[[ Download ePUB ]] What Is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak DengAuthor Dave Eggers – Autowiringdiagram.co

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 Sudan, there was no but, to explain the begining, and to get to the end, you often have laughs in the middle successful with women eventually a life is woven infront of you, and somewhere along the way you become a part of the story it s just that i haven t had a conversation like this before, one that starts with a burglary in Atlanta, draws you back to a small village in soutern Sudan, and marches you in and out of Ethiopia, the jungles, the rivers, the lions stare, over the bodies, into the refugee camps, into love, out of heartbreak this is a vast story this is a story told unflinchingly by the best of humanity, told of the worse afflicition humanity can bring down of one person who knows his story intermingles with millions of others this is about the Lost Boys, about the civil war of Sudan, of apparent caste systems and the invisible ones, about loss and grief, the physical and emotional distress that a body can handle, love, war, violence, learning to write in dirt, growing up, struggle, transformation, adaptation mostly this is a clear voice that has every right to be broken or twisted, but it is not, it remains even lyrical, humorous what i am left with is the word war, how small it is like boy these words should have thousands of letters in them to convey their impact, because i had no idea you can hear these words and they might conjur one image maybe two or three but what Dave Eggers and Achack have done is paint a huge landscape behind three letters murals upon murals in my head, and what is hung on them is so touching, so sickening and moving, such a story is told that you can t go back to where you were before boy war give me better words give us a better world to match this boy this might be one of the most important books of our time it is absolutley required reading. TOO MUCH, AND NOT ENOUGH A PARADOX With her open and confident sexuality, she was the constant igniter of everything flammable within usHmm, if this Sudanese refugee now American Valentine Achak Deng can turn a phrase like that, how come he needs Dave Eggars to shape his book and cop the byline Okay, maybe he can t, maybe those delightful sentences are pure Dave So what about thisI had feared for a long time that secretly Tabitha was well versed in the ways of love and that the moment we were alone she would want to move too quickly Now this sounds like the authentic voice of an African trying to speak of delicate matters in his second language to me, and comes off as horribly stilted, but understandably so Okay, so no Dave Eggars there, that s pure Valentine Now since it s the clunky uber sincere stilted voice which tells 98% of this long tale, why is this book not bylined like all those celeb autobiographies by Valentine Achak Deng, as told to Dave Eggars Does this matter much Well, at the point where the ventriloquism starts to creep you out, yes it does.As everyone knows, this is a long catalogue of ghastly horrors suffered in Africa interspersed with a long catalogue of banal indignities suffered in Atlanta As we swam across the river I saw a crocodile swim by with a boy I knew slightly in its mouth I was unfulfilled being the receptionist at a gym and I deeply regretted not being accepted by the Jesuit college of my choice when I woke up I found my closest friend had died in the nightI gradually realised my girlfriend was playing fast and loose with other gentlemen etc etc This flipfloppery clashed dissonantly in my ears like an untuned church bell, but nevertheless is it not profoundly human As soon as the crocodile lets you go you start bitching about how his fangs ruined your only good Hugo Boss shirt In Art Spiegelman s brilliant memoir Maus another tale of horror told to someone who then tells it to us the difficulties of Art s relationship with his survivor father loom just as large in the book as the atrocities of Auschwitz Is this tastelessness No, it s life as she is lived I mean, is there a God Do you think this jacket, or the other one But would God allow such evil just for the sake of human free will, I mean, does that justify all this agony So are you saying the brown shoes Really WHY THIS AND WHY NOT THAT Three stars, not four or five Well, there were so many aspects covered, great swathes of I confess tedious detail I could have done without, and yet so many other things not included why this, why that How And of course, what Or likely in this book WHAT And yet it was very compelling Valentine is indeed a modern Ancient Mariner compelled to stop us wedding guests and fix us with a powerful gaze so that we have to hear his dreadful over politely phrased tale to the end It would take a whole long essay to discuss the politics of this intensely political book Was the airlift of the Lost Boys to America a failed experiment Can the West ever really do anything about these decades long conflicts in Africa And further is one lot of humans here, the Sudanese Arabs really wholly evil and another group here the Sudanese Dinka complete and utter innocent victims Is this Valentine Achak Deng s