During the Second Sudanese Civil War, thousands of South Sudanese boys were displaced from their villages or orphaned in attacks from northern government troops. Many became refugees in Ethiopia, but when war also broke out there in 1989, teacher and community leader Mecak Ajang Alaak assumed care of these Lost Boys in a bid to protect them from becoming child soldiers.
He led them on four-year journey from Ethiopia to Sudan and on to the safety of a Kenyan refugee camp. Together they endured starvation, animal attacks and the horrors of landmines and aerial bombardment.
This eyewitness account by Mecak Ajang Alaak’s son, Yuot, is the extraordinary true story of a man who never ceased to believe that the pen is mightier than the gun.
About the Author
Yuot Alaak comes from the village of Majak in South Sudan’s Jonglei State and was part of the globally known Lost Boys of Sudan. He migrated to Australia as a refugee with his parents in May 1995.
He is an emerging Western Australian writer whose short story ‘The lost girl of Pajomba’ was anthologised by Margaret River Press in Ways of Being Here. He was also a panellist at the 2017 Perth Writers Festival and his memoir, Father of the Lost Boys, was shortlisted for the 2018 City of Fremantle Hungerford Award.
Yuot currently lives in Perth with his family where he works as a mining professional, having attained degrees in the geosciences and engineering. When not writing or mining, Yuot loves to relax with family and friends over a barbecue.
Questions for discussion
- What did you know about the history of conflict in South Sudan before you read this book? What’s the most interesting thing you learned?
- In the midst of the atrocities of war are scenes of simple childhood joy. What were some of your favourite moments of Yuot’s journey?
- Are there any parts of Yuot’s story that you related to?
- The importance of education is a major theme in the book, but at one desperate point his father says, if you “can’t master the pen, you must master the gun.” Do you agree or disagree with this statement and why?
- “We have only made it here, this far, because we are resilient”. What does resilience mean to you and do you have a story of resilience to share?
- “How does one become a true Aussie, while maintaining my identity as a citizen of the place I was forced to leave behind?” asks Yuot. What does it mean to be a true Aussie? Is it possible to hold on to multiple identities in a new homeland?
- “The antelope skin mat I slept on at Gilo has been replaced by a cushy queen-size mattress, but I feel little comfort.” What does Yuot mean by this?
- At the end of the book, we feel Yuot’s yearning for his homeland. Have you ever been homesick for a place and a time to which you know you cannot ever return?
- If you could have given the young Yuot one piece of advice during his long marches with the Lost Boys, what would you have said?
- What fundamental human rights does this book discuss?
- As a refugee, Yuot has always felt invisible to the world. How can we share more refugee stories in ways that bring us together?
- Yuot’s mum is a silent but infinitely strong force in the book. Do you feel her perspective would have added another dimension to the book?
- How did Yuot’s story impact you? Will it change your views or behaviour in any way?
If you liked this book you may also like…
Ways of Being Here, Rafeif Ismail, Yirga Gelaw Woldeyes, Tinashe Jakwa and Yuot Alaak (Margaret River Press)
Always Another Country: a memoir of exile and home, Sisonke Msimang (Text Publishing)
We Can’t Say We Didn’t Know, Sophie McNeill (ABC Books)
More to the Story: Conversations with Refugees, Rosemary Sayer (Margaret River Press)
The Sky Runs Right Through Us, Reneé Pettitt-Schipp (UWA Publishing)
The Palace of Angels, Mohammed Massoud Morsi (Wild Dingo Press)
The Historian’s Daughter, Rashida Murphy (UWA Publishing)