Summary and Analysis Chapter 20



Ishmael finds New York City brutally cold and amazing. He spends hours walking the streets and watching people. He's shocked by how different the city is than what he had perceived it to be from rap music.

At the United Nations' Conference, he meets other delegates and learns their stories. He realizes that wars and conflict have stolen other childhoods like his. He and the other delegates have long discussions about how to end the suffering in war-torn countries. Ishmael bonds with a storyteller, Laura Simms, who invites the children to share their struggles through oral tradition and music.


The theme of revenge is returned to when Ishmael makes his speech before the UN, but this time he speaks of the multiplying effects of revenge. Rather than seeing revenge as a solution that might satisfy his grief, Ishmael speaks of revenge as a tool that brings more war: " . . . if I am going to take revenge, in that process I will kill another person whose family will want revenge . . . " This shows the transformation that has occurred from the blood-thirsty soldier to the thoughtful child who wants to change the world. Ishmael now understands that he was brainwashed into revenge but has been rehabilitated to move beyond that and make decisions for himself.

Ishmael's future path back to New York City is foreshadowed in this chapter when he reveals that Laura Simms will become his mother and he'll return to the United States to live with her. It is a hopeful revelation, as his future suddenly seems possible and brighter. The conference alters Ishmael's concept of his future. He realizes that he isn't alone in his suffering and that if these amazing children from around the world can survive their hardships and learn to thrive in the world, he can too.