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What Is the What The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng

His village in Sudan at the age of seven and trek hundreds of miles by foot pursued by militias government bombers and wild animals crossing the deserts of three countries to find freedom When he finally is resettled in the United States GREAT STORY NOT SO GREAT BOOK This took me THREE MONTHS to finish I did read other books in the meantime but believe me I wouldn t have dragged my feet on this one if the storytelling hadn t been so TERRIBLY AWFULExamples of STORIES told particularly badlya The drama teacher Miss Gladys and the Dominicsb The romance between Achak and Tabithac Life at Kakumad The story of Maria the girl who called him Sleepere The walk from Pinyudo to Kakumaf The play times with Achak and the Royal Girls of Pinyudog Achak s trip to the hospitalh Achak s job at the fitness clubi Achak s attempts to go to college in Americaj The night when the Sudanese were invited to the basketball gameAND MANY MORE Some of the above should have been interesting stories but they were written in such a matter of fact style I could barely bring myself to read each line on the page It was like forcing myself to read engineering textbooks OHHHHHHAnother thing this is supposed to be a fictional autobiography It s not a REAL autobiography because if it were it would be all about Dave Eggers NO NO it s all about Valentino Achak Deng OK so I get it Dave Eggers is PRETENDING to be Achak and writing it just the way he thinks Achak would write it And this in part is what makes it fictional OK FINE Now the narrator of the autobiography or the fictional entity that Dave Eggers was conjuring up when he was pretending to be Achak maybe he s the kind of guy who refuses to go on and on about his philosphical beliefs Well fine But as a READER wanting to hear the story of Valentino Achak Deng I want to know about that stuff And we get practically nothing For example from reading the book I would think this is the autobiography of an atheist But our fictional narrator is Catholic I know this because of occasional instances of praying various run ins with priests and occasional times when God is mentioned But I find it really annoying that the central character never seems to care enough about spirituality to discuss it The lack of discussion about the narrator s beliefs extends to other areas besides just religion I wish he had discussed his motivation and ambitions that led him to be in charge at so many stages in his life and his political views about the government of Sudan hopes for peace and so much Maybe the real VAD wouldn t have discussed philosophical matters in such a public forum as a book and maybe that s why Dave Eggers in pretending to be Achak left these kinds of discussion out I don t know But I wish the real VAD would come out and write his autobiography so I could find out From the web site valentinoachakdengorg I can see the great work Achak is doing to lift up the people of Sudan He seems like a great man And you know what I do not get that impression from this book Honestly I think the real VAD could do a much better job of writing his autobiography than Dave Eggers did of pretending to be himThis fictionalized autobiography device simply DID NOT WORKNow to be fair and this is why the book gets 2 stars for it was ok instead of 1 there were a few parts of the book that I enjoyed BITS OF PLOT TOLD RATHER WELL a The portrait of Achak s life in southern Sudan before the fighting began where his prosperous father owned a shop and had many wives and there were various religions Catholic Muslim and Africanpagansomething intermingling somewhat peacefully where he was loved by his mother in the yellow dress played with William K and Moses and would try to spy on Amath and her sistersb Achak s first visit at Phil and Stacy s house when a bunch of other Sudanese came in for dinner uninvited and the ensuing story of Achak s friendship with Phil s familyc Achak s running escape as a 6 year old boy from the fightingd The story of William K walking with Achake Moses story about being captured and turned into a slavef The story told by the old man who was brought by the SPLA to speak to the Kakuma refugees about being the lone survivor of an attack on all the chiefs of the local tribesg The friendship between Achak and Noriyakih The story of a woman who comes to Achak s adopted family s home in Kakuma with news for Achak regarding his biological familyi Achak s experiences on the drama group s trip to Nairobi when he gets to stay with Mike and Grace and go to the shopping mall with Tabithaj The last week of Achak s time in Kakuma and his weeks spent in Goal waiting for a plane to take him to AmericaThis may seem like a lot but bear in mind this book is 535 pages and some of these plotlines above only lasted a few pages Looking back it seems that the first 100 or so pages were good and the last 100 pages were good It was the part in the middle that made me want to tear my toe nails out Hmmmm maybe those 335 pages in the middle are THE WHATOooooooooooooooooh

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He finds a life full of promise but also heartache and myriad new challenges Moving suspenseful and unexpectedly funny What Is the What is an astonishing novel that illuminates the lives of millions through one extraordinary man back cove 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 herDave Eggers 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 deeply about the reality of Sudan s recent atrocities than most other products in any media And I consider this 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 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 uickly 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 forcedI 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 The Illusionists unexpectedly funny What Is the What is an astonishing novel that illuminates the lives of millions through one extraordinary man back cove When so much hype and reputation converge on such a complex and sensitive topic only to receive Planet of the Bugs 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 Fishes of the Open Ocean unreservedly for its authenticity and inoffensiveness and lent me her copy I m not mad at herDave Eggers 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 Out of Bounds (Boundaries, unflinching straight forward trustworthy and revealing testimony I have no doubt that What is the What has communicated deeply about the reality of Sudan s recent atrocities than most other products in any media And I consider this 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 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 Grass, Sky, Song uickly 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 forcedI 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 Otter Chaos! (Otter Chaos 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

