Monday, February 6, 2012

Book Review: They Poured Fire on Us From The Sky: The Story of Three Lost Boys from Sudan

They Poured Fire on Us From The Sky: The Story of Three Lost Boys from Sudan by Benson Deng, Alephonsion Deng, Benjamin Ajak, Judy A. Bernstein

We have all heard stories of war and famine in Sudan on the news, especially over the past year as the famine has been widespread, extremely deadly and finally people have started taking notice (for a little while anyway). The North and the South have now become two separate countries and hopefully South Sudan will now be able to create an environment of peace again after so many years of war, mass killings and atrocities committed by both the government of the North and rebel army fractions from the South. Children have literally grown up in refugee camps after fleeing for their lives and managing to survive alone, through great hardships and without their families. I'm not going to go into detail on the decade-long conflict here, but there is more information on the country HERE.

During the years of war, millions of boys (and girls) from the ethnic Southern Dinka and Nuer tribes ran for their lives when their villages were attacked, walked thousands of miles over years through famine, desert, starvation and death, and survived. About 20,000 or so of these boys (and much fewer girls) ended up in refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia. These boys were colloquially named the Lost Boys of Sudan, and the name stuck. More information on the Lost Boys and literature regarding them HERE. The 20,000 refers to only the boys who survived and ended up in refugee camps, the numbers of displaced children go into 2 million or so, so many dying before they could ever reach safety.

I literally could not stop reading They Poured Fire on Us From The Sky. It accompanied me everywhere, until I finished the last page yesterday and felt a little at a loss on what to read next. What can follow on after such a heartbreaking but heartwarming book?! The book revolves around the true stories of three of the Lost Boys of Sudan, told in their own words after their arrival to the USA in 2001. While in a refugee camp in Kenya they applied to the program set up by the US government and the UNHCR to have a certain number of lost boys (and girls) resettle in the USA.
Benson, Alepho and Benjamin are brothers and cousins from the Dinka tribe of South Sudan, born into villages where they spend much of their time helping their families by guarding cattle from a young age. When war broke out and their villages were attacked they literally fled for their lives, with just the clothes they were wearing. For years and years they ran, across southern Sudan, to Ethiopia, back to Sudan, and finally all ended in refugee camps in Kenya. They lost each other many times, but miraculously found each other again, on multiple occasions. Each chapter is written by one of the boys and recounts a story, an occasion, or a memory of something that happened along their journey. Atrocities, death, starvation, wild animals, bombs and so many tears, but also hope, love and at utmost will to survive.
I honestly could not even imagine my 5 year old self trekking across thousands of miles of bush and desert, running away from death without knowing if I was actually going to run right back into its jaws again; not knowing if I would ever see my family again, whether they were alive or dead. How they survived all those years seems pretty much like a miracle to me.

Buy and read this book, you will cry (unless you are really heartless), and it will break your heart, but it also may open your eyes slightly, if they aren't already wide open enough.
More information on the book and the authors HERE.


Unknown said...

I was moved by this book as well. I read a few others at the same time including:

- God Grew Tired of Us by John Bul Dau

- What is the What by Dave Eggers

- A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah

The last one takes place in Sierra Leone but is very relevant.

Paradox said...

Thanks! I have read the last two on your list, but not the first one - I will put it on my list! I have a few others if you are interested in the subject, mainly based on the Congo/DRC.

Noise Room said...

yes! please share. thanks

Paradox said...

Here you go:

- All Things Must Fight To Live - Bryan Mealer
- A Thousand Sisters - Lisa J. Shannon
- Machete Season - Jean Hatzfeld (this one is particularly tough as it is based on the stories of people who actually murdered other people in Rwanda)
- Say You're One Of Them - Uwen Arpan
- Blood River - Tim Butcher
- The Bang-Bang Club - Greg Marinovich & Joao Silva

Noise Room said...

Thanks. I did read "Blood River" but will look into these others.