Archival Content: Links not maintained Materials relating to
What Is the What

Below are some selected books, DVDs, articles, and web sites pertaining to subjects covered or raised by the 2008 Readership WT book, What Is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng : A Novel by Dave Eggers.

Books and DVDs

Books held by Cornette Library are starred and linked to their catalog records. Many of those listed below not yet held by Cornette will be added to the collection soon. An additional extended version of this bibliography is also coming soon.

The Lost Boys of Sudan

Lost Boys of Sudan cover scan*The Lost Boys of Sudan: An American Story of the Refugee Experience
by Mark Bixler.
Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2005.
This presents a broad view of the refugee situation as well as a personal one, since Bixler gives attention both to the experiences of some specific Lost Boys and to U.S. refugee policy and the political situations in Sudan.
God grew tired of us cover*God Grew Tired of Us
by John Bul Dau and Michael S. Sweeney.
Washington, DC: National Geographic, 2007.
This is another engagingly-written tale from one of the Lost Boys of Sudan. Booklist calls this memoir "a stark, first-person account of trauma and survival, [told] quietly, in fast, simple prose true to the young teen´s viewpoint" and says Dau is "funny about the culture shock in America and honest about his years in [a refugee] camp."
They poured fire on us from the sky cover*They Poured Fire on Us from the Sky: The True Story of Three Lost Boys from Sudan
by Alephonsion Deng, Benson Deng, Benjamin Ajak, and Judy Bernstein.
New York: Public Affairs, 2005.
While God Grew Tired of Us and the documentary Lost Boys of Sudan show what life has been like in America for the refugees of Sudan´s civil war, this book instead presents, says Publishers Weekly, "well written, often poetic essays [that] recall their childhood experiences, their treacherous trek, their education in the [refugee] camp[,]....the rampant disease and famine among refugees, and the tremendous hardship of day-to-day...refugee life."
Lost boys of sudan dvd-case scan*Lost Boys of Sudan [DVD]
directed by Megan Mylan, Jon Shenk; featuring Santino Majok Chuor, and Peter Nyarol Dut.
[New York]: Docurama, 2004..
This documentary movie tells the story some of the thousands of boys orphaned by Sudan´s long civil war. It follows over the course of a year two in particular who were selected by the U.N. and the State Department to come to the U.S. and shows the challenges of adjusting to a new life in Houston. At its core, says The New York Times, this is a story about coping with loneliness, alienation, and the cultural and spiritual distance between Africa and America.
god grew tired of us scan*God Grew Tired of Us [DVD]
directed by Christopher Quinn and Tommy Walker; narrated by Nicole Kidman;
featuring Panther Bior, John Bul Dau, and Daniel Abol Pach.
Culver City, Calif: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, 2007.
This "sober, uplifting documentary" brings to the screen the "straightforward and inspiring true story" of the Sudanese refugees in the book of the same name. It especially focuses on John Bul Dau, a leader of the Lost Boys, who provides memorable remarks, "rare and wonderful sentiment," and, along with the film itself, poignant insights into the experiences of surviving the war, the refugee camps, and the adjustment to a new and radically different culture.

Sudan: its civil wars, Darfur conflict, and history otherwise

Not on our watch cover*Not on Our Watch: The Mission to End Genocide in Darfur and Beyond
by Don Cheadle and John Prendergast.
New York, N.Y.: Hyperion, 2007.
After his experience with the movie Hotel Rwanda, Cheadle has become a prominent activist in opposing the similar genocide in Darfur. This book is a part of that effort. It combines charts, lists, instructions, memoir and history to offer information about the conflict in Sudan but, even more, to present a simple and effective guide to taking action. The book´s forward is actually by last year´s Readership WT author and speaker Elie Wiesel, while the introduction was co-written by Senator Barack Obama.
*War of Visions:Conflict of Identities in the Sudan
by Francis Mading Deng.
Washington, D.C. : Brookings Institution, 1995.
Greg Larson of McSweeney´s, the publisher of What Is the What, calls Francis Deng "the foremost scholar from southern Sudan" and says "everything he´s written is enlightening and brilliantly reasoned." Larson summarizes Deng´s argument as showing that such divisions as between north and south, Muslims and Christians, and especially Arabs and Africans "are tenuous at best." Deng, he says, "points out that centuries of intermarriage have blurred the lines to such a degree that it´s folly for the so-called Arabs of Khartoum to consider themselves ethnically distinct from the indigenous Africans of southern Sudan -- all Sudanese share African characteristics and African lineage, and Deng argues that these shared traits show that a common identity can be created."
Darfur: A new history of a long war, cover*Darfur: A New History of a Long War
by Julie Flint and Alexander De Waal.
London: Zed Books, 2008.
Although the second civil war in Sudan between the north and the south officially ended in 2005 after more than twenty years, a new and horrible conflict persists in Sudan´s western Darfur region that many have called genocide. The New York Review of Books calls this book the best introduction to the subject, and the former U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan says it´s "the definitive history of the Darfur conflict [and] will quickly become a classic."
*Historical Dictionary of the Sudan, 2nd ed. [electronic resource]
by Carolyn Fluehr-Lobban, Richard A. Lobban, Jr., and John Obert Voll.
Metuchen, N.J. : Scarecrow Press, 1992.
Electronic access through NetLibrary
As this was published in 1992, it is obviously 16 years out of date. However, its scope before that is staggering, making this an excellent reference source for background information on the people, places, events, and concepts that added up to form the geographical, cultural, and political shape of the war-torn country of Valentino Achak Deng´s life. A extensive chronology reaches back hundreds of thousands of years and, naturally, grows more detailed as it approaches the present. There is also a glossary of acronyms and abbreviations. The bulk of the work, though, is the alphabetically ordered entries identifying and explaining Sudanese people groups, politicians, regions, ideas, and more.
the root causes of sudan's civil wars cover scan*The Root Causes of Sudan´s Civil Wars
by Douglas H. Johnson.
Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2003.
This insightful and eloquent book has been called "compulsory reading for anyone interested in Sudan" due to its detail, accessibility, and contribution to readers´ understanding of the nature and history Sudan´s civil wars. Political Science Quarterly calls Johnson´s analysis masterful and his presentation artful, praising also the "detailed chronology of events from 1972 to 2002."
the devil came on horseback scan*The Devil Came on Horseback [DVD]
by Ricki Stern, Annie Sundberg, and Brian Steidle.
[New York]: Docurama, 2007.
This documentary captures vividly the horrors in the Darfur region of western Sudan. Brian Steidle was a young former Marine captain who for six months beginning in fall 2004 worked for the African Union as an unarmed monitor in Darfur. This is the account of the terror and violence he witnessed by government-sponsored militias against the inhabitants. Critics call it brutal, urgent, devastating, persuasive, and exceptionally powerful, and The New York Times says it "demands to be seen as soon as possible and by as many viewers as possible."

