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What Is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng Hardcover – October 25, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Valentino Achak Deng, real-life hero of this engrossing epic, was a refugee from the Sudanese civil war-the bloodbath before the current Darfur bloodbath-of the 1980s and 90s. In this fictionalized memoir, Eggers (A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius) makes him an icon of globalization. Separated from his family when Arab militia destroy his village, Valentino joins thousands of other "Lost Boys," beset by starvation, thirst and man-eating lions on their march to squalid refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya, where Valentino pieces together a new life. He eventually reaches America, but finds his quest for safety, community and fulfillment in many ways even more difficult there than in the camps: he recalls, for instance, being robbed, beaten and held captive in his Atlanta apartment. Eggers's limpid prose gives Valentino an unaffected, compelling voice and makes his narrative by turns harrowing, funny, bleak and lyrical. The result is a horrific account of the Sudanese tragedy, but also an emblematic saga of modernity-of the search for home and self in a world of unending upheaval.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From Bookmarks Magazine
Dave Eggers is best known for A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (2000), and here he shows that he is as adroit at telling another person's biography as he is narrating his own. Over three years, he conducted 100 hours of interviews with Deng and visited Sudan with him in "synergistic collaboration" (Time). Labeled as a novel, this work nonetheless has a historical basis and lends a personal face to the brutality of civil war, squalor, and the struggle for survival. A few critics questioned where Deng's story ended and Eggers's literary license began, and the book as a whole could have been better edited. While visceral and heartrending, Deng's and Eggers's joint story is ultimately a powerful tale of hope. When both People and the ever-glum Michiko Kakutani of the New York Times rave, how can one resist?
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.
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After a six-year transitional period, Independence was declared in 2011. Garang’s morose successor Salva Kiir never presented a clear plan or ideology for South Sudan’s future. Instead, his attitude about ethnic conflict by his own violence-prone Dinka clan vs rival clans, then other tribes, notably the equally violent Nuer, has created blatant nepotism, massive corruption and transfers of oil funds abroad by a tiny in crowd. A presumed coup attempt in 2013 resulted in tens of thousands of dead and millions of refugees and IDPs, hard to reach by aid workers prone to attack, rape and robbery in their hotel rooms by government soldiers, or while travelling overland by anyone carrying guns.
Re emergency relief, the ICRC (a major player worldwide and in SS) uses the concept of ‘residual responsibility’ when its most pressing targets have been met: which agency will take over what, where are we still indispensible? Is this concept applicable to the broad swath of nations that supported for years SS independence militarily, financially, diplomatically? Was their mission accomplished in 2011? Legitimizing SS in UN-terms, opening embassies in Juba, soon seeing the dream collapse in chaos and despair, an environment unfit and unsafe to service investments made, let alone making new ones?
Nothing here is meant to disparage Dave Eggers’ wonderful book. Eritrea was an earlier beauty that went its own way. It became so repressive that its young citizens want out, at great risk and cost. I fear for the future of South Sudan’s young generation and hope this outburst will be picked up somewhere.
I woke the next morning to the horrific news about the terror attacks in the east, and had a moment of pause when I thought of the story of th he Sudanese refugees I saw the night before. I thought that their plight would then go unnoticed , being overshadowed by the advent of certain war.
From then I noticed these elegant men arriving in my city and wondering at their stories, their strength, and with time, triumphs. We are proud to read of our new residents accomplishments. I have always remained curious about their stories. Thankfully, now I have read this account of one "lost boy's" origin, which has given me a better framework of understanding the stories of these victims of war.
I applaud the courage of the refugee, the immigrant and the power of hope that has transformed their lives. Thank you for sharing this story
The story is the true story of Achak Deng, who is forced to flee his village in South Sudan after a civil war breaks out. The characters are rich and compelling and the story of his journey from South Sudan, to a refugee camp, and eventually to the United States is beautiful.
I have shared this book with relatives and clients alike. It reads like a novel and gives you a view into a world you may have heard of but don't know much about.