Lost Boys of Sudan: Moving Book


Dr. Jessie Voigts

Destination: Africa

Book: They Poured Fire On Us From The Sky: The True Story of Three Lost Boys From Sudan.

I am excited to welcome back a regular columnist to A Traveler’s Library.  The last week of every month, Dr. Jessie Voigts will be sharing some favorite book and/or author information from her web site, Wandering Educators, an eclectic travel site for global educators and other wanderers. Jessie says, “If you love to learn and explore the world, come join us! “ Welcome aboard, Jessie. Today it is a book about Africa–but not an Africa for travelers.

Tough Book for a Pacifist

By Guest Author, Dr. Jessie Voigts

One of the best books I ever read – They Poured Fire on Us From the Sky: The True Story of Three Lost Boys from Sudan – tells a story of hope through extraordinary tragedy and circumstances. (For comments and Written by Benson Deng, Alephonsion Deng, and Benjamin Ajak, with Judy A. Bernstein, this book about Africa was difficult to put down.

We’ve all seen the news over the last two decades or so about the horrific events in Sudan. This book, however, personalizes it through an incredible narrative. Three Lost Boys tells a harrowing story – of a life lived through horrific violence, narrow escapes, no food, walking for five years, and the intense grief of losing families and friends.

They Poured Fire is most incredible, though, for the strength that it shows – the strength of the human spirit, and the strength of survival – for not only did they survive, but they have managed to thrive. When I read this book, I could not imagine living through it once, let alone twice, as they did when they wrote it down and relived their experiences. Now that they are adjusting to life in the United States and learning to live with peace, I wondered how they have managed to work through their past and create a future for themselves.

Three Lost Boys of the Book and Judy Bernstein
Three Lost Boys of the Book and Judy Bernstein

This book has had a huge impact on me, personally, since I am extremely pacifist, and non-violent. This was probably the first book I’ve read that unflinchingly dealt with violence. It was at times difficult to read – the things that these men have seen are unspeakable. Yet, they DO talk about it. And, I’ve learned that by avoiding talk of war and atrocities, you are not honoring their experiences – or working to change the world.

I have now read just about every book on the Lost Boys, and followed the lives of these three survivors.  They are all working hard, learning, and being creative – I’ve gotten the CD from Alepho’s band, Thong Jieng;

Lost Boy Benson Thom and his music
Lost Boy Benson Thom and his music

and marveled at Benson’s artAlepho acted in a movie (Master and Commander), on T.V., and in plays. As well, these three have an extensive public speaking schedule, as evidenced on their website.  Benjamin and Judy are touring and speaking with book clubs about They Poured Fire on Us From the Sky. In our county, it is the One Book* choice for this year, and I can’t wait to meet them this fall.

I was lucky enough to interview Judy A. Bernstein, co-author of the book, about Benson, Alepho, Benjamin, change, war, and more. Here’s a little of what she had to say…

WE: Please tell us a little bit about the book.

JB: The book is a memoir by three Lost Boys of Sudan whose villages in Southern Sudan were attacked by their own government in the mid-1980’s and at the ages of 5 and 7, they walked 1000 miles to finally find safety in a refugee camp where they lived 9 years.

WE: Do Benson, Alephonsion, and Benjamin still have family in the camps?

JB: Yes, they do. The camp is still the same size. They mostly have younger nephews there and many Lost Boys who never got out.

WE: What are the boys doing now?

JB: They are working to support themselves and their families back home. And going to school.


As Alephonsion has said, “Still, I know it is possible to move on. For all those years I lived with revenge on my mind. Now I’m a man with the seeds of love, dignity and hope in his heart.”

You can read the rest of the interview with Judy at Wandering Educators book review section.

Dr. Jessie Voigts is the Publisher of  WanderingEducators.com and will be contributing each month to A Traveler’s Library. She has a doctorate in International Education, and is passionate about intercultural learning. She and her husband are Worldschooling their daughter, and enjoying every minute of it. She is also a nature photographer and lives on a lake.

*Check with your local library to see if your community is participating in the One Book program.

Note: Photos courtesy of Wandering Educators.

Readers: Have you been to West Africa? If not, are you hoping to go? Do you react as Jessie does to books that tell a story of violence?

About Vera Marie Badertscher

A freelance writer who loves to travel. When she is not traveling she is reading about travel. When she is not reading or traveling, she is sharing with the readers of A Traveler's Library, or recreating her family's past at Ancestors In Aprons . She has written for Reel Life With Jane, Life is a Trip and other websites. Also co-author of a biography, Quincy Tahoma, The Life and Legacy of a Navajo Artist. Contact Vera Marie by e-mail.