What is the What

by Dave Eggers

Paperback, 2007

Collection

Publication

Vintage (2007), 560 pages

Description

A biographical novel traces the story of Valentino Achak Deng, who as a boy was separated from his family when his village in southern Sudan was attacked, and became one of the estimated 17,000 "lost boys of Sudan" before relocating from a Kenyan refugee camp to Atlanta in 2001.

User reviews

LibraryThing member elbakerone
My first surprise on opening the cover of Dave Eggers novel What is the What was the subtitle The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng. As my mind struggled to reconcile finding the word "autobiography" on a book plucked from the fiction shelves, I proceeded on to the book's content - a first person memoir of the life of a refugee. Eggers' voice disappeared as the pages turned and the story became solely that of Deng one of Sudan's "Lost Boys" struggling to make a life for himself in America while haunted by the memories of the existence he left behind.

As the story unfolds in the present, Valentino takes his encounters with strangers in America and uses them to mentally reflect on his experiences in Africa. By silently telling others his story (which translates as a complete narration to the reader) he seeks their understanding, their sympathy and their grace and as a reader I couldn't help being captivated by his turbulent journey. There is joy in his childhood in a remote village where a bicycle is a prized and wondrous possession. There is fear in his flight across the wilds of Sudan narrowly avoiding lions and slower killers like disease and starvation. There is desperation in his life at the refugee camp dreaming of something better for himself and wondering if his family has survived as well. There is awkwardness to his arrival in America and the culture clash of living as an outsider in a new homeland.

What is the What is a highly emotional and moving book. Eggers has expertly blurred the lines between fact and fiction to create a fully realized and seamless narration of hardship and endurance in the life of a refugee. With an overarching theme of compassion for others in the face of evil, Valentino Achak Deng's story is immensely powerful. This is a book that will stay with you, will keep you thinking and and reflecting on it, long after the back cover is closed.
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LibraryThing member lauralkeet
This is the life story of Valentino Achak Deng, one of the "Lost Boys" of Sudan. Separated from his family at the age of 7, Valentino walked across Sudan into Ethiopia with hundreds of boys in similar circumstances. For 14 years, while his country was ravaged by civil war, Valentino lived in refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya. He was ultimately resettled to the U.S. as part of a relief effort.

Valentino's story is heart-breaking. He witnessed violence, and cruelty at such a young age. His own village was attacked by militia, with villagers brutally murdered. During the walk across Sudan, boys routinely died of malnutrition or other illnesses. Conditions in the refugee camps were appallingly bad. And it shocked me to realize that these refugee camps were not at all temporary; that a conflict can exist for so many years that the camp becomes the only life its inhabitants know.