Dave Eggers Ü 6 Free read

From the bestselling author of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius What Is the What is the epic novel based on the life of Valentino Achak Deng who along with thousands of other children the so called Lost Boys was forced to leave If you know me at all you know I read a lot So I don t take these reviews lightly Here goes What is the What is without a doubt one of the best books I have ever readThe story of Valentino Achak Deng a so called Lost Boy of the Sudan is so moving that after reading the book I went to his web site and signed up for information on how I can help the cause Dave Eggers who is easily one of my favorite fiction writers has donated the proceeds of the book to a foundation co founded by he and Valentino wwwvalentinoachackdengorgThe writing is brilliant and the story is compellingbut I think what makes the book so great for me is the sheer tragedy of this boy s life and the unbelieveable sense of courage and optimism he showed throughout a life that would have caused most people to simply give up Valentino s courage is beyond belief As his story unfolds it s unimaginable that he could have survived and it s heartbreaking how at each turn things continued to get worse His survival is a mystery that will never be solvedyet here he is as a young adult doing everything he can to help the world learn from his experienceThe book was also a great history lesson about Sudan and Africa in general and gives the reader great insight into the troubles in Darfur today If the world does not learn from this story then perhaps we are doomed as a speciesFinally though the story is Valentino s the writing is all Eggers He could have easily played the story as a straight biography but instead Eggers weaves Valentino s life together in a beautiful way going back and forth between his time in Africa and his new life in Atlanta And while his life in Africa was indeed a horror his life in the US is not much better and perhaps the biggest lesson of the book we have tried to help these Lost Boys but we are far from perfect and have made many mistakes as a societyIt s ironic that this morning I awoke to a front page story in the Arizona Republic about a birthday celebration for Arizona s Lost Boys there are about 500 Sudanese boys living in the Valley They all celebrate their birthday on Jan 1 because they have no idea when they were really bornIt s also ironic that I finished this book around the same time as I saw The Kite Runner When I read The Kite Runner and even Hosseini s second novel A thousand Splendid Suns I thought life was terrible for the Afghans but Valentino s real story makes the fictional story of the boys in The Kite Runner seem tame by comparison But together these stories make me feel both lucky to live in America and at the same time ashamed that the world can let things like this happenAs I sat reading Valentino s story on my sofa I thought here is a boy who has experienced things I couldn t even imagine while I sit in my 2100 suare foot home with a fridge full of food two cars a happy and relatively healthy family casually spending 4 for a cup of coffee and throwing out food each day than Valentino ate in a month It reaffirms my political views and teaches me to be thankful for what I have and importantly that I have a profound responsibility as a citizen of the world to help those who are less fortunate If you think that makes me a bleeding heart liberal than I m proud to wear that badgeRead this book It will change your life


10 thoughts on “What Is the What The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng

  1. says:

    If you know me at all you know I read a lot So I don't take these reviews lightly Here goes What is the What is without a doubt one of the best books I have ever readThe story of Valentino Achak Deng a so called Lost Boy of the Sudan

  2. says:

    It takes a certain and rare kind of writer to make a story about civil war genocide and a refugee crisis boring and unreadable; that writer specifically is Dave Eggers It's not that I don't understand the purpose that thi

  3. says:

    I’ve been thinking a lot about this book this morning I’ve recommended it a few dozen times over the years I didn’t even ‘think’ about whether or not I had written a review I hadn’tI read this before I

  4. says:

    “Valentino I just don’t know what God has against you” These words were directed at the subject of this novelbiography and are pretty much a motif that runs throughout most of this bookThis is one man’s true story of the Lost Boys of the Sudan Valentino Achak Deng at age seven and thousands of boys just like him endured all manner of hardship as they fled their homes as civil war beginning in 1983 devastated thei

  5. says:

    TOO MUCH AND NOT ENOUGH A PARADOX With her open and confident sexuality she was the constant igniter of everything flammable within usHmm if

  6. says:

    GREAT STORY NOT SO GREAT BOOK This took me THREE MONTHS to finish I did read other books in the meantime but believe me I wouldn't have dragged my feet on this one if the storytelling hadn't been so TERRIBLY AWFULExamples of STORIES told particularly badlya The drama teacher Miss Gladys and the Dominicsb The romance between Achak and Tabit

  7. says:

    Nine years after this was published I've finally read it Have meant to read it since loving Zeitoun a few years ago Wife listened to audiobook on long commute and deemed it a truly heartbreaking work of staggering genius also proclaimed herself an Eggers fan after not being so into his memoir I didn't get to it for so long in part

  8. says:

    Now that was a lot of information Too muchValentino Achak Deng is one of the lost boys of the civil war in Sudan He survived a genocide walking from Sudan to Ethiopia where boys were getting picked off one by one by lions in the night Crocodil

  9. says:

    When so much hype and reputation converge on such a complex and sensitive topic only to receive unchecked praise from the Am

  10. says:

    Dave Eggers tells Achack's story much like you would hear it if you had befriended the Sudanese refugee yourself this book is like a conversation with a good friend you start where you are hello how are you i am being robbed at gun point you move back to the begining this is where i am from the world was dust we knew it to be Suda

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