Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Sharing our Takeaways from Beah. By Mike Lohre

 Students, in the Comments section, let's make a final reflection and some "takeaways" from A Long Way Gone.

1) First, share your two very favorite passages from the entire book, and explain why you choose these.

2) Next, pick one of the big picture questions below and respond to it as best you can.


  • What rights do we have as human beings?
  • What does it mean to have universal rights?
  • What does the notion that humans have natural rights come from?
  • What are the political, social and economic costs of defending the rights of all people?
  • Do we have a social responsibility to help defend the basic rights of others?  Why or why not?
  • How do the arts affect change and give meaning to social responsibility?
  • How does the lens of a camera or the ink of a pen serve as a conduit for change, giving voice to those who have been affected by poverty, conflict and violence?  Even if sad or tragic, why are these stories and pictures important to us as humans?


  1. 1) The first passage that was one of my favorites was the first page of chapter 6 (page 37), "People stopped trusting each other, and every stranger became an enemy. Even though people who knew you became extremely careful about how they related or spoke to you." The second passage is in chapter 15 (page 135), "I wasn't sure whether he was unconscious or dead. I didn't care. No one screamed or cried during the fight. After all, we had been doing such things for years and we were all still on drugs." Crazy.

    2) As human beings we are entitled to many freedoms. The bigger freedoms include freedom of speech and freedom of religion. Through both of these freedoms comes responsibility which I believe we are also entitled to as well. Reading this story questions the rights of human beings in Sierra Leone. Ishmael tells this story to remind us that our rights as human beings should never be taken away from us.

  2. 1) First passage: "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 was going to do with my life. I felt that I was starting over and over again. I was always on the move." (pg. 90)
    I chose this passage because this really was the basis for the whole story, he was never sure what was going to happen next and I think that was the scariest part of the story.
    Second Passage: "On the night of the second day, Madoka fro Malawi and I walked west along Forty-seventh Street without realizing we were heading straight into the heart of times square. We were busy looking at the buildings and all the people hurrying by when we suddenly saw lights all over the place and shows playing on huge screens. We looked at each other in awe of how absolutely amazing and crowded the place was."
    I loved the passage because it was showing how happy and in awe they were with the city. I was able to picture them taking their first looks at Times Square and getting the chills. I found this so beautiful.

    2) The rights that we have as human beings here I feel as though I take for granted. The people of Sierra Leone were basically stripped of their rights and their homes and that is something we dont suffer with everyday. As war was brought on their country, these people lost their rights to survival and the ability to live in peace. Which is something I feel we all take for granted and need to learn to cherish. These people had their rights and were stripped away in a matter of minutes.

  3. 1) Favorite passages in the book: One of my favorite passages in the book is on page 73 and 74 where Musa told the rest of the boys about the story of the Brah spider. I felt the story was very deep and not only did it relate to the boys, but it gives a good mea\ssage to anyone that hears it. I also really loved the ending of the book with the story of the Monkey and the Hunter. The story makes you think about what you would do in that same situation and the anwser that Ishmael gives is very influencial. I loved the stories in the book because i thought they were very unique and interesting.
    2) Big Picture Question: "What rghts do we have as human beings?" This is a great question and I feel like the only anwser to it is none. We have no rights has humans in this world and I feel like this book does a great job showing that. If we truely had the right to life, or happiness then why did Ishmael have to go through all the terrible things that he did? It's a sad reality but we can not truely say that we are intitled to any rights in life.

  4. 1. The first passage that really stood out to me in this book was on page 149. It explains how he has to relearn how to sleep because of his night terrors. The passage put in perspective for us just how bad Ishmael's life was during the war and the danger he was exposed to. The second passage that I liked in the book was on page 166 when Ishmael and Esther were on a walk in the city and he said it looked as though the moon was following us. It gives us a sense of how he is regaining his child-like demeanor, something as a reader I have been looking forward to.
    2. I think that somewhere out there, every human being has a story; whether it be significant or minor, everyone can share something about their life. There are many ways in which these stories can be told, whether it be through the lens of a camera or the ink of a pen. These are just a few of many outlets that can help share these stories in a significant way. It gives an insight to another world and life throught the eyes of someone who has been apart of it. These stories show us that life is not perfect, that there is war and heartbreak and tragedy outside of our own borders and expands into every territory. We live in one of the most shielded countries in the world, it is our duty to be informed and aware of the world and life that is outside of our boundaries, so we can make an informed opinion and decision if something could and should be done starting with us.

