They Poured Fire on Us from the Sky: The True Story of Three Lost Boys from Sudan by Benson Deng, Alephonsion Deng and Benjamin Ajak with Judy A. Bernstein
In the introduction, Judy Bernstein compares the situation that the three ‘lost boys’ of this title have been through as analogous to that of the novel Lord of the Flies. I liked this because you are reading this book for your English II Honors class and Lord of the Flies is required reading during the sophomore year. Once you have read both of these books, I think you’ll have great class discussions on the ideas of whether individuals need to be governed—whether they behave differently if they know that there is no policeman (or policewoman) on the corner, keeping them in line.
The three young men who tell their stories here are brothers and a cousin from ‘Dinka Land’ in the Sudan. They walked a 1,000 mile journey to the safety of a refugee camp in Kenya. (The map in the book is very helpful.) One of the first things that the lost boys did when they came to the United States (to San Diego, CA) was buy journals and write their stories. They begin with ordinary life in their villages—coming-of-age rituals of being circumcised, daily meals, caring for animals, the relationships between husbands and wives. As rumors of war spread, the boys are instructed on how to hide when the government soldiers come through the village. Eventually, the villages are raided and the boys lose track of their parents and other family members. They are on their own, trying to make it to safety.
Their trips—both together and separately, in the company of soldiers or with groups of similar lost boys—are circuitous. As the reader, I wondered about the long-term effects of their having witnessed so much death—murder, kids stepping on land mines, bombs going off in other kids’ hands. I wonder how they survived starvation and death from lack of water on numerous occasions. I also thought that, at your age, you may not have heard of some of the more awful things the book addresses, such as female circumcision.
If you are very moved by this book, you may enjoy reading A Long Way Gone, which I’ve reviewed on this blog. The boy in that book did not escape the rebel soldiers (as the three in this book managed to do), so his story is a bit different. He is forced to become a soldier as a mere child and to brutally murder villagers. The veteran soldiers keep him and other boys drugged all the time, so that they don’t have a real awareness of what they are doing.
Both books give us an idea of what war is really like when it is happening in your own backyard.