What Is the What

What Is the What

The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng : A Novel

Book - 2007
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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.
Publisher: New York :, Vintage Books,, 2007.
Edition: First Vintage books edition.
ISBN: 9780307385901
Branch Call Number: FIC EGGE
Characteristics: xv, 538 pages : map ; 21 cm


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Fiction; also available in eBook, eAudio and Audiobook on CD formats

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Apr 29, 2017

Though cataloged as fiction, this true, personal account of a "lost boy" from Sudan is both heart-rendering and unforgettable.

Apr 18, 2016

I am half way through and am going to stop - goes on and on about mostly the same thing, Dave you can stop, "I get it already"... I read to learn things and to be inspired and somewhat to be entertained. I think I learnt what there is to learn in the first 20 pages, now I heard it five times over... inspired and entertained not working for me either..

Mar 21, 2016

The lost boys of Sudan. A very remarkable story, well told.

Nov 11, 2014

Dave Eggers at his best, crafting a brilliant narrative from real-life events and memories. This novel/memoir has a protagonist you won't soon forget.

multcolib_dianaa Mar 04, 2014

Eggers' narrator, a fictionalized version of a real person, is a Sudanese Lost Boy. Forced to flee his village by government militias, he survives marathon walks, starvation, disease, soldiers, bandits, land mines, lions, and refugee camps before winning the right to immigrate to the U.S. There's so much darkness in this book, but it's not depressing-- it's inspiring.

loonylovesgood Feb 16, 2012

A remarkable book. Hard to read in spots but I found it hard to put down. It certainly makes you stop and think and appreciate what you have...

zavirani Jan 31, 2012

An excellent story from the perspective of one of the Lost Boys of Sudan. Eggers writes wonderfully, with a lot of emotion and a great voice that doesn't feel condescending or pandering to a bleeding heart. It's feels like an honest account of the horrors of what these boys went through during the wars in Sudan and their subsequent lives in refugee camps and resettlement in other nations. But be warned, this book is depressing as hell.

mrettig Sep 08, 2011

An incredible book & I recommend it to anyone and everyone. You won't forget the story of the Lost Boys -- they will stay with you.

Harriet_the_Spy Jul 22, 2011

A gripping book, tragic yet hopeful, and a remarkable work of art. American-born Eggers produces a completely believable self-portait of a South Sudanese refugee raised mostly in camps. The real Valentino Achak Deng both provided the material and embraced the opportunity for this novel to do real good in the world. Check out his foundation and its groundbreaking work in rebuilding South Sudan: http://www.valentinoachakdeng.org/

Jun 09, 2011

"What is the What" provides another Dave Eggers classic where his curiosity and compassion for others shines through effortlessly.

Those who keep up with the news are aware of the large scale human tragedy that occurred in the Sudanese Civil War, including the use of youth as soldiers against their will. Eggers helps readers come face to face with one of the thousands of voiceless victims by telling the story of such a youth, Achak Deng.

We follow Deng from his once meaningful life among his family and village through the horrors of escape, entrapment, orphan refugee status and finally emmigration to America.

At each stage Eggers weaves the words of Deng into a compelling and engaging narrative that does not shy away from the complexities of such a life as young Dengs.

Brilliant work by a brilliant writer!

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Dec 23, 2010

"... Now that you are here, on the most sacred and fertile land I have, I can give you one more thing. I can give you this creature, which is called the cow..." God showed man the idea of the cattle, and the cattle were magnificent. They were in every way what the monyjang would want. The man and woman thanked God for such a gift, because they knew that the cattle would bring them milk and meat and prosperity of every kind. But God was not finished. God said," You can have these cattle, as my gift to you, or you can have the What."
..."What is the What?" the first man asked. And God said to the man, "I cannot tell you. Still you have to choose. You have to choose between the cattle and the What?"

notTom Dec 16, 2010

"We refugees can be celebrated one day, helped and lifted up, and then utterly ignored by all when we prove to be a nuisance. When we find trouble here, it is invariably our own fault."


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Jun 09, 2011

MelissaBee thinks this title is suitable for 18 years and over


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notTom Dec 16, 2010

Based on extensive interviews with Valentino Achak Deng and closely following actual events, this novel by Dave Eggers tells Deng's story with extreme passion and startling honesty. Beginning with the destruction of his home village as a young child and harrowing walk across the war-torn wilderness of southern Sudan with a group of children known as the Lost Boys, to life in refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya and the frustration of attending community college in the United States while holding a job which pays little, Deng provides provides a voice for the social underdog. It is with a tone of frustration and cynicism, but not self-pity, that he describes the plight of Sudanese survivors in America, "We refugees can be celebrated one day, helped and lifted up, and then utterly ignored by all when we prove to be a nuisance. When we find trouble here, it is invariably our own fault."

Deng's search for "the What" is compelling, riveting, and provides not only a glimpse of the evil of civil war in the Sudan, but also a unique perspective into our own society.


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