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What Is the What

by Dave Eggers

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6,4821591,268 (4.15)239
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.

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Showing 1-5 of 148 (next | show all)
What can I say about this book other than it's another heartbreaking work of staggering genius by Dave Eggers. The story gripped me with its details, some of which are horrifying and tragic, and Eggers assembles the threads of Valentino Achak Deng's narrative in an artful and emotionally resonant way.

I think this book offers valuable insight into the chaos of most modern wars/conflicts, and the effects it has on those forced to live through them, particularly the children, such as the Lost Boys of Sudan. ( )
  stevepilsner | Jan 3, 2022 |
Wow. This is a hell of a book--not stinting on the hell but matching it with the power of human perseverance and dignity. The autobiography of the Sudanese "lost boy" Valentino Achak Deng as told to and lightly fictionalized by Dave Eggers. Amazing true story, artfully realized. ( )
  AlexThurman | Dec 26, 2021 |
Nothing can really prepare you for the story that unfolds in this book. Fans of Eggers are most likely used to his quick wit and heartbreaking (pun intended) ability to show humor and tragedy in the same moment. This story on the other hand is only related by Eggers, not created. It is the autobiography of the life of Valentino Achak Deng, one of the "Lost Boys" who were made to walk from the Sudan to Ethiopia and beyond to find safety from civil war. The fact that Valentino is alive today to tell this story is a nearly unprecedented achievement of will and determination from one person. I couldn't put the book down and my life came to a near halt while I read about his being torn apart. It is inspirational as well because when you see and feel what he has been through it adds yet another layer of perspective to the issues and tribulations that we deal with day to day in our own lives.

What else can I say? Please read this. ( )
  LukeGoldstein | Aug 10, 2021 |
I just had to let this go...the voice Eggers gives Valentino and the way he structures the story is so flat. At first I felt guilty, like surely this means I dismiss the tragedy of the Sudanese civil war. However, there are other books I've read--both by the people with the experience themselves and other authors writing on their behalf, fiction and non-fiction--relating similar atrocities that used a writing style that seemed to do more justice to its story than this. So specifically, I am not giving two stars to Valentino's suffering, but to Eggers treatment of it. Ah well...just not my cup of tea. ( )
  LibroLindsay | Jun 18, 2021 |
Not my cup of tea. ( )
  Meg_Taylor | Apr 21, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 148 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (18 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Dave Eggersprimary authorall editionscalculated
Baardman, GerdaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Deng, Valentino AchakPrefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Graham, DionNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Scherpenisse, WimTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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I have no reason not to answer the door so I answer the door.
Preface: What is the What is the soulful account of my life: from the time I was separated from my family in Marial Bai to the thirteen years I spent in Ethiopian and Kenyan refugee camps, to my encounter with vibrant Western cultures beginning in Atlanta, to th generosity and the challenges that I encountered elsewhere.
"They can come in different shapes and guises, but always wars come in increments. I am convinced there are steps, and that once these events are set into motion, they are virtually impossible to reverse."
"I speak to these people, and 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 listen and to people who don't want to listen, to people who seek me out and to those who run."
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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.

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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