what-is-the-what1What is the What is the latest book by Dave Eggers, author of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. Though the subtitle is “The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng” What is the What is categorized as fiction. Valentino was quite young when the earliest events in the book take place so they avoided any controversy (ala A Million Little Pieces) and simply called this account of his life a “novel.”

What is the What was recommended to me by a good friend in the Coming to the Table group. Thank you, David.

Along with thousands of other children, Valentino was forced to leave his village in southern Sudan at the age of seven. They walked hundreds of miles, through desert lands of three countries, in constant danger from government forces, rebel armies, and wild animals, to arrive at a refugee camp and relative safety. Ultimately, Valentino and a few thousand other young Sudanese refugees, were resettled in the United States where they faced many new challenges no one should have to experience.

What the people of Sudan have suffered through over the past few decades of civil war, after centuries of trans-Saharan slave trade and British colonialism mixed in to a lesser degree with Belgian and French colonialism, is unconscionable and unimaginable to me. The privilege I possess to have lived the life I’ve led in the United States by comparison with that of Valentino Achak Deng and his fellow Lost Boys is indeed high.

I am grateful to Valentino and Dave Eggers for sharing this story with the world. This book screams out to be required reading for every high school class and reading club in America. See how the proceeds are being used to build schools in southern Sudan at Valentino’s website.

And read this book.