Summary and Analysis Chapter 19



Ishmael says goodbye to his friends in Benin Home and moves in with Uncle Tommy's family. His adjustment to family life is challenging, as he's not used to stability and happiness. He relies on silence and withdraws as much as possible. Allie, the oldest cousin, sneaks Ishmael out to go dancing one night. Ishmael meets a girl and they date for a few weeks until she pushes him to know more about his past. Ishmael has other relationships with girls that end the same way, but he seems content to be alone.

Leslie visits and encourages Ishmael to apply to be part of a delegation of children who will visit the United Nations in New York and tell their stories. Ishmael shows up for the interview underdressed and unprepared, but his story is compelling enough to earn him a place. He is invited to visit the United States and guided with special accommodations through the passport and visa process.


This chapter is significant because, for the first time, Ishmael wants to tell his story rather than choosing silence. He's frustrated with how little the outside world understands about the civil war in Sierra Leone. When the counter clerk at the embassy requests his birth certificate, Ishmael is furious that they should think documents like that exist in the war-torn areas. When the immigration officials ask simple questions about his reason for travel, Ishmael becomes annoyed with how little they seem to be aware of the conditions of boys his age in Africa. He meets this new challenge of travel in his life with courage, curiosity, and contempt.

Ishmael welcomes the opportunity to become a symbol for boy soldiers in Sierra Leone. This shows that he's not only ready to talk about his past but also perhaps even to move beyond it. When asked during the interview why he is particularly qualified, he proudly boasts that he's experienced war and rehabilitation first-hand, while other boys his age have only read of it in the news.