whole story, or as I suspect do we now need another 537 pages of footnotes giving us all the context that s missing from this almost essential but extremely frustrating book 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 t.I read this before I joined Goodreads in the days before I wrote reviews Those days are coming back again in my near future review retirement but that s another story to review ha.But I d like to share a little about this book I read in in 2006 and I still remember it like yesterday It s the type of book that leaves a lasting impression It s extremely well written And for those who don t like other books by Dave Eggers I m not one of them this is not the book people turn their nose against This is a great book It was horrific how the Lost Boys lived day after day in Sudan starving being chased from village location to the next disease killing etc.and there is another appalling story to read about as well Dave Eggers gives us a fictional autobiography of the horrendous journey of one boy in particular named Valentino Deng It s a novel that reads like a memoir But what also makes this story unbelievable is what happens when Valentino is brought over to the United States He knows his host family and has made a few friends He is given an apartment to live in by himself He plans on attending community college I m leaving out lots of details.but in a very short time new in his apt Valentino gets mugged robbed and tied up For days nobody knew he was alone in bad condition on the floor of his own apt Welcome to America I can t recommend this book enough Valentino, I just don t know what God has against you These words were directed at the subject of this novel biography and are pretty much a motif that runs throughout most of this book.This 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 their country Their journey from refugee camp to refugee camp is fraught with the most horrific events you could imagine This book is a testament to not only how cruel man can be to his fellow man, but also to Deng s faith and perseverance Calling this book sad or heartbreaking seems trite Repeating a litany of hardships these boys endured would render them trivial It s inconceivable for me to imagine my own son at age seven seven making this type of journey There is also a parallel story of Deng s robbery and assault while in this county With everything this man has experienced, Deng was able to transcend these events and find purpose and meaning in his life.Although it says novel on the spine, as Dave Egger s subject states, his earlier life had to be fictionalized to condense the story and fold characters into one another for narrative flow.This is not a book to read in order to be entertained but as an eye opener or wake up call to what can go wrong in this world and a rallying cry to do something about it Proceeds of the sale of this book go towards funding of a nonprofit organization to increase access to education in South Sudan This is the web site website also has a reader s guide to the book. Now that was a lot of information Too much.Valentino 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 Crocodiles, vultures, dysentery, soldiers tying to blow him up, starvation, a car accident, and a robbery in Atlanta after being relocated to the US.Life has not been easy for Valentino Yet he somehow keeps going with a positivity that is hard to believe The story is moving, and Dave Eggers can sure turn a phrase, but there was so much detail oh my poor overloaded head if this hadn t been an audiobook I never would have gotten through it.But that does not mean that I don t admire Valentino, or that I believe his story and that of Sudan should not have been told I do.It just that, less is sometimes.3.5 stars. 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 AWFUL Examples of STORIES told particularly badly.a 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 OHHHHHH Another 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 valentinoachakdeng.org, 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 him.This fictionalized autobiography device simply DID NOT WORK.Now, 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 African pagan something 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 America.This 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 WHAT.Oooooooooooooooooh 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 her.Dave 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 quickly 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 forced.I 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. 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 thanks to reviews on here that called it boring, unreadable, a mess, lacking structure and characterization, on and on, all of which I can now officially deem sort of nutso a result of Eggersfraude most likely than anything else At most maybe the second half is 100 pages too long, could ve been accelerated in parts, but overall it sure seemed to me like a gripping quasi autobiographical novel, conventionally structured in alternating sections of front and back story that or less unite at the end, with the narrator directly addressing various front story characters when he tells his history Valentino is sort of like the Sudanese Job, afflicted at every turn by the worst from marauding Arabs to helicopters strafing his village to crocodiles to starvation to dysentery to lions to fatal accidents to burglars to deranged jealous ex boyfriends to terrorists, on and on He has a lot of luck, too Well characterized characters abound Generally, it s an engaging, moving story of perseverance that makes you omni aware of your privilege to have a goodreads account on which to right the wrongs of reviewers of yore. 