Book review: War Child

War Child


Emmanuel Jal, Sphere

ISBN 9781408700051

War Child is the harrowing account of Emmanuel Jal’s time spent as a child soldier in the Sudanese civil war during the 1990s.

Emmanuel Jal was born in northern Sudan; he doesn’t know when exactly. Like many other so-called Lost Boys of Sudan, he takes the birth date 1 January 1980.

In 1983 a war broke out between the northern Muslim government and the southern rebel group, the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army.

Emmanuel’s father left to train as a rebel commander. After witnessing his mother and uncle being beaten, the rape of his aunt and an entire village burned to the ground, Emmanuel was taken to Ethiopia where he trained as a Jesh-a-mer, or child warrior. When he began his training, he was no more than nine years old.

War Child chronicles Emmanuel’s astonishing story, as he learns to fire an AK-47 that is taller than he is. Constantly on the move from one place to the next, and at all times surrounded by death and war, Emmanuel calls on every inch of his survival instinct to help him stay alive.

War Child is written in ­understated prose, which preserves an African rhythm and vivid childhood perspective.

It is a deeply affecting and sobering account of what life is like growing up in the midst of a crisis. A spellbinding, cover-to-cover read.

Jake Tupman is a relief support worker for housing provider Stonham

This article is published in the 24 September 2009 edition of Community Care

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