This was a difficult book in many ways, but extremely well-written. Highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member stonelaura
As the title conveys, this amazing book is both an autobiography of a real person named Valentino Achak Deng and a novel compiled from hours of conversation between the author, Dave Eggers, and Deng as he recounted his life in Eastern Africa. Not wanting to misrepresent the facts, but wanting to capture the essence of this stirring time in history, they decided (as Eggers has done in the past) to create a fictional account, based heavily on fact.
The story follows the young narrator, variously known as Achak, Valentino and Dominic, after his Dinka village is attacked and he joins the ever growing contingent of Lost Boys as they walk to Ethiopia for refuge. Along with the ever present threat of warfare, the journey is fraught with all manner of dangers, from lions and crocodiles to disease and starvation. Even reaching the refugee camp does not provide sufficient safety for its forty thousand residents as the camp is attacked and thousands die as they flee, many finally settling in Kakuma, a large refugee camp in Kenya.
The story floats back and forth in time from the present when Achak is living in Atlanta, Georgia, where he has just been assaulted and burglarized, to the many years he spent striving to create a life for himself amid seemingly endless adversity. The story, with all its cruelty and loss would almost be too grim to bear, but Eggers’ ability to capture the small happy moments of life provides a much needed balance. These small moments of daily life also provide a window into a life so vastly diverse from the average American’s that it is otherwise hard to comprehend.
The “What” of the title refers to a Dinka legend about the creation of man where God gives man a choice of a cow, which can sustain him, and the “What” – the unknown – that may be better, but may also be worse. As the legend goes the Dinka man makes the correct choice in choosing the known thing, the unglamorous but sure thing. At the young age that Achak hears this, he interprets the story as representing man’s greed for always wanted something better than he already has, never being satisfied. But by the end of the story, when Achak has doubts about whether he should leave for America or return to his long-lost family in Sudan, his father advises him to grasp the What – to stop being a victim, to reach for the unknown in the hopes that it will bring a brighter future.
The recounting of this life is compelling, emotionally disturbing and uplifting, and not easily forgotten. It feels like it should be required reading for all.
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LibraryThing member _________jt_________
This fictionalized memoir does a great job of evoking an entirely alien existence. It stays interesting, informative, and exciting until it somehow stretches out into a 550-page marathon. I hate to find fault, because so much of it is so engaging, but I can't help thinking that the book would be even more powerful if one or two hundred pages of the less interesting ancillary material were culled.… (more)
LibraryThing member Lisa2013
I liked this book and I do feel guilty for not loving it; I thought that I would. It’s my kind of book. I adore Dave Eggers. I was moved by Valentino Achak Deng’s story and the stories of the various other Sudanese refugees, and was interested in learning more about the events of the war in Sudan. I’m delighted that the proceeds from this book go to good causes: to fund the college education of Valentino Achak Deng, with distributions to other Sudanese refugees in America, and to rebuilding southern Sudan, in particular Marial Bai, where Deng is from.

But something was missing for me in my experience of this book.

I always have a difficult time enjoying novels that are basically biographies; I appreciate knowing what is real and what is fiction.

Also, I didn’t enjoy Egger’s technique of having the protagonist (Deng) tell his story to the many various people in his vicinity or those on his mind. I’m not sure why as I love the storytelling form. But it didn’t work for me here. I felt distance vs. intimacy.

And when it came down to it, while I was interested in the man and the events in his life, the book felt too long to me. That’s never a good sign. Usually, I hate it when a book ends and I wish it was longer and I had more to read. Maybe better editing would have helped?

I know that I’m in the minority here; most seem to love the book. Maybe in retrospect I will or maybe I my views will shift after my book club discussion.
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LibraryThing member fieldnotes
When so much hype and reputation converge on such a complex and sensitive topic only to receive unchecked praise from the American publishing industry and profitable sales, I fear disaster, choir-preaching and the perpetration of harmful stereotypes. Despite my interest in African literature, in African conflicts and in the way that the developed world engages with Africa, I have been avoiding this book since I learned of its existence. A friend of mine who has lived and worked in Sudan vouched unreservedly for its authenticity and inoffensiveness and lent me her copy; I’m not mad at her.

Dave Eggers more or less avoids cheapening his subject, weakening his message or losing credibility for the duration of a book comprised of stories that would tempt a narrator with less integrity to deploy every variety of manipulative, sensationalist, suspenseful and tear-jerking prose. The result is an unflinching, straight-forward, trustworthy and revealing testimony. I have no doubt that “What is the What” has communicated more deeply about the reality of Sudan’s recent atrocities than most other products in any media. And I consider this more of an ethical accomplishment than a literary one. Modern pragmatist philosophers (such as Richard Rorty) contend that one of the best ways to act ethically is to work towards expanding the circles of empathy of as many people as you can. They suggest doing this by telling stories from new perspectives that familiarize and humanize marginalized and oppressed peoples and by creating ethnographies that do the same work on a more scholarly level. A book like this is supposed to raise awareness, to sensitize people and to encourage action. To the extent that this book makes it harder for people to be idle or disinterested in the face of circumstances like those in the South of Sudan, it is successful; to the extent that it prompts people to take action about such circumstances, it is impressively so.

