"War Child: A Child Soldier's Story" by Emmanuel Jal

At the age of seven Emmanuel Jal's childhood ended and his life was changed forever. He was living in a small village in Sudan with his family as the civil war raged on. The Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), a predominantly southern Sudanese rebel movement were fighting against the Islamic government for control of Southern Sudan and its resources. While Jal's father was a powerful commander in the SPLA, the family continued to move throughout the country trying to find peace. But eventually the war found them, and Jal was conscripted into the SPLA as a child soldier.

War Chlld: A Child Soldier's Story is Emmanuel Jal's incredible story of bravery and survival as he fought for over a decade. His cunning and intelligence helped him to survive as he became one of the Lost Boys, walking to Ethiopia to live in a refugee camp where he was trained to become a soldier. He honestly and vividly recounts his experiences in battle. But Jal was given an amazing opportunity that most child soldiers never received - he was adopted by a British aid worker, taken out of the war and given an education.

From there his life changed drastically. To heal from his ordeal and share his experiences he turned to hip hop and began making music. He worked hard to promote himself and share his story and was soon rewarded for it, releasing his own album and performing with international music stars such as Bono and Peter Gabriel.

War Child is an incredibly poignant book. Jal is an incredible storyteller and he shares the heartbreaking story of so many young boys in Sudan and Africa who have had their childhoods stolen away from them. What I admired most about this book was Jal's honesty about his emotions and life. In the beginning, Jal wanted to fight and was desperate to see action so that he could take revenge on those who had harmed his family. The predominantly Christian and tribal South was fighting the Arab Muslim North and this bred a hatred in Jal. He doesn't back down from sharing his feelings but does so with courage and strength as he shares how those views were changed.

The use of child soldiers in conflict is an issue of importance today and Emmanuel Jal's War Child puts a face to this issue. It is an important read for anyone interested in this topic and wants to know more about the issue of child soldiers and the conflict in Sudan.


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