What Is the What

Kobo ebook | February 24, 2009

byDave Eggers

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What Is the What is the story of Valentino Achak Deng, a refugee in war-ravaged southern Sudan who flees from his village in the mid-1980s and becomes one of the so-called Lost Boys. Valentino’s travels bring him in contact with enemy soldiers, with liberation rebels, with hyenas and lions, with disease and starvation, and with deadly murahaleen (militias on horseback)–the same sort who currently terrorize Darfur. Eventually Deng is resettled in the United States with almost 4000 other young Sudanese men, and a very different struggle begins. Based closely on true experiences, What Is the What is heartbreaking and arresting, filled with adventure, suspense, tragedy, and, finally, triumph.


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What Is the What is the story of Valentino Achak Deng, a refugee in war-ravaged southern Sudan who flees from his village in the mid-1980s and becomes one of the so-called Lost Boys. Valentino’s travels bring him in contact with enemy soldiers, with liberation rebels, with hyenas and lions, with disease and starvation, and with deadly ...

Dave Eggers lived in Illinois until his parents' deaths in 1991. The loss left him responsible for his eight-year-old brother and later became the inspiration for his highly acclaimed memoir "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius". Published in 2000, the memoir was nominated for a nonfiction Pulitzer the following year. Eggers has ...

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Format:Kobo ebookPublished:February 24, 2009Publisher:Knopf CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0307371379

ISBN - 13:9780307371379

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Customer Reviews of What Is the What

Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from This should be required reading Easily one of the best albeit emotionally exhausting books I have ever read. You will be a better person for having read this book. You will think twice before complaining about pretty much anything, and you will look upon refugees with a new found respect and understanding (if you didn't have respect and understanding already).
Date published: 2016-02-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Jaw-droppingly good, but so heartbreakingly sad I think Dave Eggers has found his perfect genre – telling others incredible real-life tales. I read Zeitoun first, but What Is the What is one of those books which stays with you and makes you feel like an idiot for complaining about, oh say, anything. Eggers finds the perfect pitch to tell Valentino’s story, which is based on his real-life experience. He fled Sudan during its second civil war and became one of the thousands of Lost Boys who WALKED to Ethiopia. He also sought refuge in Kenya before finally trying to settle in the U.S. This is Valentino’s unbelievable and immensely readable tale.
Date published: 2014-11-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Touching A great story. Emotionally engaging. Very well written. Dave Eggers is simply an extraordinary author of the best modern works of literature. 
Date published: 2014-03-01
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Just Didn't Like It I don't know why, but sometimes I read a book that I expect to like due to storyline, author, reviews and, for whatever reason, I don't. This is what happend with this book. I just didn't like it - I found the writing style difficult to read and annoying. The story itself is inspirational, but I felt that the story did not translate well to the reader. I often felt a bit bored - I really can't put my finger on why I didn't like this book, but the truth is I just didn't. So...What is the What?....I just don't know.
Date published: 2010-03-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Inspiring, didactic Dave Eggers' "What Is the What" is, in my opinion, one of the most powerful books written in the past few years. An inspiring book, but at times often very difficult to read. When I say you at times will be forced to put the novel down and take a step back, I really do mean it. Some of the tragedies in this book can be too much to deal with even as a reader, even if the narrative is told with humor and humility. This book is truly impossible to leave without being changed in some way; a novel that almost urges the reader to bring about change in a cruel world. Also, as this book is labeled as fiction, it is often difficult to know when the nonfiction ends and when the fiction begins. Yet, conversely, this conundrum is what ultimately makes "What Is the What" such a unique book. Ideally a must-read book for the entire human race in my opinion, but I would recommend this book at anyone interested in humanitarian work, Sudan, or any of the plight in Africa.
Date published: 2009-12-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Unbelieveable I would have given this six stars if I could have. It's a heavy book, but once I started I couldn't stop reading it. At times, however, the story was just too hard, just so hard, that I could not continue reading for a while. Thinking back on some of the tragic parts, it brings tears to my eyes all over again. Dave Eggers tells a horrific story with humour and finds a way to make it a redeeming tale in the end. Reading this book has changed me.
Date published: 2009-08-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Enlightening The story of Achak's life illustrates a terrifying yet oddly beautiful portrait of the state of things as they exist in North Eastern Africa. I felt helpless reading this novel to all the hardships that people suffer, and it really helped to put my comfortable life into perspective. How ignorant can we be to complain about the materialistic things of our consumerist society when there are people out there experiencing war and watching their families murdered in front of them? What is the What was amazing and has touched a deeper part of my soul. I cried when I finsihed this book and realized that Achak exists and has a foundation website you can visit. http://www.valentinoachakdeng.org/
Date published: 2008-10-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Bio-fiction A number of recent memoirs have been debunked, shown to be fictionalized or at least not factually provable. This book takes an opposite tack, positioning itself as a novel but subtitled "The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng". Deng is one of the "Lost Boys" of Sudan, child refugees who escaped war-ravaged villages, spent years in refugee camps, and were eventually resettled in North America. Deng, not himself a writer, collaborated with Eggers on this riveting book, the proceeds of which go to Deng's foundation for the aid and education of the Sudanese in the wake of their national unrest. Eggers, a fantastic memoirist and novelist in his own right, makes of Deng's story both a universal journey and a specific, informative and compelling look at Sudan and its people.
Date published: 2008-05-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved it! If you love reading books that challenge you to evaluate your life choices and your view of the world, this book does just that and more. By purchasing this book, you are supporting the cause of a man with a vision, to rebuild the damage to a community in southern Sudan by the terrors of a 21-year civil war. After you read the book, make sure you visit http://www.valentinoachakdeng.com/ to read about his current efforts.
Date published: 2008-04-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Brilliant book! This book tells the story of a Lost Boy from Sudan - a very gripping story I could hardly put down!
Date published: 2008-01-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from "An emotionally searing story" A partial autobiography of deeply seated emotion, What Is the What is a moving tale that puts one man's painstaking, unbearable experiences into priceless words. A true story about the endless hardships suffered by Valentino Achak Deng on his decades-long struggle in the midst of Sudan's toppled government and displaced refugee camps, author Dave Eggers gives voice to all those who are stuck in a country unable to sustain itself, much less its citizens. He gives voice to those who previously had none. A situation that is both precarious and inhumane, readers are taken on the difficult journey that Achak and many others face. Thousands must die on the way, and thousands will lose the will to live, as the story of Achak and the Lost Boys of Sudan quickly finds a place within your heart and soul. Never before had I imagined that such a cruel, brutal, inhumane world existed out there. Under no circumstance could anyone in North America even come close to picturing the conditions which Achak and his family and friends must endure their entire lives. Reading What Is the What made me feel a deep compassion for these peoples of Sudan, and when Achak or one of the characters in his life triumphed, I too triumphed. Every failure or obstacle he faced, I faced too. What Is the What is a fast-paced story, told from the aftermath of the Achak's ordeal in Sudan. But even after his departure from the grips of his war-torn country, Achak's struggle never ends. The story of Valentino Achak Deng is a painful one, but Eggers puts it into a way that makes it easy and even enjoyable to read. I give this novel-biography 5 out of 5 stars and I strongly urge you to not only read it, but to do something to make a difference. Whether it's something big like donating money or participating in a walk from Seattle to Arizona, or something small like getting everyone you know to read the book, at the end of the day you can live knowing you've made a difference. Truly an emotionallly searing story, What Is the What will definitely move geneartions of readers to come.
Date published: 2007-10-08