  5. The first passage that I took from the book is found on page 169."...I read a monologue from Julius Ceasar and performed a short hip-hop play about the redemption of a former child soilder that I had written with Esther's encouragement." This passage is the first step where Ismael is starting to write again and is exploring how to express himself. I believe that with this step it opened up a lot of doors for Ismael. A second passage that I enjoyed from the writing itself can be found on page 119. "There, crabs had already begun feasting on the eyes of the dead. Limbs and fragmented skulls lay on top of the bog, and the water in the swamp had been replaced by blood." This is a prime example of Ismael setting up the scene so vividly that we have no troubles imagining it in our own minds. This is just one of many amazing passages that he has written.

    So, I am choosing to respond to the very last big picture question. "How does the lens of a camera or the ink of a pen serve as a conduit for change, giving voice to those who have been affected by poverty, conflict and violence? Even if sad or tragic, why are these stories and pictures important to us as humans?
    As I mentioned in my first passage I shared in question 1, I believe that expressing yourself through other forms are crucial for growth. Sometimes verbal communication can be lost in the heaviness of gravity. When you are able to express yourself through different forms of communication you can find your thoughts, and your opinions become more vivid. I believe that when you go through something so terrible and traumatic the sound of words just cannot convey the heaviness of your thoughts. People who can visually see what someone's thoughts are is a powerful thing. It is visible and can be interpreted in whichever way the audience so pleases. But these things are important for us as humans. We are able to empathize and sympathize with the words or images that we are exposed to. It can shed new light on our beliefs and pave ways for those who have struggled.

  6. 1: Favorite Passages

    "I wanted to see my family, even if it meant dying with them." Pg. 96

    "I was sad to leave, but I was also pleased to have met people outside of Sierra Leone. Because if I was to get killed upon my return, I knew that a memory of my existence was alive somewhere in the world." Pg. 200

    I chose both of these passages because in both of them they talk about death. They bot showed that Ishmael would accept death in both instances so that he could get what he wanted. At least that's what I picked up from these two passages.

    2: What rights do we have as human beings?

    These are rights that we have to all human beings. We are all entitled to human rights regardless of our status (nationality, gender, religion, etc.). These rights are unable to be taken away from a person, and you can't be denied a right.

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  8. 1. "They have lost everything that makes them human. They do not deserve to live. That is why we must kill every single one of them. Think of it as destroying a great evil. It is the highest service you can perform for your country." pg 108.
    I chose this passage becuase it is about killing the rebels. They did not kill the rebels just to kill them. All through out the story, they had lost their homes and their families because of the rebels and they did not want it to go on any longer. They wanted revenge.
    "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 didnt know what I was going to do with my life." pg 69
    I chose this passage because it shows the feeling that Ishmael was feeling throughout his journey. Not knowing what was going to happen and never knowing what tomorrow might bring. That feeling would be horrible and scary. Ishmael had to take care of his self.

    2. I think we do have a social responsibility to help defend the basic rights of others. We are all equal therefore we should help defend their rights. If no one helps to defend rights then our rights will slowly be taken away and changed. Everyone should want to protect others rights because we share the same rights.

  9. 1) The first passage I chose was on page 24, "..because the rebels began shooting their guns at people instead of shooting into the sky." This passage is where it the reader now understands how it starts and how serious it is. I like how instead of just saying they began to shoot us or something bland, he made it more interesting and deatailed.
    The second passage I chose was on page 70, "Even though I am still alive, I feel like each time I accept death, parts of me die." I liked this passage because it shows his actual emotions with his journey and his deep thoughts.
    2)As a human being I believe we have rights to many things that we are capable of. Rights are what we chose for ourselves, however I do believe we have certian bounderies to keep us safe. Our human rights should never be taken away from us like they were taken away from the many people in the book, A Long Way Gone.