Now, I’m not thrilled with Eggers’s decision to play a little game with the genre—calling this both an autobiography and a novel—and I’m not convinced by the reasons that are given for his doing so. Nor am I entirely comfortable with the narrative tactic of making Achak Deng directly address different parts of his story to whichever American seems to be disappointing him in the contemporary portion of “What is the What.” As readers quickly discover, the chapters of Deng’s tale that transpire in Sudan, Ethiopia and Kenya are related by him (in his mind, somewhat accusingly) over the course of less than two days to Americans with whom he is interacting. It is all rather obvious that the Americans he addresses are just the cogs in the machinery of our populace, the people who refuse agency and responsibility, the people who are passive accomplices to the neglect of people like Deng—whether they struggle at dead end jobs, making change at our supermarkets or whether they struggle to survive in crude structures built of trash amidst vulnerable refugees on the far side of earth. It’s an interesting tactic, clearly built to abolish narrative distance and to refresh a sense of accountability; but it can seem a bit forced.

I don’t think the prose warrants excerpting or stylistic analysis, nor am I tempted to highlight any particular episodes of Deng’s life. There are charming bits to the story, therapeutic moments of good fortune and humanity and there are scarring accounts of human behavior at its worst. The book is worth reading for its even keeled navigation of these moments, for the insight it offers into life in a refugee camp and for the mirror that it holds up to the United States as it fails to approximate the ideal of “sanctuary.” Respect to Dave Eggers for donating the profits he could have made from this endeavor to the cause of other Lost Boys from Sudan.
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LibraryThing member yearningtoread
Dinka native Achak Deng (or, Valentino Achak Deng, baptized) grew up in Marial Bai, in Sudan, where his family was happy and his childhood was carefree; where almost everything was in abundance, where he had safety and friends and love. However, it all changed when his city was attacked by the murahaleen (meaning travelers). Now on the run at seven years old, Achak must join a group of thousands of boys, some older, some younger, on a journey across Sudan to the southeast, where their hope and assumed safety lies in Ethiopia.

One word to describe this book, without hesitation: masterpiece. Dave Eggers has talent that everyone should experience at least once in their lives, and Achak’s own voice was prominent throughout the story. I was thoroughly engrossed. I was expecting it to be good, but it is genius. It is full of wild imagination, heart, tempers, death, and souls. These boys – the ones who lived – are now men, most of them living in America, leading a new life. This story, Achak’s story, begins with Achak’s life in Atlanta, Georgia, in the present tense. This was a bit of a turn-off for me at first…I’m never one to get into books that are written in the present tense. It has to be done right, I’ve said. And boy was this done right. The present tense was kept skillfully, consistently. In the beginning, Achak is robbed. And as he is being robbed, and kept hostage in his own home, he begins to tell himself, in the past tense, the tale of his life in Marial Bai, the genocide, the thousands of miles they walked to Ethiopia, and so on. The story slips in and out of this, back and forth, present to past, past to present. It’s like a perfect braid, each piece different and carefully chosen to make the braid whole.

The biggest thing that struck me about this book, now that it is done, is this: In the beginning, I did not know Valentino Achak Deng. I saw a man in his appartment, being robbed. I was interested, but I did not know this man. In the end, however, I felt an overwhelming sense of a journey finished. On referencing to things in the past, I felt a part of this man’s life. I knew who he was, where he came from and what he’d been through. I knew his family, his friends; I understood his weaknesses and I praised his strengths. I was connected with this man whom I had never, ever met. I will always know and remember and love Valentino Achak Deng, now that I have read his story.

The horrors to be found in this story are unheard of here in priveleged America. We have horrors, often, but in a way, it is different from Achak’s experience. It is cut off, perhaps. It is not a genocide. What we see every day is Paradise compared to Achak’s experience. There is shooting, killing, murdering, talk of rape that was not written down in detail in the book, and disturbing injuries that the people experienced. One man had his face ripped off, and was walking around, mad, terrorizing anyone who was near. The Faceless Man, Achak called him.

