when surrounded by hate.: Even when everything around you is coming crashing in, there was always be love within you, love for friends and family. When you have nothing to live fore, you have the love for your people in your life to push you forward.

Dear Ishmael Beah,

I've read your book and it has truly touched my heart. My reasons for after college going to South Africa just got more serious and longer. My love for the country is stronger. My understanding about humanity was changed and opened up to the true brutal possibilities and reality of other countries unlike my own. My own struggles seem so bad until I read about how you survived and my mistakes seem so unforgivable until I found out that you were forgiven. You are an inspiration.