Study Guide

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier Chapter 20

By Ishmael Beah

Chapter 20

  • Everything Ishmael knows about New York City comes from rap songs. Naturally, he thinks that there will be lots of sport cars and nightclubs and people shooting each other.
  • But things aren't like that at all.
  • First, it's cold. It's winter. Ishmael is not prepared for that. There's also weird white stuff falling from the sky. Ishmael has only seen snow in Christmas movies.
  • At the hotel, Ishmael has his own room, and it's really hot. He doesn't realize that you can turn down the temperature inside this individual room.
  • In the cafeteria the next morning, the food is weird. Don't they have rice in America?
  • The first morning in New York, all the kids from around the world get to meet each other—there's 57 of them and they're all there to share their stories.
  • At one of the meetings, a white woman named Laura Simms introduces herself as a storyteller. Ishmael's ears perk up. He loves stories.
  • Laura notices that Ishmael and Bah don't have winter jackets, so she gives them coats and gloves.
  • Ishmael tells us that, down the road, Laura will become his adoptive mother.
  • Ishmael calls his uncle in Freetown, and finally his uncle believes that he's made it to New York.
  • As he explores the city, Ishmael can't believe the sights and sounds around him. He thought there were tall buildings in Freetown, but these are amazingly tall.
  • At the U.N. conference, Ishmael speaks about his experiences as a child soldier.
  • He explains that he joined the army to have food and survive and to get revenge on the people who killed his family. Later, he realized that revenge doesn't get you anywhere. It just continues the cycle of violence on and on and on.
  • That night, Laura and some of the kids go to an Indian restaurant (rice, at last) and then she takes them back to her apartment in the East Village.
  • They all have a wonderful night and Ishmael's sad to see everyone go. Some of them are returning to very dangerous places in the world.
  • Before Ishmael leaves, Laura gives him her address and tells him to keep in touch. We've got a feeling he definitely will.

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