I read They Poured Fire On Us From The Sky back in 2012 (review is linked for anyone interested), and still remember how the stories of the brothers and their cousin affected me. The stories of the “Lost Boys” of Sudan still haunt me today, even more so now that I have my own children.
They Poured Fire on Us From The Sky was written by Alephonsion Deng, Benson Deng, and Benjamin Ajak, with their mentor Judy Bernstein’s help. In it each of the men recounts leaving their villages when they were still very young, fleeing from those attacking them, and the harrowing treks through Sudan to Ethiopia, back to Sudan, and finally to a refugee camp in Kenya where they remained for years before being granted refugee status in the US. Disturbed In Their Nests is written by Judy and Alepho and is a memoir of the first year of their life in the US. I love the composition of the memoir, as chapters alternate between the two voices, as if they were right back there in 2001. It allows us to see both Judy and Alepho’s perceptions of everything, which leads to some comical areas, but also to some very sad parts too, especially when a certain term we all use in the US is completely misunderstood by Alepho, which ends up causing him harm.
Benson and Benjamin’s voices are also often heard through Judy and Alepho’s narrative, as well as their other roommates James and Daniel’s experiences. Alepho also recounts some of his experiences as a young boy fleeing his home, as well as life in the refugee camp during his chapters. After finishing this book I honestly feel like I am on first name basis with all of them: their voices are so real, so heartwarming, but also so devastatingly raw. You cannot read this book without taking a serious look at your own life in order to find areas where you can really do better. These children, and now adults, survived despite the odds being stacked so hard against them, and I don’t think we can even begin to imagine what it took to continue living despite the conditions around them.
In my opinion this book, as well as many others, should be on high school curriculums. We need to understand the importance of refugee programs, and why we should be accepting people from all countries in conflict, not just picking and choosing based on country and religion. The number of resettled refugees in the US dropped by tens of thousands in 2017, and this country has more than enough space and resources to welcome many, many more people than that. No child should ever have to witness what Alepho, Benson, and Benjamin did, but there are so many children who are facing similar harrowing ordeals all over the world.
Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the advance copy!
Other excellent books to read on the subjects of the “Lost Boys” and Sudan in general can be found right here. Saviors and Survivors by Mahmood Mamdani provides an in-depth analysis of Darfur which I found to be a very important read personally. You can find more general information on the extent of the refugee crisis in Sudan here, or you can watch a documentary on two of the Lost Boys here.