Nicknames, and just names in general, play a huge part in this story. The Faceless Man is only one of them. Tv Boy, really named Michael. Tonya and Powder. There is the Silent Baby. There is Moses, Dut, William, Amath, Tabitha, Achor Achor. And then, there was William K. Oh, William K. He is by far my favorite character. He was the annoying boy in their Dinka village, a boy who would stretch the truth so far that no one would believe him. While Achak tried to be kind to him, he would have never thought that one day he’d be so excited to reunite with him. But that’s exactly what happened. While walking from one place to the next, trying desperately to reach Ethiopia alive, William K. makes his way to their large group. Achak is glad to have someone familiar by his side, no matter who it is. And William K. hasn’t changed a bit; his stories are still as tall as the sky. This comes in handy, when the boys begin to go mad with hunger and fatigue; William K.’s fantastical stories of a grand and princely life in Ethiopia help Achak to dream, to push forward, to stay alive, no matter how wrong William K. is.

Along with the horrors of the book comes incredible love, power, and lessons to be learned. We see Achak’s love for a girl named Tabitha, his desire to reconcile himself with his captors’ boy who is forced to watch over him, his experiences with American culture, efficiencies, and deficiencies. He has new friends, old friends, friends are leave or die. Friends who are murdered. In the end, we see the comparison between cultures, the stark differences, and the intense similarities. It is amazing and humbling, both ways.

But it is worth it. It is worth every sentence, every word. Every letter. This story emanates power, and the strong voice of a man who walked, discouraged and surrounded by death and decay, and came out on the other side.

(For teens and parents of teens: the content of this book is R-rated, as far as violence and language go. Gory scenes and F-bombs are only half. The sexual content can be rated PG-13. It only shows up in the last third of the book and isn’t explicit: some content involves Achak mentioning cultural issues, differences, and practices; others involve Achak and his friends going through puberty and wondering what to do with their changing bodies.)
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LibraryThing member readaholic12
A Lost Boy of Sudan's heart wrenching telling of his idyllic childhood obliterated by war, his unimaginable struggle to survive as a refugee and his and his attempt to rebuild a life in America. Dave Eggars weaves this story perfectly through present and past to capture in Valentino's voice his witness to the ruthless destruction of his village, his horrific desert march to Ethopian and Kenyan refugee camps and his ordeals and transition to America and modern life. But in a bitter irony, his life here is marked by senseless violence when he is beaten and robbed in his apartment in Atlanta. I admire the honesty, bravery and strength of Valentino; his humanity and capacity to endure suffering and remain hopeful in the face of relentless tragedy humble me. I will not soon forget him or his story.… (more)
LibraryThing member gocam
Valentino Achak Deng knows about pain, loss, hurt, charity, faith, desperation, evil, apathy, violence & kindness. He has felt these things most acutely. Eggers channels his story magnificently without intruding or inserting his own narrative. You must read this book, which is a tremendous statement of, and on humanity. Eggers lightly fictionalized account of a small boy growing up through an appalling time in Southern Sudan, and his forced exodus from that home through a succession of refugee camps to the US is at times very hard to read, but is in no way sensationalist. This is a remarkable trick to pull, as the temptation must be very great to dwell on the inhumanity and horror, which admittedly are here in quantity. But the narrative always remains strangely if not optimistic then at least aware of the potential for good, and Eggers/Deng sprinkle the story with an enduring good nature throughout the almost overwhelmingly oppressive sweep of events described.… (more)
LibraryThing member mjspear
A fictionalized account of Valentino Achak Deng newly arrived to Atlanta, GA from his native Sudan. Achak was part of the great Sudanese refugee movement, aka, "the Lost Boys." The book opens with Achak being mugged and burgled when he naively lets in a woman seeking help. He alternates his ordeals here with his trials in Africa. The two stories ensue and ultimately converge at the end of the book. While heart-breakingly sad at times (death, atrocities, violence) the book manages to end on a upbeat note as Ashak vows to start a new, more self-assured life in a new place.