Africa otherwise

*Things Fall Apart
by Chinua Achebe.
New York : Anchor Books, 1994.
The New Yorker calls this "one of the first works of fiction to present African village life from an African perspective" and notes that Achebe´s "masterpiece" has been translated into fifty languages. The novel is set in eastern Nigeria as the 1800s end and the 1900s begin, before and during British colonialism there. The book shows the transformation of the Ibo society there through the lens of one man´s thwarted resistance to it. Other critics have called it powerful, compelling, and "arguably the most influential work of fiction by an African writer."
*A Long Way Gone : Memoirs of a Boy Soldier
by Ishmael Beah.
New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007.
In What Is the What, we read of many young Sudanese boys being coerced into fighting for the rebel forces. In the case of Ishmael Beah, rebels in the African nation of Sierra Leone killed his parents when he was 12, and the army there subsequently recruited him into life as a ruthless young killer, who lost part of his childhood and, indeed, his humanity until he was rescued by UN relief workers at age 15. Another compelling examination of the effects on children of civil war violence in Africa.
The Graves Are Not Yet Full: Race, Tribe and Power in the Heart of Africa.
by Bill Berkeley.
New York: Basic Books, 2001.
Berkely analyzes and explains the recent conflicts and slaughters in Sudan, Liberia, Rwanda, South Africa, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire) and assigns significant blame to U.S. government officials, whose complicity, he suggests, played an important role in each, but more generally to tyrants exploiting ethnic tensions in the pursuit of power. The work has been called a "moving, disturbing,...beautifully written, powerful examination of contemporary horrors" and a forceful and effective argument that the worst problems of tribalism have been in large part a result of colonialism.
Hotel Rwanda dvd-case scan*Hotel Rwanda [DVD]
starring Don Cheadle.
[United States]: Metro Goldwyn Mayer Home Entertainment, 2005.
This brilliant and disturbing feature film is based on a true story about the horrific genocide in Rwanda. It is a tense, compelling drama with an Oscar-nominated lead performance by Don Cheadle as Paul Rusesabagina, a courageous hotel manager able to somehow save more than a thousand refugees from otherwise certain slaughter.
We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed, cover*We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families: Stories from Rwanda
by Philip Gourevitch
New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1998.
Gourevitch illuminates brilliantly the horrifying 1994 genocide in the African nation of Rwanda. This combines a "crisply-written history of Rwanda [with] an analysis of the political circumstances which created the possibility for genocide." It is an engaging, powerful, and important book for anyone who wishes to read more about recent African history or the horrors of modern genocide.
Africa: Dispatches from a Fragile Continent
by Blaine Harden.
New York: Norton, 1990.
Though somewhat out of date now, Harden´s book of reporting on the political and economic circumstances of various sub-Saharan African countries has been highly acclaimed for the reporting, storytelling, analysis, and insights into the society and troubles of such places as Kenya, Ghana, Sudan, Liberia, Zambia, Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo), and Nigeria.
King Leopold's ghost cover scan*King Leopold´s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa
by Adam Hochschild.
Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1998.
Matters in the Democratic Republic of Congo, formerly Zaire, have been as terrible as in Sudan. This history of Belgian imperialism in the Congo both illuminates its current terrible state, which has also affected much of the rest of Africa, and puts the present African conflicts into historical context of comparable atrocities there earlier. Library Journal calls it a "powerfully moving account of enslavement, mutilation, and murder in 19th-century Africa...[in which] five to eight million African lives were lost when the Belgians colonized the Congo under King Leopold."
The fate of africa, cover*The Fate of Africa: From the Hopes of Freedom to the Heart of Despair : a History of Fifty Years of Independence
by Martin Meredith.
New York: Public Affairs, 2005.
This massive but readable book has been called by Publisher´s Weekly a "towering history of modern Africa [with] incisive analysis [and] original insights," as well as as "one of the decade´s most important works on Africa." Another critic calls it "a brilliant and vitally important work for all who wish to understand Africa and its beleaguered people."
*A Bend in the River
by V.S. Naipaul.
New York : Knopf ; distributed by Random House, 1980.
Though the protagonist and narrator is ethnically Indian, this novel is set in the Belgian Congo and offers insight into Africa and the effects of colonialism there. Salim moves inland to open a shop at a bend in the Congo river and must deal with issues of identity and culture while contending with the tumultuous social, economic, and culture challenges of a newly independent African nation.

