What is the What by Dave Eggers

“The new soldiers chased us from the village, beating whomever they could. Boys fell and bled. Boys ran. We ran and I ran and I had never felt the rage I felt at that moment.” page 224

What is The What Book coverValentino Achak Deng was forced to leave his village in south Sudan, when he was seven years old. He is one of the thousands of children, who are called “the lost boys”. “What is The What” describes the journey Valentino makes to freedom. The book begins when Valentino learns a confrontating lesson about the western culture, when he opens the door of his apartment in America. That part got me really thinking about how cruel and uncivilized our culture can be.

You learn about his journey and his time in the refugeecamps in Kenya and Ethiopia by flashbacks which makes it in the beginning sometimes difficult to follow. He tells stories about how boys were attacked by lions right in front of him, how he had to cross desserts, dodging landmines and being bombed. The other parts are about his live after he was send from the refugeecamps to America. The book is moving and compelling, but I don’t think an outsider will ever fuly understand how someone feels going through, what Valentino went trough, but this book will get you an pretty good idea.

The lost boys are refugees from the twenty-two-year lasting civil war between the Sudan’s government and Sudan People’s Liberation Movement. More than four million people were displaced and there were a lot of victims on both sides. Valentino told his stories to many audiences, but wanted the world to know the whole truth of his existence. Because he was not a writer, Mary the founder of the Lost Boys Foundation in Atlanta brought him in contact with the author Dave Eggers to write his biography. Valentino and Dave agreed that Valentino would use the money to help to improve the lives of Sudanese in Sudan and elsewhere. They became good friends and even revisited Marial Bai,the village Valentino had to leave when he was seven. Because Valentino was so young when some events in the book took place, he couldn’t remember exactly all the conversations, so they had to call the book a novel.


For me the book was interesting, you can’t really say it is fun to read about somebody’s miserable faith, but I am glad I read the book. It always makes me think about how, although I have been through some tough times, my youth has been pretty good. I also find the book compered with other war themed books, very Original,especially the way it is written, I can’t really describe it but it shows some kind of humanity.


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