  10. My two favorite passages:

    1.) Page 166- "When I was a child, my grandmother told me that the sky speaks to those who look and listen to it. She said, "In the sky there are always answers and explanations for everything: every pain, every suffering, joy, and confusion." That night I wanted the sky to talk to me.” I like this passage because it is very inspirational and motivational and I really enjoy quotes or passages that use this kind of thing.
    2.) Page 218- “When I was seven I had an answer to this question that made sense to me. I never discussed it with anyone, though, for fear of how my mother would feel. 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 the other hunters in that same predicament.” I like this ending to the book because it really gives a final insight into the kind of person Ishmael is. Although he was a soldier and a killer it shows that he is smart and has compassion and wants to help others rather than conform to what everyone else would deem acceptable.

    What does it mean to have universal rights?
    It means that no one should or would be treated differently than the other. That the basic human rights apply to all people and no one should violate those. That every one’s opinion should have an impact and that no one is segregated or looked down on.

  11. 1.) My first passage is on page 134. "We do not want to be bothered by anyone." "We are not civilians. If anyone is a civilian, it is you boys." This is the conversation that occurs when the boys discover the rebels and begin to fight. My other passage is on page 199. "All this is because of starvation, the loss of our families, and the need to feel safe and be apart of something when all else has broken down." This is said by Ishmael as he explains the reasons for child recruitment.
    2.) What rights do we have as human beings?
    In the book, it seems like rights do not matter. Everyone is for themselves and it doesn't matter what religion you belong to, what race you are, or how educated you are. It doesn't matter what you have to say or any other beliefs you have. Due to the lack of government, the people in the book can do whatever they want to. Here in America, our government allows us freedom of speech and to do what we want as long as they fit within the law. Structure is important for a functioning society.

  12. 1.One of my favorite passages is in chapter 20 on page 200, when Ishmael says "I was sad to leave, but I was also pleased to have met people outside of Sierra Leone. Because if I was to get killed upon my return, I knew that a memory of my existence was alive somewhere in the world". I think the reason why I like this passage is because everyone wonders if they'll be remembered when they die.We all want to feel special in the sense that our memory will live on.
    Another passage is in chapter 8 on page 57." Many times during our journey we were surrounded by muscular men with machetes who almost killed us before they realized that we were just children running away from the war".
    2. Universal rights in my opinion are rights that everyone from everywhere in the world have. That no matter where in the world you are, you have these rights.

  13. 1. 1st passage "The skin that hung down from their bodies still contained fresh blood" (p13) I like this passage becuase it is a prime example of the incredible imagery and sensory detail that Beah uses. The come out best when he describes scenes like this.
    2nd passage "Saidu sat in the attic, holding his breathe and listening to the wailing of his sisters as the rebels raped them." (p80) The topic of this passage is horrible and incredibly saddening, but I love how Beah is not affraid to tell the exact brutal truth of events. He does this in many other places too. He has the ability to almost hit the reader with the things he says.

    2. All humans have the same rights. In the book, sadly, these are ignored. We all have the right to decide our own furutes. If going out and killing is not what we want to do, we should not have to. Every person is entitled to freedom. I believe the two biggest things everyone deserves is freedom and liberty.

  14. 1) "We were almost at the end of the clearing when we heard the whizzing of another rocket grenade approaching. We sped up our steps and took dives into the bush before the grenade landed, followed by several rounds of machine gun fire. The people who were right behind us were not as lucky as we were. The RPG caught up with them. One of them caught the fragments of the RPG. He cried out loudly and screamed that he was blind. No one dared to go out and help him. He was halted by another grenade that exploded, causing his remains and blood to sprinkle like rain on the nearby leaves and bushes. All of it happened too fast." (pp. #25)

    I chose this as one of my favorite passages because it let's us see the sheer speed of the war in the beginning of the book, and how intense it was even at the onset of running away from the war. (Ishmael running away)

    "My squad was my family, my gun was my provider and protector, and my rule was to kill or be killed. The extent of my thoughts didn't go much beyond that." (pp. #126)

    This was my other favorite quote because it emphasizes the fact that Ishmael had looked to his gun and his new rules as salvation in a world plagued by war. This quote shows the attachment that he has towards his guns and is new life.

    2) Having universal rights entails that everyone, no matter what race, has the right to govern their lives in the way that they see fit. Everyone has the same rights, and everyone has to take responsibility for the way they choose to follow those rights.

