Valentino Achak Deng
Subject of What is the What by Dave Eggers
- The New York Times
As one of the so-called Lost Boys, Valentino Achak Deng trekked hundreds of miles from his village of Marial Bai, pursued by animals and government militias, and lived for years in refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia. He eventually resettled in America, to a new set of challenges. Deng's life is the basis of Dave Eggers' epic book What Is the What, which Francine Prose calls "an extraordinary work of witness, and of art." In 2009, as part of his Valentino Achak Deng Foundation, he opened the Marial Bai Secondary School, the region's first proper high school.
What Is the What: An Evening with Valentino Achak Deng
With perspective and humor, Valentino Deng uses his extraordinary life to illuminate the lives, and the struggles, of millions. With storytelling grace, he takes you from the senseless tragedies of his early life (civil war in Sudan, refugee camps in Kenya) to his time in America to the hard-won triumphs of today (the opening of the Marial Bai secondary school). The powerful story that emerges is a testament to both the senselessness of war and the resilience of the human body and mind. Deng is a speaker of bottomless compassion, and of hope and integrity—a man whose unforgettable life has humbled and enlightened thousands around the world.
What Is the What
In a heartrending and astonishing novel, Dave Eggers illuminates the history of the civil war in Sudan through the eyes of Valentino Achak Deng, a refugee now living in the United States. We follow his life as he's driven from his home as a boy and walks, with thousands of orphans, to Ethiopia, where he finds safety-- for a time. Valentino's travels, truly Biblical in scope, bring him in contact with government soldiers, janjaweed-like militias, liberation rebels, hyenas and lions, disease and starvation-- and a string of unexpected romances. Ultimately, Valentino finds safety in Kenya and, just after the millennium, is finally resettled in the United States, from where this novel is narrated. In this book, written with expansive humanity and surprising humor, we come to understand the nature of the conflicts in Sudan, the refugee experience in America, the dreams of the Dinka people, and the challenge one indomitable man faces in a world collapsing around him.