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Book Review: Our Teens’ Crimes and Struggles: Turned Inside Out!


My Journey So Far”, by Akok Garang Akok, Australia

Tuesday, February 11, 2020 (PW) — A small, but valuable book written by Akok Garang Akok. He depicted his journey as a refugee, as a new comer in Australia, and as a troubled teenager in Australia. Akok is fighting a court (immigration court) decision that’s aimed to deport him to South Sudan. He wrote his book, this book while in Yonga Hill detention centre, Western Australia.

For eager readers, which I believe to be caring number of our South Sudanese residing in Australia, the book explained the petty crimes that lead to people losing their freedom. Mothers and fathers (who can read) must read this book. All teenagers must read it. With our efforts, as members of South Sudanese community, contributing our fair share to support our growing community, our children are in a vortex of finding their footing in this country. We are losing them to the brutal death. We are losing them to prisons. In the end, we will sift off at the losing ends.

So, what’s our ways out? Now this is time to ask ourselves such question. And I believe, we must understand the crimes and struggles of our teenagers. And to understand them, a book such as “MY JOURNEY SO FAR” must be a handbook for all parents who are bringing up teenagers here in Australia.

The book has turned our teens’ crimes and struggles inside out! What—powerful parts—to expect in the book.

Akok has tried to paint the picture of the life our teenagers are living with some terminologies rarely spoken by adults. Terminologies and phrases such as “get jumped”, “characters were shady”, “shive (a makeshift knife)”, “Sticking solid to a wrong info.”, “Runs-in with the law” (page 78), and “popped pills”( page 31).

As you progress through the book, you will be amazed by how he churned out some phrases that would carry painful heaviness for others. For example, after being released from prison, he visited one of his trusted friends, and obtained 40 capsules of ecstasy. He hoped to stabilise his finances after being in prison and came out broke. Some guys whom he thought were his potential costumers “wanted some for free”, but he refused. One of them set him up and he was soon attacked. So, this how he described the ordeal: “Nothing got taken of mine, just a tooth that got knocked out”!

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The above statement gave me chills; it conveys the whole lots of our teenagers’ struggles. The theme of living with less, or no regards of personal health is exquisitely portrayed with just one sentence.

Apart from shouldering addictions—Alcohol and drugs. Some of our teenagers are suffering from mental health. Akok admitted, without holding back, his bad dreams that were signs of mental illness. In his struggles, he’s fighting fire at both ends of the match. So, he articulated that “alcohol is the worst drug….”

With alcoholism, he tried all means to feed his addiction. So, when he found himself with no money, stealing was the option. This led to more troubles with the law. In the end, he understood the important of the word: NO! “The word “NO” is powerful “. To say NO to the wrong urges of peers, of alcohol, of drugs, and of feeling unmotivated.

The Community

In his struggles and troubles with his addictions and the law, Akok discovered that our community—the Dinka community wasn’t helping. Too much hatred. “You could tell that they were just a negative bunch of people feeding off our misery.” (Page 41). Instead of helping by lending hands or advice, they scratch at the parts with most pain. “What my community is good at is talking shit of each other’s kids”. This is a terrible exposure, but the most truthful description of our community. We lack empathy. Sympathy disappears in seconds.

Trap House

Until Akok dived into the courage of writing his book, none of us, the middle-ages and elders knows what’s this hangout-place called. TRAP House. It’s a house where those with same habits, the habits of drinking alcohol and taking drugs overstayed.

They mingled at the trap house: boys and girls, boys doing the robberies, dealing with the hard stuff, and the girls getting food and cooking—duties they failed to perform sometimes. Conditions at the trap house: No bathing, no brushing of teeth, and no clothes for change. They don’t leave until someone suffers from “alcohol poisoning”.

Akok, fluently, described their pain and trauma, for example, that they were involved in “drinking or taking drugs to dull the pain”, to lull themselves to deep sleep. What it all meant is: “we’re scared of life.” However, he adopted some mechanisms to help him in his recovery, his journey.

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Coping Mechanisms

  • Gymnastics.
  • Reading.
  • Writing.
  • Listening to music.
  • Watching movies on Netflix.

These became ideals in his journey, “fighting to overcome his demons”. Especially reading and writing. The two become his therapies; he immersed himself in therapeutic writing. So, his writings improved. And writing great sentences using parallelism came apparent. For example, “ I ‘ve come a long way from SNORTING cocaine, SMOKING weed and cigarettes, DRINKING alcohol, POPPING pills (ecstasy) and STAYING up for days on end.”

And through his reading, he mastered the insights of legal process, and the political wind that ends up blowing up or out some cases—Immigration cases. For example, the wining of the liberals; it was a nightmare for those in detention centres. With liberal immigration policies, everything in the detention centres is set up as an obstacle. Even things like the internet and printers.

The Internet

Akok felt frustrated in the book because the the detainees are cornered everywhere. They’re given 2/3 days to appeal when their applications are rejected. And if you are 2 or 3 days late, you lose rights to appeal. While, there are only 37 computers that jam “with software not responding especially opening attachments”. Sometimes printer broke. The printer is “important in printing affidavits, applications, letters and references”.

And even the living standard at detention centres are poor. Akok’s reasoning—according to his articulations in the book— is that everything, every obstacle is “designed into pushing you”—the detainees “into giving up, and into signing anything”, thus speeding up the deportation process.

Akok’s unbearable fear is facing deportation. He fears that he has no room and his troubles with his father. Because his father has his hands full with a number (14) wives and children (40).

Some of my Wishes

I wished the editor would have picked up the following mistakes. Akok, talking about his friend, Angelina, this sentence slipped into the final draft (book): “we WAS tight” (page 51); instead, we WERE tight. Secondly, I looked up this specialist (phycologist), but my search failed me, and the google was suggesting PSYCHOLOGIST instead of PHYCOLOGIST evaluation report”, maybe psychologist evaluation report.

Thirdly, I couldn’t understand “…On how terrible the food this.” Maybe how terrible the food is! Finally, a paragraph was repeated when the author articulated that the police personnel are sorts of cowards, who “regarded a detainee as a unit; it’s easier to use numbers for statistics.” This paragraph appeared on Page 82, and then the same statement showed up on page 83 in the exact context and content.

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In conclusion, the book, MY JOURNEY SO FAR, is a book about how teenagers slipped into petty crimes. Crimes that lead them to prisons. Akok has laid them bare. He also assembled the coping mechanisms, mechanisms when followed, would work with great results. Please grab a copy at African World Books in Perth, Western Australia.

The author, Kur Wël Kur, has a Bachelor Degree in Genetics and Zoology from Australian National University (ANU). He was the former the General Secretary of Greater Bor Community in Adelaide, Australia. He can be reached via his email contact:

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