A Long Way Gone


Ishmael Beah

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A Long Way Gone Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Ishmael Beah's A Long Way Gone. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Ishmael Beah

Beah was born in the town of Mogbwemo, in Sierra Leone in 1980, where a civil war broke out in 1991 and lasted for eleven years. Orphaned by the civil war, Beah was on the run from the rebel advance before being picked up by government soldiers. He would become a child soldier for the army, and fight for two years for the government before being chosen to be rehabilitated in Freetown, Sierra Leone’s capital. There he would get the opportunity to go to the United Nations in New York City and speak on behalf of child soldiers in Sierra Leone. Although eventually returned to his extended family, when the civil war reached Freetown in 1997, Beah fled for the neighboring country of Guinea and was flown to New York with the help of a workshop facilitator he had met at the United Nations. There, Beah finished high school and attended Oberlin College, working on A Long Way Gone while he was a student at Oberlin. He is a member of the Human Rights Watch Children’s Rights Division Advisory Committee and heads the Ishmael Beah Foundation, which benefits former child soldiers. Beah lives in New York City and has also written a novel, Radiance of Tomorrow.
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Historical Context of A Long Way Gone

The civil war in Sierra Leone began in 1991, as the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), under the leadership of former army corporal Foday Sankoh, began attacking villages in East Sierra Leone, and lasted until 2002. Government response was ineffectual at best. By 1997 fighting had reached the capital of Freetown, and the government was ousted, only to be reinstated a year later. Eventually the situation became so dire that the United Nations intervened, only for the RUF to go so far as to hold several hundred members of the peace-keeping mission hostage. British troops were deployed, and it is only in the wake of this action that the country found peace. The war was characterized by extreme human rights violations, including the widespread use of child soldiers on both sides.
Key Facts about A Long Way Gone
  • Full Title: A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier
  • When Written: 2007
  • Where Written: New York City
  • When Published: 2007
  • Genre: Memoir
  • Setting: Sierra Leone, 1990’s
  • Climax: Beah’s first battle as a child soldier
  • Antagonist: Lieutenant Jabati
  • Point of View: First Person Autobiography

Extra Credit for A Long Way Gone

Beah’s Return to Sierra Leone. In 2009, Beah was accompanied by an ABC camera crew in the return to his home of Sierra Leone, which he had not been back to since fleeing for New York City in October of 1997.

Saved by a blockbuster. The song on Beah’s cassette, which saves the boys twice, “O.P.P.” by Naughty by Nature, reached the 6th position on the Billboard Top 100 in the United States in 1992.