Study Guide

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier Chapter 19

By Ishmael Beah

Chapter 19

  • Leslie lets Ishmael know that in two weeks he's going to move in with his uncle. Ishmael is pretty nervous. How will he fit in with the family? What will they think of him?
  • The day he's supposed to leave, Ishmael says goodbye to his friends. He tells us that Mambu ends up going back to fight because his family won't take him in. He never sees him again.
  • Ishmael visits Esther's house one last time, too. He thinks about why she would help children like him. How does she live with their stories? This is the last time he sees Esther and he never even ends up telling her how much he loves and appreciates her.
  • At Uncle Tommy's house, things are great. Ishmael shares a room with his 21-year-old cousin, Allie, who is glad to have another boy around the house.
  • At night, the family sits around and listens to stories on cassette tapes. His uncle, aunt, and cousins laugh so hard at the tales.
  • It's odd for Ishmael to be around people who are so happy all the time. He's used to people who are high on drugs and violent all the time.
  • One night, Allie takes Ishmael to a pub for dancing. He meets a girl there, but he has a hard time enjoying himself because he keeps thinking about the time he and other soldiers raided a school dance and how blood covered the dance floor.
  • Ishmael ends up dating the girl from the pub for a few weeks, but she breaks things off with him when he won't tell her more about his past.
  • Some things are just not first date material… or fortieth date material either.
  • Later, Leslie comes to see Ishmael and tells him that he should interview for a chance to go to New York City and speak to the U.N. about what's going on in Sierra Leone and how the war is affecting children there.
  • On the day of the interview, Ishmael arrives at a huge building. The other boys there laugh at him because he's not dressed nice and has no idea what an elevator is, let alone how to work one. Whatever, city kids.
  • When Ishmael goes into his interview, he tells the man behind the desk that he's actually fought in the war and been affected by it. The condescending boys out there from the city don't know anything about it. Oh, snap.
  • Eventually, Ishmael finds out that he's been chosen to speak at the U.N. 
  • Mr. Kamara takes him to get his passport and Ishmael's annoyed when the bureaucrat at the passport office demands to see his birth certificate.
  • Gee, there wasn't much time to grab official documents when he was fleeing for his life from gunfire. Somehow, they find a birth certificate and the passport is processed.
  • When Ishmael's uncle finds out about his trip to New York, he's skeptical. No one is really sending this kid to America. Ishmael really shouldn't get his hopes up.
  • But Ishmael does end up going, along with another boy named Bah.
  • The day he leaves, his uncle, aunt, and cousins wish him well. Ishmael is off to the big city.

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