  15. 1) One of my favorite passages is on page 16. "'We must strive to be like the moon.' An old man in Kabati repeated this sentence often to people... I rememeber asking my grandma what the old man meant. She explained that the adage served to remind people to alwyas be on their best behavior and to be good to others. She said that people complain when there is too much sun and also when it rains to much or when it is cold. But, she said, no one grumbles when the moon shines. Everyone becomes happy and appreciates the moon in their own special way. children watch their shadows and play in its light, people gather at the square to tell stories and dance through the night. A lot of happy things happpen when the moon shines. These are some of the reasons why we shouldl want to be like moon." I like this passage because it gave me a new perspective of the moon, I think this is a really neat way to think of the moon. This story also helps us to later understand my other favorite passgae on page 80. "Under the stars and sky I used to hear stories, but now it seemed as if it was the sky that was telling us a story as its stars fell, violently colliding with each other. The moon hid behind clouds to avoid seeing what was happening." This passage really sets the tone of what is to come next in the novel.

    2) Giving voice to those that have been affected by poverty, conflict and violence is important to us as humans because it gives us different perspectives of other's lives and other's situations that we might not have ever been exposed too. Change occurs through experiences and it's important for us to have the ability to share our diffferent experiences through art. Hearing and seeing things through one another sometimes tells us that maybe there does need to be changes here and there.

  16. 1. My two favorite passages, the first was from chapter 20 on the top of page 197. "Years later, when Laura offered me one of her winter jackets, I refused to accept it because it was a woman's jacket. She joked with me about the fact that when she she had first met me I was so cold that I didn't care that I was wearing a woman's jacket." I just thought it was a comical moment as here is this soldier who killed people and has been in situations when he had nothing to protect his body from the harsh elements of nature being stubborn about what kind of jacket that he wears. He should be grateful that the option is available.

    The second passage was from chapter one page 15. "I became afraid, since I could no longer tell the difference between dream and reality." It's an awe moment but its also can applied to multiple situations, not just to Ishmael. but it is something that I can relate to as I have experienced times when I wake up, panicked about what I dreamed and for about 10 minutes believe that it was real. then my realistic mind slowly catches up and calms me down enough to realize that it was just a dream.

    2. The lens of a camera or the ink of a pen serve as a conduit for change as it gives us that visual representation of how the artist sees the world around them. In many cases both can be put to many forms of media that is made readily available open to the public to come and see. Both leaves the door open for interpretation and depending on the way that the individual was raised or how they think and feel, you may get varying answers about the same topic.

    I think the stories and pictures are important to us as humans because it gives us the options to learn in whatever state is more comfortable for the individual. Both provide a sense of ethics or code of honor that everyone can learn from and either take the information within themselves or to make someone else aware. Both provide a glimpse into many emotions, thoughts and feelings toward a particular issue or event and in doing so widens our own perspective and understanding. Some maybe tragic and sad; however, in most cases, the tragic and sad is to get us to start thinking and acting on how to prevent the tragedy from repeating in the future.

  17. 1:My favorite passage was on page 15 " i wanted to move away from what i was seeing, but could.My feet went numb and my entire body froze. later we learned that the man had tried to escape with his family and the rebels had shot at his vehicle, killing all his family." i think this passage was strong feeling Ishmael. he was sad seen all this and i could not good anywhere.

    2 The universal right to be thread equal, the right to have person privacy. Nobody has any right to hurt us. Nobody should be blamed for doing something until it is proven. We all have the right to go where we want in our own country and to travel as we wish.

  18. 1. My first favorite passage was in chapter 6, one of Ishmael's statements about the war, "This was one of the consequences of the civil war. People stopped trusting each other, and every stranger became an enemy. Even people who knew you became extremely careful about how they related or spoke to you" (Beah 37). This is my favorite passage because the entire book bases off of this. This problem is shown by everyone mentioned throughout the book. It is Ishmael's life now and it's something that will be hard to change.
    My second favorite passage is in chapter 10 and it's the top two paragraphs of Saidu's story about what the rebels had done to his family. The passage is way too long to type but it starts at the top and goes down to the last sentence of, "It was then that I understood why he was so quiet all the time" (Beah 80). This passage is one of my favorites because throughout the book gruesomeness was a huge theme and I think this section really shows people what kind of terrible things were happening and what people were seeing and going through.

    2. As humans, we have the right to many things. One of the most important things I think that we have the right to do is be ourselves. Everyone in the world should have the right to be them self. I think it's so important because every one is so unique and different in their own ways and others should be able to experience this. When people are able to be themselves they are all around happier.


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