This is gripping reading and well-crafted. To this reader, Ashak's present-day travails were as awful as his times in Africa. He is treated with a strange combination of charity and neglect (he waits 17 hours in the ER and finally walks home!) His sponsors mean well but don't really equip him for American life. His fellow Sudanese immigrants suffer similar fates: lives of drama and violence. (His story of his 'love' Tabitha is especially moving.)
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LibraryThing member 7DogNight
One of my favorite books although I absolutely hate the events of the story. There is not enough room on this website for me to adequately explain what I think about this work. But I can say that any thinking person will come away from this book moved to his/her very core. I look forward to seeing what the book's main character, Valentino Achak Deng, accomplishes during the remainder of his stay here on earth.… (more)
LibraryThing member whitewavedarling
I have a great deal of respect for this book. At the same time, I'm not sure how much of a recommendation I can give it. I should say that going into this book, I'd already read quite a bit about recent conflicts in the Sudan region of Africa, and a fair amount about the persons involved in general. As a result, I'm afraid that may have contributed to making parts of this book drag on, and making the structure somewhat frustrating.

Having heard Eggers speak about this work at some length, I knew fairly early on that Eggers struggled with this work and with all he wanted to convey--at points, I'm afraid this showed through. There were many points when I felt as if the structure as a whole was somewhat jarring. Time was a particular issue for me. I often struggled to find any sense of When something was happening, or the timeline as a whole regarding events before and after. It may well be that this sense of discombobulation was intended--but it worked against the story and characters for me, and became a frustration at various points, but most particularly in the first half of the book. I was able to finish the second half of the book more easily, but some of my earlier frustration did hang over. Additionally, Valentino was portrayed absolutely realistically. While I admire the intent and realize that it is perhaps necessary to convey the intent of the story...there were times when I wished I knew a bit less, or a bit more.

Overall, I can't say why I don't have a more positive reaction to this book, even now. It was not a particularly difficult or easy read, and it was very engaging when I picked it up--one of those books that you aren't necessarily drawn back to, but which engages you when you do pick it up. For someone who wants a look into what's been going on in Sudan, I wouldn't advise starting with this book--I'd advise perhaps Not on Our Watch by Don Cheadle and John Prendergast, or certainly The Translator by Daoud Hari. In this case, I felt fairly detached from the story, and from the characters at many points; and while I appreciate the story, it didn't touch me or reach me in the same way as other books touching on the same subject matter have. This is worth reading, don't get me wrong--but if you're looking for a basis of knowledge or for further understanding, I'm not sure this is a good choice. As a work of literature though, it does succeed and engage for the most part.
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LibraryThing member gbill
A big departure from Eggers previous works, "What is the What" is an autobiography of one the "Lost Boys" of the Sudan. The story is simply and beautifully told, and the book will stay with you. There are so many instances of extreme pain and suffering that this man and his people went through that, perhaps as a shock reflex, it didn't even sink in completely until I was well into the book. Eventually though, it's hard not to get emotional, and William K put me over. This is great writing and an education into a tragedy that has happened in our lifetimes, I highly recommend it.

Some quotes, yeah they're all over the map and don't really capture the story in any way, but I liked them....

"My father, who had many wives, rejected the new religion on these grounds, and also because to him the Christians seemed preoccupied with written language. My father and mother could not read; not many people his age could. - You go to your Church of Books, he said. - You'll come back when your senses return.

"Humans are divided between those who can still look through they eyes of youth and those who cannot. Though it causes me frequent pain, I find it very easy to place myself in the shoes of almost any boy, and can conjure my own youth with an ease that is troublesome."

"There were many who assumed that the country would be split into two, the north and the south, because the two regions had been fused under the British, after all, and because the two sides shared so few cultural identities. But this is where the British sowed the seeds for disaster in our country, which are still being harvested today."

