Daily Archives: January 17, 2007

Living like a refugee

I’ve spent the last month engrossed by Dave Eggers’ novel What Is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng. The book is a fictionalized account of the journey of the real-life Deng, one of the Lost Boys of Sudan: a youth displaced by that African country’s brutal war and raised in refugee camps. Eggers is author of the seminal generational memoir A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, a book I also loved (and that I consider one of the first neo-parenting accounts, a major inspiration for my own book). Here he turns his keen eye, sharp intellect, and fluid craft on a less narcissistic subject — a tremendously important one. Eggers brings us inside the news we read about Africa and refugees the world over. It’s sometimes nightmare-inducing, but it’s also hilarious and Deng is a charming, modest narrator. The kind of book that will change your life. And make you want to shake our politicians by the ear until they do something about Darfur.

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