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 this book serves just as we import the Third World s raw resources to fuel our own material greed, so must we import their tragedies to break up the monotony of our lives My question is can t we get better books to do it First of all, the voice is terrible At points it reads like a parody of an American trying to imitate an African oh, wait, it is, although Dave Eggers has probably at least met some, so I don t know what his excuse is Take the very first sentence I have no reason not to answer the door so I answer the door What, did the Sudanese civil war rob fake Deng of the ability to use pronouns The language is stilted and formal in a very amateurish way, not at all the way a young man talks, and for no good reason.Second, why is it that going through a capital T Tragedy means that none of the characters are allowed to have personalities This happens all the time in fiction about genocide No one is allowed to be cowardly, or funny, or petty, or squabbling everyone must be stoic and long suffering, because they are Noble Victims, and that is how Noble Victims are supposed to act in real life, many people who go through tragedy tend to develop dark, savage senses of humor, but you wouldn t know that from reading this After all, you can only be a nuanced and articulated character if you grew up in the suburbs of America, preferably with an unhappy childhood and a substance abuse problem in college Third, Eggers writing is just flat and boring Take, for instance, Eggers describing an air raid But the plane returned a few minutes later, and soon after, there was a whistle Dut screamed to us that we needed to run but did not tell us where We ran in a hundred directions and two boys chose the wrong direction They ran for the shelter of a large tree and this is where the bomb struck That s it One of the most intense and terrifying things that can happen to you in life, and this is the treatment it gets The plane returned and soon there was a whistle Eggers writes like he just wants to get it over with Which I don t exactly blame him for There is a bit of unintentional humor when, in the present story, Deng tells Americans that he s from Sudan, but not Darfur, they quickly lose interest, because Americans only care about the foreign trouble spots that are hip to care about Dumb, trendy Americans But the real joke, of course, is that concurrent with the Sudanese civil war was is the one in the Congo, which dwarfs the Sudanese conflict in horror, body count, and anything else you can think of But Eggers, along with the rest of the world, doesn t care, because it s messy and complicated, whereas in Sudan you have Good Guys and Bad Guys Much easier to understand and much easier to sell books about.All that having been said, Eggers is a genius just not a literary genius He is a genius for pulling the ultimate bait and switch take someone else s story and then become the hero of it Because that is who the hero is here, Dave Eggers, even though he doesn t appear once in the actual plot After all, young Valentino s story would have remained untold if it were not for the Deus Ex Maquina of Dave Eggers, who tells it like no one else can Remember Eggers first book, A Staggering Work of Heartbreaking Genius That title wasn t cutesy and ironic, it was literal That s what Eggers wanted to write, and now he s given you one So what if the heartbreak is someone else s If you think I m being too harsh, then ask yourself this why didn t Eggers just write a nonfiction book, or a straight up biography of Deng At points, I m tempted to think that it s because he couldn t be bothered to do some basic research i.e., the repeated references to Darfurians Darfur means The Land of the Fur, the Fur being the people that live there, so this is sort of like referring to Polish people as The People From The Land of the Polish Also, the 1997 death of Princess Diana for some reason seems to come in the plot well after the 1998 African embassy bombings The answer is that Eggers needs to hide behind someone else s genuine suffering, because that defuses any criticism of his own lifeless, droning prose Insult Eggers, and you re insulting the sanctity of the Sudanese Lost Boys pain and suffering Point out the platitudes that Eggers shovels out in lieu of the real questions, which generally do not have easy answers or any answers at all, and you re heartless and callow It s not a hard shell game that Eggers plays here but there is none better at it than him. 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 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, 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 Cover