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

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The inspiring story of three young Sudanese boys who were driven from their homes by civil war and began an epic odyssey of survival, facing life-threatening perils, ultimately finding their way to a new life in America.

Between 1987 and 1989, Alepho, Benjamin, and Benson, like tens of thousands of young boys, took flight from the massacres of Sudan's civil war. They became known as the Lost Boys. With little more than the clothes on their backs, sometimes not even that, they streamed out over Sudan in search of refuge. Their journey led them first to Ethiopia and then, driven back into Sudan, toward Kenya. They walked nearly one thousand miles, sustained only by the sheer will to live.

They Poured Fire on Us from the Sky is the three boys' account of that unimaginable journey. With the candor and the purity of their child's-eye-vision, Alephonsian, Benjamin, and Benson recall by turns: how they endured the hunger and strength-sapping illnesses-dysentery, malaria, and yellow fever; how they dodged the life-threatening predators-lions, snakes, crocodiles and soldiers alike-that dogged their footsteps; and how they grappled with a war that threatened continually to overwhelm them. Their story is a lyrical, captivating, timeless portrait of a childhood hurled into wartime and how they had the good fortune and belief in themselves to survive.

Christopher Award Winner
Los Angeles Times Bestseller
Washington Post Top 100 Books of the Year Selection
Includes a Reading Group Guide


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About the author

Alephonsion and Benson Deng and their cousin Benjamin Ajak left the Sudan in 1987, and were relocated in 2001 from the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya to the United States as part of an international refugee relief program. Today, Alephonsian Deng attends San Diego City College and works in the Medical Records Department at Kaiser Permanente Hospital. He has spoken to many schools, universities, clubs and organizations about his extraordinary story in Africa and adapting to his life here in America. Benson Deng runs the computer and digital photography system at Waste Management in El Cajon, CA. Benjamin Ajak resides in San Diego and speaks full time to organizations and schools, sharing his amazing life and insights into surviving as a child of war and a newcomer to the U.S. Judy Bernstein is a mother, writer, Student Advisor for the Community Economic Development Department at San Diego State University, volunteer mentor and Chair of the Advisory Committee of the San Diego International Rescue Committee and co-founder of the IRC Lost Boys Education Fund. She speaks with her co-authors to community groups, temples, churches, and schools.
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4.6
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Additional Information

Publisher
PublicAffairs
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Published on
Aug 11, 2015
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Pages
352
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ISBN
9781610395991
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Personal Memoirs
History / Africa / North
Social Science / Violence in Society
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Read Aloud
Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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In 1987, Nathaniel Nyok, tormented by thoughts of missing parents and siblings, fled a bloody scene and a burning village in Sudan. Wishing to live at all cost, driven by a confrontational heart-pounding fear, he journeyed through the wild to seek sanctuary in Ethiopia. At eight, he had just capitulated to an orphan-like life with a new title—A Lost Boy of Sudan—living in a refugee camp for fourteen years without a family and a future.

The refugee camp became a cage that was too confining and he languished with a sense of loss. As he battled the loss of home and family, he chose education over revenge as the road to freedom—a road that eventually brought him to America—land of freedom and rules—welcomes and prejudices.

In a turning point of surreptitious blessing, grilled by United States immigration lawyers and medical experts in a-two-year betting process of interviews and medical evaluations, he was offered an approval letter—becoming one of the only Lost Boys admitted to the United States. In 2001, he resettled in Georgia in a community that welcomes him—a stranger with both joy and contempt. This story portrays the transition into the array of American culture from the stylishness and glam of Hollywood to battling the prejudices of his new community as a time of both confusion and hope.

As he shares this powerful story to both educate and help others, he wishes to use his experience to bring education to South Sudan in recognition that education bridges distance between tribes, countries and continents.
A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

“The plot provided by the universe was filled with starvation, war and rape. I would not—could not—live in that tale.”
 