"When I was finished, I told William K that I was sorry. I was sorry that I had not known how sick he was. That I had not found a way to keep him alive. That I was the last person he saw on this earth. That he could not say goodbye to his mother and father, that only I would know where his body lay. It was a broken world, I knew then, that would allow a boy such as me to bury a boy such as William K."

"Do you know that it was George Bush, the father, who found the major oil deposits under the soil of Sudan? Yes, this is what is said. This was 1974, and at the time, Bush Sr. was the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Mr. Bush was an oil person, of course, and he was looking at some satellite maps of Sudan that he had access to, or that his oil friends had made, and these maps indicated that there was oil in the region. He told the government of Sudan about this, and this was the beginning of the first significant exploration, the beginning of U.S. oil involvement in Sudan, and, to some extent, the beginning of the middle of the war."

"I cannot count the times I have cursed our lack of urgency. If ever I love again, I will not wait to love as best as I can. We thought we were young and that there would be time to love well sometime in the future. This is a terrible way to think. It is no way to live, to wait to love."

"As the land passed by, I saw my parents, my approximated visions of them, on every hill and around each bend. It seemed as logical as anything else that they would be there, on the road ahead of us. Why couldn't they be here, why couldn't we will ourselves together again?"

"I speak to you because I cannot help it. It gives me strength, almost unbelievable strength, to know that you are there. I covet your eyes, your ears, the collapsible space between us. How blessed are we to have each other? I am alive and you are alive so we must fill the air with our words. I will fill today, tomorrow, every day until I am taken back to God. I will tell stories to people who will listen and to people who don't want to listen, to people who seek me out and to those who run. All the while I will know that you are there. How can I pretend that you do not exist? It would be almost as impossible as you pretending that I do not exist."
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LibraryThing member Jeffrey414
"What is the What" by Dave Eggars is an incredible tale of a young Sudanese refugee, Valentino Achak Deng. His life is the antithesis of Forest Gump's successes in his life's journey. From his earliest memories of running from his home town while friends and relatives are being shot and burned to death in their homes and churches, to others boys traveling with him being shot by a woman posing as a "mother," to being next to other boys being dragged away by lions in the jungle, to having boys drown next to him as they cross another river, to experiencing disease and starvation decimate those along with the "Lost Boys", and finally being beaten into unconsciousness in his apartment in Atlanta, Valentino seems to encounter close up every imaginable gruesome experience possible in his short life. Am I once again that cynical and unbelieving of such a singularly troubled life? This work is described as a fictionalized account and is likely a combination of a number of refugees experiences. However, the plight of such a number of refugees' begs the question for the world of the atrocities in Sudan and other genocides and human right abuses with which Valentino concludes at the end of "What is the What.": "How can I pretend that you do not exist? It would be almost as impossible as you pretending that I do not exist."

