War Child by Emmanuel Jal is a mind changing book, that makes you realize what is going on in the world. Many people say the phrase “outta sight outta mind” which is what is happening in this book. This is a true life story of a child soldier who overcomes great struggles.
The story first takes place in Sudan, Africa. The time is around the mid-1980’s when Sudan was in the middle of having a civil war. It was between north and south and Islam and Christianity. This started the rebel army called SPLA, Sudan People’s Liberation Army. The war was all about the oil that land in the south had and the north wanted.
Jal’s family is living in this war zone where people come and raid there villages not caring who they kill. The family struggles to just stay alive and stick together. Jal’s has two sisters named Nyakouth and Nyaruach and two younger brothers Marna and Miri. At the beginning of Jal’s life he lived pretty simple his father was a police officer and they lived in what would be middle class for America. But when the war broke out his father left to go become a commander. Where Jal lived it started to get raided so they moved to where their grandmother lived in Bantiu. This place would be much safer for Jal and his family.
When they first moved there is was peaceful but soon war came closer and closer. Rumors spread that the SPLA was going to come and kill them all. But Jal soon learned that his father was a commander in the SPLA and that they were fighting for their freedom. Finally the war had come, “I was outside the tukul one morning when a boom so deep and loud filled my chest that I thought my ears would burst.” And this was the start of his family always on the move running from the war.
Jal and his family lived in fear awaiting the next bomb to go off and seeing bodies everywhere. “The dead were everywhere-skeletons no one buried, people with bullet marks in them and burned bodies lying amid the ruins of a tukul.” Then the day came when they had to move again but this time his mother didn’t make it out. So his sister became the leader and kept the family together until…
The SPLA came to the village they were staying at the time and said that there was taking boys to school. For any child in most village school is a dream that will never happen. So Jal went with them thinking that his dream would be coming true, to finally get an education, atleast that’s what he thought.
His sister warned him before he went, “You cannot go, Jal. I’ve heard about these places. You Won’t go to school. Instead the SPLA will sell you for guns.” Which he sister was wrong but this may have been much worse. They wanted him to become a CHILD soldier. He went through much torture and brutal conditions, unimaginable to what we live like here in the U.S. He lived in the camp with many other “Lost Boys” which is what the orphans that are forced to become soldiers are called.
Jal went through many trials, until the day he met Emma McCune. This woman saved his life and took him home with her soon after she met him. She was a very special woman from England because when she came to Sudan she fell in love with one of the army commanders Riek Machar. Most people are not allowed to talk to the children soldiers but she was. After bringing Jal back to her home, he started learning what would be consider middle class in America. “I pulled down my shorts as I started at the white chair before sitting down on it. It felt cold on my skin and I wondered what would happen if a snake came to bite me from the river.” This was Jal’s first encounter with a restroom.
Jal soon started school and got in much trouble with the other kids because they knew he was a “Lost Boy”. They judged him and thought that he was below them, but no matter what Jal always tried to keep pushing on. He found great joy in rapping and writing music letting people know the hope he had in God and what he wanted for the people of Sudan. He is still now rapping for organizations to raise money for child soldiers and to finally have peace in Africa.