STARRED REVIEW
August 2010

From Congolese child soldier to U.S. Marine

By Tchicaya Missamou
Review by
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Tales of conflict, brutality and oppression have unfortunately become so commonplace in the 24/7 news cycle that many people are no longer shocked or horrified by these accounts. But even the most hardened cynic will be moved by the revelations in the stunning new book In The Shadow of Freedom by former child soldier Tchicaya Missamou, who wrote this remarkable narrative with Los Angeles playwright, author and screenwriter Travis Sentell.

From the age of seven, Missamou willingly participated for years in the horrific civil war that’s ravaged his native Democratic Republic of the Congo for decades. He acknowledges killing friends and neighbors. He watched others being turned into drug addicts as part of the military’s recruiting process while also becoming a killing machine himself.

Yet, even as he was doing this, Missamou instinctively knew these actions were wrong. He documents the psychological toll of his choices in a vivid, clear fashion, detailing how the deaths were affecting him. Finally, he put down his guns and reunited with his mother and siblings.

Eventually Missamou discovered he’d have to abandon his country if he truly wanted to live in peace, particularly when the military insisted he once more take up arms as a 19-year-old. The book’s middle section spotlights his escape, chronicling the sacrifices his family made to ensure his escape. These included his father’s arrest, beating and deliberate infection with HIV by angry army officials.

But Missamou’s determination to revamp and change his life perseveres, and he continues battling against all obstacles. The story takes him from Belgium to Paris to America and covers days spent in poverty, a stint working at a martial arts studio, subsequent enlistment in the U.S. Marines and his rise to a wartime leadership position in Afghanistan. Using skills from an earlier time, Missamou headed the squad that rescued Jessica Lynch. Later he became an American citizen and a business owner while earning a doctorate in education.

Despite its chronicle of survival and triumph, In the Shadow of Freedom contains many sobering aspects alongside the inspirational elements and aspects. Tchicaya Missamou’s resilience and will enabled him to keep seeking redemption and salvation where others might have given up, but he downplays having any special qualities. Instead he pays homage to those family members who paid the ultimate price to help him and others that encouraged, supported and assisted him. This book is a powerful and moving account of a heroic transformation that also shows readers the true meaning of such concepts as freedom and patriotism. 

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In the Shadow of Freedom

In the Shadow of Freedom

By Tchicaya Missamou
Atria
ISBN 9781439116296

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