The following is from a website recommended to us by the president of the book club, Ronald Eaton. It clears up my concerns about the veracity of Deng's tale. "Deng is a real person, and this story, told in his voice, is mostly true. It can be difficult to separate the book from its circumstances: readers may weigh Eggers' right to tell the story or wonder what parts have been changed—or even which observations are Deng's and which are Eggers' observations of Deng. But here a novel is the best solution to the problems of memoir." My question is, would the memoirs of Burroughs, Frey, and Walls fit in this category of better described as a novel than a memoir?
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LibraryThing member co_coyote
Don't pick this book up if you have anything else to do. I'd heard about it on the radio, but I wasn't prepared to be seduced on the very first page. Dave Eggers is becoming my new favorite author. His book You Shall Know Our Velocity is also in my top ten list. He has an unique voice and is the consummate storyteller. This book is the fictionalized account of the true story of Achak Deng, one of the Lost Boys of Sudan, homeless refugees of the long civil war in that country. One of the reviewers says it is a “moving, frightening, improbably beautiful book,” and I couldn't agree more. I like to think of myself as well-read and informed about the world, but I had no idea such things as are described in this book have been going on in Sudan for as long as they have. This is the kind of book that not only spurs you into action, but demonstrates in a powerful, personal way how important it is to care.… (more)
LibraryThing member jenreidreads
I'm glad I read this. I hardly knew anything about Sudan before I did, and I learned a lot from this book. However, it was sooooo difficult. Not the language—this was the first thing I read by Dave Eggers, and I found his style graceful and uncomplicated—but the subject. It was depressing. And I'm sure that's very realistic of the life of Valentino. But I had to keep putting this down and picking up lighter things to read, so it took me almost twice as long as normal to finish a book of this length. Like I said, I'm glad I read it, it felt important to do, but I don't know that I'd want to do it again.… (more)
LibraryThing member juliapequlia
A wonderful book, although the story is heartbreaking. An excellent introduction to the events in Sudan as told from the point of view of one boy.
LibraryThing member goldiebear
Dave Eggers always seems to impress me. What is the What was fantastic! I loved it. I really plan on doing some research on Valentino after I figured out that yes, he is a really person. I wonder how he feels about the final version of the book. I know he states in the introduction that yes, it's a fictional work it is based on his life. I am just a curious person. I wonder how many of the events in the book really took place and how many were made up by Eggers for the story. (even though I am sure things very similar happened.) Because I personally work with refugees on a daily basis I found this book even more fascinating. It makes me wonder more about some of the things my students have been through. I also wonder how Eggers met Valentino in the first place and how it came about that he would be the once to write this story. Anyhow, I loved the story, I loved the writing style and how it was laid it. Fantastic all around.… (more)
LibraryThing member jopearson56
This was a great book. Based on a true story, it's compelling to learn how Africans in war-torn countries really live today, the many ways in which they suffer, how little (and how much!) is done to help them, both in their lives in Africa and when they are resettled. Hard to imagine how such young boys survived the horrors of walking cross country, particularly in a country such as Sudan. I am glad that the African situation is getting some popular renown in the literature; there needs to be more awareness.… (more)
LibraryThing member MarthaHuntley
This is a very good read; a powerful book that takes you into the tragedies of Sudan and of this one unforgettable "Lost Boy" of Sudan, Valentino Achak Deng.
LibraryThing member Excalibur
This is an incredible story of survival against all odds and the triumph of the human spirit. There is a hopeful feel to this book, which is remarkable because so much of what the main character experiences is so crushingly sad that it feels like it should be paralyzing. This hope is prevalent throughout because no matter how despairing the author becomes the kindness and noble humanity that he displays is all the assurance the reader needs. This book might be partially fictionalized, but it radiates authenticity.… (more)
LibraryThing member dawnlovesbooks
i put this book down for too long and couldnt get back into it, however the part i did read was excellent! (i have a very small attention span :)
LibraryThing member crkarman
This is a powerful tale of the fictionalized life of Valentino Achak Deng, a refugee from Sudan. It combines his frustrations of his assimilation into the American way of life, with his harrowing account of survival in his native Sudan. Both experiences are life-threatening on many levels. Such a survivor can force the rest of us to reconsider our own petty misfortunes and indulgent lifestyles. For all ages, teen to adult.… (more)
LibraryThing member joeltallman
Moving, instructive, and powerful. A good introduction to the politics and human stories behind the news about Sudan, as well as a captivating personal story in its own right. It is inspiring in the higher and in the more practical senses. I finished this book and went immediately to its website on the internet, and on to research organizations helping to improve lives in Sudan, including Darfur.… (more)
LibraryThing member jtho
It's just an amazing story! There are two stories here intertwined: Achek's new life in America, and flashbacks (the majority of the book) to growing up in Africa as a Lost Boy. As he flees from Sudan to Ethiopia and then to Kenya, and finally the US, the reader is completely drawn in. The story is so sad, but funny in parts, and there is so much hope in Achek's story, too. The only book I can think to compare it to in terms of how amazing the story is, how addicted to the characters you become, and how sad/funny/hopeful it all is at the same time is Shantaram.… (more)

Pages

560

ISBN

0307385906 / 9780307385901
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