What is the What, a novel by Dave Eggers, tells the compelling story of Valentino Achak Deng, a Sudanese refugee. Uprooted from his village by civil war at age six, he walked across the Sudan to a Kenyan refugee camp, along with thousands of other displaced children. Those who made this astonishing trek ultimately became known as the “lost boys of the Sudan.” After living in refugee camps for nearly a dozen years, Valentino eventually relocates to Atlanta, Georgia, which is where he met and told Eggers about the events that serve as the basis of this beautifully written and surprisingly life-affirming book.
Why this book?
Macalester selected What is the What as the Fall 2011 common reading for a number of reasons: its complex portrayal of humanitarian crises; the vivid way it brings Macalester’s values of internationalism, multiculturalism and service to life; and the opportunity to put a human face on the seemingly distant events in Africa, to name a few. But most importantly, we selected What is the What because we think you will be captivated by the story. We wanted your first academic experience with Macalester to be intellectually engaging, as well as enjoyable, with rich possibilities for discussion. We hope you’ll agree that What is the What achieves those ends.