I finished What is the What by Dave Eggers last night.
I am a big Dave Eggers fan. I make it a point to buy every book he writes so out of obligation, I picked up What is the What right after it was released. I had no idea what it was about but Eggers wrote it so I had to read it.
I was unprepared for what I learned. At times it became so painful for me that I had to put it down and move on to something else.
I came back to it Tuesday night and couldn't put it down.
Valentino Achak Deng, real-life hero of this engrossing epic, was a refugee from the Sudanese civil war-the bloodbath before the current Darfur bloodbath-of the 1980s and 90s. In this fictionalized memoir, Eggers (A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius) makes him an icon of globalization. Separated from his family when Arab militia destroy his village, Valentino joins thousands of other "Lost Boys," beset by starvation, thirst and man-eating lions on their march to squalid refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya, where Valentino pieces together a new life. He eventually reaches America, but finds his quest for safety, community and fulfillment in many ways even more difficult there than in the camps: he recalls, for instance, being robbed, beaten and held captive in his Atlanta apartment.
This guy was 6 years old when his village was attacked and he and thousands of other boys walked first to Ethiopia, then to Kenya.
What were you doing when you were six? Did you watch your friends and family die? Did you witness boys being eaten by lions or shot down by military helicopters. How about watching friends collapse from starvation, dehydration and disease?
Yeah, me neither.
You'd think that was enough but he grows up in a refugee camp where food was scarce, clothes were more valuable than gold and your safety wasn't guaranteed.
I thought it would be a happy ending in America, but here, he is victimized by a system who believes he is invisible and criminals who see him as an easy target.
It's almost too much to take but Valentino doesn't lose hope for long and somehow finds the strength to not only survive but to succeed and he shames me.
Seriously, read this book.....Cuz I told you so!