Father of the Lost Boys
Publisher: Fremantle Press
Father of the Lost Boys is a difficult-to-put-down work of narrative non-fiction that tells the story of author Yuot Alaak’s heartrending journey from war-torn South Sudan to eventual refuge in Australia with his family.
The journey of Yuot’s family, on foot, from South Sudan to Ethiopia and on to Kenya is physically harrowing, but moments of true horror and suffering are beautifully punctuated by unexpected moments of childhood joy: swimming in (albeit crocodile-infested) rivers, dancing, wrestling and playing football amidst carnage. While it is gunfire and bombs, hunger and sickness from which the Lost Boys run, the real force propelling them forward is Mecak Ajang’s unwavering belief in the power of education as a form of liberation. His conviction that “the pen is more powerful than the gun” saves the lives of his young charges, and it is the sharpened pencils and exercise books that they wield in place of AK-47s that give them hope, resilience and ultimately the chance to build new lives around the world.
While life in Sudan is unimaginably hard, much of the poignancy of this book comes towards its end, as Yuot’s family settle into a kind but alien new homeland. With stomach full and body well clothed, their hearts still ache for a home far away. I hope Australia will give me a pen, Yuot thinks when his family arrives here. With this pen, and his voice, Yuot tells his story with much grace, honest reflection and humanity.