Book Review of the Week: They Poured Fire on Us from the Sky

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

One of the best books I have ever read is a story of hope through extraordinary tragedy and circumstances - They Poured Fire on Us From the Sky: The True Story of Three Lost Boys from Sudan. Written by Benson Deng, Alephonsion Deng, Benjamin Ajak, with Judy A. Bernstein, this book 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 tell their harrowing story - of a life lived through horrific violence, narrow escapes, no food, walking for five years, and the intense grief of losing their families and friends.


This book is just incredible, though, for the strength that it shows - the strength of the human spirit, and the strength of survivial - 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 wrote it down and relived their experiences. Now 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.


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."



They Poured Fire on Us from the Sky

However, the conflict (such a lame word for this interminable war) in Sudan is still ongoing, and there are many people in camps. I wanted to share this book with our Wandering Educators, and was lucky enough to sit down with author Judy A. Bernstein to talk a little bit about it. Here's what she had to say...


Benjamin and Judy

Benjamin and Judy


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 them selves and their families back home. And going to school.


Alephonsion speaking

Alephonsion speaking



WE: I was so amazed by their writing about escaping from the war in Sudan. Was it difficult for them to write of this? I can't even imagine living through it, let alone writing about it (and talking about it), again and again.

JB: Yes, it was very difficult for them to re-live this material. Most survivors of things like this don't want to talk about it. They knew the importance of stories like these and that importance has been increased by the current genocide that started about the time our book went to print.

WE: What about the Lost Girls - are there more now, in the US?

JB: 3800 Lost boys came to US. 100 Lost Girls. They were not that many Lost Girls. They did not leave their villages, many died, many were taken north as slaves.


WE: How can people help the Lost Boys?

JB: There are often local funds in some cities where the Lost Boys are resettled for education, etc. Usually they can be found on the internet. Otherwise, do what you can about Darfur, there are a lot of things available there. They need peace in all of Sudan to have peace work.



WE: Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?

JB: Perhaps that this book is a story about the triumph of the human spirit over almost unbelievable conditions as small children. It is chilling and inspiring. I have found that middle school boys, who often don't read, are even compelled by it. In some ways it must be a great survival adventure to them although it is at it's core a terrible tragedy that this should happen to any children anywhere.


Benson Deng

Benson playing the thom




WE: Thanks so much, Judy. I am so impressed with the book, and with what these three have done. They are all working hard, learning, and being so creative - I've gotten the cd from Alepho's band, Thong Jieng; and marveled at Benson's art.  Alepho has been in a movie (Master and Commander), on tv, and has acted in plays. As well, these three have an extensive public speaking schedule, as evidenced on their website.


Benjamin speaking

Benjamin speaking



For more information on the book, and the Lost Boys, please see:


All photos provided by Judy A. Bernstein.