20 Book Reviews submitted by our Members...sorted by voted most helpful
Jody S. reviewed What is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng on
Helpful Score: 5
The story has resonated with me for over a year since i first read it. I gave five copies as gifts b/c it is so moving. It's "fiction from truth" the stories of many Lost Boys of Sudan all rolled up into one.
My friend's student, a survivor of the Rwandan genocide who is now a US college student, once told her during a fire drill "I didn't walk halfway across Rwanda to die in a fire at school"
that's what this book is about, w/out the humor. To survive the most horrendous experiences that these boys did, then to end up victims of crime and "the system" in America - it's heartbreaking - and at the same time, inspirational.
Read it, share it, remember it, and do something for others.
I don't think the Book Description or the other two reviews encapsulate what this book is really about. Its just about one boy and his journey and the things he sees along the way. If you know about the lost boys you will figure it would just be tragic, but it is a pleasure to read because of Valentino Achak Deng's voice. You won't be sorry to read this worthwhile novel.
An amazing story of a boy growing up in the midst of social chaos created by civil war in Africa. One aspect which made the story interesting is the reflection of the past in Africa as a child with the present in the US as an adult.
I read this book for a school assignment (at a really amazing expeditionary learning school) and really enjoyed it. It was a heartbreaking and yet intriguing story about a man who experienced far more brutality than most do. I am biased as I take special interest in the character's country of origin, it is very informational in terms of culture, both in his country of origin and in the United States. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to better understand what's going on in the international and even local community.
This novel is amazing on so many levels, relaying unimaginable horror and brutality and somehow expressing humor, sweetness, and nobility at the same time. How does a human maintain these qualities having lived through hell? Thanks to Dave Eggers for giving Valentino to the world.
This is not a story about TWO boys...it is primarily concerned with one. Valentino, one of the Lost Boys of the Sudan, is the focus of this book from the beginning to the end.
Don't be intimidated if you know little about the conflict in the Sudan. The plot is easy to follow and well explained.
This was one of the most amazing, thought provoking, well-written books I have read in a long time. I emerged with a better understanding of Africa, the absurdity of American culture to much of the world, human rights, and the inexhaustible human spirit. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Mine is going on my keeper shelf.
Betsy A. reviewed What is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng on
I absolutely loved this book. It is well written by Dave Eggers and narrated by the main character in this book about his years of struggle to gain freedom. It's the kind of book I didn't want to put down and didn't want it to end. I'm Valentino's facebook friend now... to follow his life.
An interesting biographical account of one man's life from the deserts of Sudan as a child to the streets of Atlanta as an adult. The story is good and I found myself sympathizing for the writer/protagonist, but he seems a bit arrogant at times. He apparently rose to the upper crust of the subculture he belonged to you, and he gives you continuous examples of this. I'm glad I read it, though.
The story is about Valentino Achak Deng who was a refugee from the Sudanese Civil War, which happened in the 1980s and 90s before the problems in Darfur. This is almost a memoir, retold by the author after hours of conversations with the Valentino Achak. The book, however, is a novel, with added dialogue, and some characters created from composites of people Achak knew. Also, since some of this tale was written when Achak was quite young, some of the events are recreations that may not be exactly as they happened. As one of the "Lost Boys", who separated from their families, traveled miles to find safety, you will learn of the horrors that beset these people through Achak's narration. I had some understanding of this situation before reading the book, but this book really brings what happened home in a way that the news never did, and that I will never forget. Many of these young boys did not make it to safety, often simply unable to continue on due to disease, starvation and lack of water, they simply sat down and died. The rebels killed some, and lions or crocodiles ate others. The book then follows Achak and his fellow "Lost Boys" to the refugee camps where they find life is not what they had imagined, but instead is full of hardships, and years of waiting and hoping for a way out. We then travel with Achak to the United States, where he finds life continues to be a challenge, and his dream of going to college, would not come as soon as he had expected. This was an excellent book that will bring home to you the horrors of what has happened and continues to happen in Sudan and Darfur today. I had a little trouble with the narrative style of the book, where Achak, who is tied and lying on the floor of his own apartment as it is being robbed, narrates the story in his head to a young boy who is left to guard him as the other's leave the apartment for a time. I would be deeply into the events of the story, then it would revert back to the apartment and this young boy who he wanted to give his story to, and at times it interrupted the flow. I did, however, adjust to this theme as the story continued.
Achak has lived several lives by the time we meet him in this memoir/novel. He has been a carefree child, an assumed orphan, targeted as a child soldier in training for the rebels, and a young professional in a refugee camp.
As he tells his story to the various people he encounters over a two-day period in Atlanta, (a clever mechanism for the narration) he shares not only the heartbreak, but the humor that surfaces inevitably in the worst of times.
Readers will leave enlightened about the Lost Boys of Sudan and the reality of their lives after Africa.
I loved this book. I learned so much about the collective Lost Boys of Sudan, through the particular journey of Valentino Gone-Far Sleeper Achak Dominic Deng. In the past I have had my quibbles with the write Dave Eggers, but all is absolved with his undertaking of this project which goes so far beyond the mere novel!
Not only did I learn and weep in empathy, but I got great advice for one of my 7-year old twins who has trouble getting to sleep some nights, on page 33: "Imagine your favorite morning! Now your favorite lunch! Your favorite afternoon! Your favorite game of soccer, your favorite evening, the one you love most! He said this while walking along our line of sitting boys, taking to our heads. Now create in your mind the best of days, and memorize these details, place this day center in your mind, and when you are the most frightened, bring forth is day and place yourself within it. Run through this day and I assure you that before you are finished with your dream-breakfast, you will be asleep. I tell you, this method works. It slows your breathing, it focuses your mind."
In addition, I gleaned advice for good, obedient, well-trained girls who may one day I fear be taken advantage of in this cruel world, for precisely those very traits: "Reach upward, attempt to do better... Always be grateful for what pleasures you have enjoyed, what joys you have yet to experience. Do not take opportunities as they come, but at the same time, do not trust too easily. Look past who is at the door before opening it. Try to be fierce. Argue when necessary. Be willing to fight. Do not smile reflexively at every person you see. Live as a good child of God, and forgive him each time he claims another of the people you love. Forgive and attempt to understand his plans for you, and do not pity yourself."
Fictional Autobiography. * * *. A young Sudanese boy is forced out of his war-torn homeland and must brave government soldiers, revolutionaries, and hungry animals. The book switches back and forth between his boyhood and current day and shows how his ordeal in Africa shaped his current life and decisions. The first 100 pages were tough because the author references certain names or words and then reuses them later on. Plus, I was never really informed about the struggles in Africa, so learning about the political angle was enlightening, indeed.
For those interested, keep a watch for the following words, highlight them or keep them handy for future use: NAMES: Kakuma, SPLA, Moses, William K, Dinka, September Laws, Baggara, Kolong Jar, Marial Bai, John Garang, Khartoum. WORDS: murahaleen, sharia, monyjang.