10.10.2011

Blog Book Discussion...FINALLY!

Happy Monday everyone!

Today, I FINALLY bring you the A Long Way Gone blog book discussion.  I know I announced it over two months ago, haven't done the best job of reminding you all about it, and also haven't been as on top of my reading, etc as I'd like.  But, nonetheless, it is now here.

Today's post is a wordy one, but I do think it is worth the read, even if you did not have the time to read the book.

Also--if any of you know how to set up a link up will you please email me directions:  sundressesandsmiles@gmail.com ?  I thought I had an html code to do it, but it is not working!!


I finished A Long Way Gone at the stroke of midnight last night and spent some time in bed reflecting on it all and how I'd like to structure this discussion.  So here's my plan--

The book brings up a lot of issues within our world and many powerful themes.  For my portion of the book review, I'm going to give a brief synopsis of the book and then focus on the issue that stood out most to me.  I then will also pose some other potential discussion questions I have thought of.  You, as readers, however, can frame your posts however you'd like.  You can write about one of the questions I suggest or you can write about what personally moved you in the story.

ALSO, because I know some of you may not have had time to read the book, I'm hoping to frame some of these questions in a way that they can be answered without having read.

Feel free to post your responses in a comment or by linking up (fingers crossed that the link up functions properly).

SO, here goes!

A Long Way Gone tells the story of Ishmael Beah, a young teenager living in war torn Sierra Leone.  At the age of twelve he is forced to flee from attacking rebels in his village and is separated from his family.  After months of running from rebel groups and fighting for survival, Beah and his companions are ultimately captured by the army.  Beah, who has since witnessed the murder of his family, finds solace in the army community.  They feed him and provide him with a brotherhood.  They also provide him with lots of drugs, a large gun, and brainwashing.  For three years he fought as a child soldier--performing horrible acts.  At sixteen, he is rescued and removed from the fighting by UNICEF, however his journey is not over.  It takes a long time to heal and rehabilitate.  Ultimately, however, he prevails and becomes a leader in the fight to end the cycle of killing and the use of child soldiers.


If you have not yet read this book, I encourage you to do so!  It is a quick read, and though it is very sad at times, it will open your eyes to a world that is so foreign to us and make you want to fight for change.

The question I'd like to focus on today for my portion of the book discussion is:
How does a book like this one (or horrible stories in the news) affect your view of humanity?
As I've mentioned on this blog, I often grapple with my faith and have not yet figured out what I believe.  When people ask about my religion, my response usually is that "I haven't quite figured out what I believe in, but I do know that I believe in people."  I believe that people are good.  This faith I have in humanity, however, can be challenged at times, especially when reading a book like this, watching the news, or even realizing how much disparity exists in the world.  Seeing these heartbreaking conditions that many people face makes it hard to remain true to my belief in people, and I know some peoples' beliefs in God, as well.  After reading a book like this, however, I work to keep my faith in humanity by focusing on those people in the story and world that are wonderful and inspiring.  Ishmael even says (in reference to Esther):  "She was wearing her white uniform and was on her way to take on other traumatized children.  It must be tough living with so many war storeis.  I was just living with one, mine, and it was difficult...Why does she do it?  Why do they all do it?"  Despite the atrocities in the world, there are people like Esther, like Laura, and even people like Ishmael who can overcome the worst possible conditions and still have faith in humankind.  

And now for some other questions you may want to consider:
At the start of Chapter Ten, Ishmael says:  "One of the unsettling things about my journey, mentally, physically, and emotionally, was that I wasn't sure when or where it was going to end.  I didn't know what I was going to do with my life.  I felt that I was starting over and over again."  Can you imagine constantly living in fear and not knowing what the next day, hour, or minute will bring?  


Ishmael's rap music and cassette tapes play a pivotal role throughout the story.  They are the one possession that he has to cling to his past life and ultimately the tool that Esther is able to use to befriend Ishmael and begin his healing process.  What role does music play in your life?  Do you have a possession that is particularly significant to you?


To me, my loved ones are everything and in many ways, are what make life the most worthwhile to me.  Do you think you would have the strength to go on without your family as Ishmael did?


How do you think issues within the army parallel issues in our own society?  For example, Ishmael finds a certain amount of solace in the family he forms within the army, similar to that of many gang members in our own country.


In Chapter 18, Ishmael says:  "I would always tell people that I believe children have the resilience to outlive their sufferings, if given a chance."  Do you believe this?  Why or why not?


For those of you that did have time to read, Ishmael ends the story by saying:  "I concluded to myself that if I were the hunter, I would shoot the monkey so that it would no longer have the chance to put other hunters in the same predicament."  What do you think he means by that?


And that's it for my questions!  Please, please respond whether it be in comment form or through a link-up.  This book was powerful and even those that may  not have been able to read can still share input.

Finally, I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes from the memoir:

"It was the Atlantic Ocean.  The sounds we had heard were those of the waves hitting the shore.  I had seen parts of the ocean but had never stood at the shore of one this vat.  It spread out beyond the vision of my eyes.  The sky was at its bluest and seemed to curve down and join with the ocean in the distance.  My eyes widened, a smile forming on my face.  Even in the middle of the madness there remained that true and natural beauty, and it took my mind away from my current situation and marveled at this sight." (pg 59)

Have a great day!  I'll be back tomorrow with a weekend update and regular posting!

Because the link up is not quite up and running, feel free to copy and paste the link to your post in a comment!

3 comments:

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