Ishmael Beah’s A Long Way Gone and Alem Kelo’s Refugee Boy are both exceptional books on the lives of two different people in two different countries undergoing almost similar events in life.
Both of the stories portray life from the perspective of two vulnerable children caught up in circumstances that are not pleasant. However, the only difference between the two is that while Beah’s events are actual events, Alem Kelo’s are fictitious. However they both succeed in portraying the hard life of a child trying to fit in to a society that is alien to him.
A Long Way Gone: memoirs of a boy soldier.
Ishmael Beah, in his autobiography recounting the war years in his country, Sierra Leone, details how he became a child soldier. He says that when the war started, his mother and his father, who were from different tribe, which happened to be at war with each other, were separated. Though he does not give much detail as to how and why they separated, he records that they went separate ways.
After the militia invaded their village, and he narrowly escaping being forcefully recruited into the militia, he realizes that there is no other way to escape the war and its only a matter of time before he either join the army or the rebel forces. So he opts to join the army citing the reason that in doing so he could atleast avenges his relatives who were killed by the rebel forces.
In the army he also survived by taking ‘brown brown’, a mixture of gun powder and cocaine. This he says they were influenced to take due to the various brutal and sometimes vicious they had to do.
The story is quite remarkable in that Ishmael Beah tends to remember almost all the little tiny details, which are remarkable, considered that most of the things he went through were quite early in life. For example he can vividly recount the events that marked the beginning of civil war in their village; he can remember the details like a woman carrying a bullet ridden child, a Volkswagen that brought the first people to be affected by the war and so on.
Refugee boy is a fictional book by Benjamin Zephaniah. It tell the life of a young boy from a mixed family, the father being an Ethiopian while the mother is an Eritrean, it happens that these two countries are at war and Ethiopian army is demanding that foreigners, especially from Eritrea to leave the country.
In the story, Kelo, being of mixed blood, cannot be accepted in either Ethiopia or Eritrea. The soldiers who come to compel them to leave call him “a mongrel”. So in search for safety for their son, Kelo’s father takes him to London in what to Kelo seemed like a holiday. Kilo is however rudely shocked when he realizes that the holiday was not really a holiday after he is abandon in a hotel room by his father.
His predicaments are just beginning since he has to move to children’s home then to a foster home at the Fitzgeralds. In between he fights to get asylum in UK. He is tossed in the hands of social services and the Refugee Council of England.
Zephaniah, B. (2004). Refugee Boy. New York: Turtleback Books.
Beah, I. (2007). A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier. New York: HarperCollins Publishers Limited.
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