Clemantine Wamariya was six years old when her mother and father began to speak in whispers, when neighbors began to disappear, and when she heard the loud, ugly sounds her brother said were thunder. In 1994, she and her fifteen-year-old sister, Claire, fled the Rwandan massacre and spent the next six years migrating through seven African countries, searching for safety—perpetually hungry, imprisoned and abused, enduring and escaping refugee camps, finding unexpected kindness, witnessing inhuman cruelty. They did not know whether their parents were dead or alive.
 
When Clemantine was twelve, she and her sister were granted refugee status in the United States; there, in Chicago, their lives diverged. Though their bond remained unbreakable, Claire, who had for so long protected and provided for Clemantine, was a single mother struggling to make ends meet, while Clemantine was taken in by a family who raised her as their own. She seemed to live the American dream: attending private school, taking up cheerleading, and, ultimately, graduating from Yale. Yet the years of being treated as less than human, of going hungry and seeing death, could not be erased. She felt at the same time six years old and one hundred years old.
 
In The Girl Who Smiled Beads, Clemantine provokes us to look beyond the label of “victim” and recognize the power of the imagination to transcend even the most profound injuries and aftershocks. Devastating yet beautiful, and bracingly original, it is a powerful testament to her commitment to constructing a life on her own terms.
Nineteen-year-old refugee Alephonsion Deng, from war-ravaged Sudan, had great expectations when he arrived in America three weeks before two planes crashed into the World Trade Towers. Money, he'd been told, was given to you in pillows. Machines did all the work. Education was free.

Suburban mom Judy Bernstein had her own assumptions. The teenaged "Lost Boys of Sudan"-who'd traveled barefoot and starving for a thousand miles-needed a little mothering and a change of scenery: a trip to the zoo, perhaps, or maybe the beach.

Partnered through a mentoring program in San Diego, these two individuals from opposite sides of the world began an eye-opening journey that radically altered each other's vision and life.

Disturbed in Their Nests recounts the first year of this heartwarming partnership; the initial misunderstandings, the growing trust, and, ultimately, their lasting friendship. Their contrasting points of view provide of-the-moment insight into what refugees face when torn from their own cultures and thrust into entirely foreign ones.

Alepho struggles to understand the fast-paced, supersized way of life in America. He lands a job, but later is viciously beaten. Will he ever escape violence and hatred?

Judy faces her own struggles: Alepho and his fellow refugees need jobs, education, housing, and health care. Why does she feel so compelled and how much support should she provide?

The migrant crises in the Middle East, Central America, Europe, and Africa have put refugees in the headlines. Countless human tragedies are reduced to mere numbers. Personal stories such as Alepho's add a face to the news and lead to greater understanding of the strangers among us. Readers experience Alepho's discomfort, fears, and triumphs in a way that a newscast can't convey. This timely and inspiring personal account will make readers laugh, cry, and examine their own place in the world.

A masterpiece of historical adventure, Skeletons on the Zahara chronicles the true story of twelve American sailors who were shipwrecked off the coast of Africa in 1815, captured by desert nomads, sold into slavery, and subjected to a hellish two-month journey through the perilous heart of the Sahara.
The western Sahara is a baking hot and desolate place, home only to nomads and their camels, and to locusts, snails and thorny scrub--and its barren and ever-changing coastline has baffled sailors for centuries. In August 1815, the US brig Commerce was dashed against Cape Bojador and lost, although through bravery and quick thinking the ship's captain, James Riley, managed to lead all of his crew to safety. What followed was an extraordinary and desperate battle for survival in the face of human hostility, starvation, dehydration, death and despair.
Captured, robbed and enslaved, the sailors were dragged and driven through the desert by their new owners, who neither spoke their language nor cared for their plight. Reduced to drinking urine, flayed by the sun, crippled by walking miles across burning stones and sand and losing over half of their body weights, the sailors struggled to hold onto both their humanity and their sanity. To reach safety, they would have to overcome not only the desert but also the greed and anger of those who would keep them in captivity.
From the cold waters of the Atlantic to the searing Saharan sands, from the heart of the desert to the heart of man, Skeletons on the Zahara is a spectacular odyssey through the extremes and a gripping account of courage, brotherhood, and survival.
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