Genocide generally

a problem from hell cover scan*A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide
by Samantha Power
New York : Perennial, 2003.
Winner of the 2003 Pulitzer Prize, this book examines the United States response (or lack of response) to genocides of Armenians, Jews, Cambodians, Iraqi Kurds, Rwandan Tutsis, and Bosnian Muslims. One critic calls this "immaculately researched and highly readable" and "the most extensive comparative... history of U.S. policy responses to atrocities abroad to date." Even a critic who suggests Power is dangerously wrong in her ideas about the usefulness of American intervention recommends this book as essential reading.
*Blood and Soil: A World History of Genocide and Extermination from Sparta to Darfur
by Ben Kiernan
New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007.
This book puts the present conflict in Sudan in the context of other comparable genocides and ethnic conflicts throughout history. One critic calls this "the most extensive history of our genocidal propensities that I have ever read." Booklist calls it "A bold and substantial work of unprecedented scope" and says, "this book is international history at its best."

Other refugees in America

asylum denied cover scan*Asylum Denied: A Refugee´s Struggle for Safety in America
by David Ngaruri Kenney and Philip G. Schrag.
Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008.
A Kenyan political refugee contends with America´s "incomprehensible and hostile immigration system." Together with Kenney´s personal experience of the asylum process, Schrag offers an analysis of its workings and its troubling flaws. Critics have called this book "astonishing in its power to move and inform" and "a model of polished prose and informed advocacy."
Human cargo, cover*Human Cargo: A Journey Among Refugees
by Caroline Moorehead.
New York: H. Holt, 2005.
An engaging and important overview and history of the worldwide refugee problem in recent years, along with vivid personal profiles of specific refugees´ experiences. As Booklist notes, Moorehead shows how those "seeking asylum after surviving persecution, rape, torture, and genocidal massacres" often find "altruism thwarted by bureaucracy, hypocrisy, prejudice, politics, greed, and fear."
*The Middle of Everywhere: The World´s Refugees Come to Our Town
Mary Bray Pipher.
New York: Harcourt, 2002.
A psychologist describes and analyzes Lincoln, Nebraska´s recent experiences dealing with refugees from around the world. The book presents background stories of various refugees as well as a clear understanding of the adaptation and resettlement process and offers practical instructions for assisting them.

Other books by Dave Eggers

Aheartbreaking work of staggering genius, cover*A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
by Dave Eggers
New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000.
This is the book by which Eggers first made his reputation: a stylistically unique memoir of being forced to grow up fast in order to raise his younger brother after both parents die of cancer within five weeks of each other. Critics noted its "hip and flippant tone" and "casual, outlandish, self-mocking a narrative mechanism for coping with...the unexpected deaths of both his parents" and praised the way he "turn[ed] the conventions of memoir writing upside down, diagonally, and sideways."
You shall know our velocity cover scan*You Shall Know Our Velocity
by Dave Eggers.
San Francisco: McSweeney´s Pub, 2002.
Eggers´s second book and first novel. Critics have called it "both sort of slight...and startlingly earnest and profound," a "small, personal story" told well, "a minor work but...a satisfying and meritorious effort." Fans of Eggers´s work in WITW and AHWOSG will want to give this a try.


Several of the linked articles are available through subscription databases and so will require you to log in, if you are off campus.

Below are some interviews with Dave Eggers and Valentino Achak Deng and reviews of What Is the What

An Interview with Dave Eggers and Valentino Achak Deng
On The Valentino Achak Deng Foundation web site. Concerning their introduction and future plans but mostly the evolution and nature of the book.
Valentino Achak Deng & Dave Eggers interview in the British newspaper The Independent On Sunday, June 3, 2007.
In which they discuss more about how they met, developed the book, and established the foundation.
"Eggers blends fact, fiction of Sudanese ´Lost Boys´"
A National Public Radio interview with Eggers and Deng by Block on All Things Considered on November 1, 2006.
Available in streaming audio from the NPR website. Transcript available on page 13 of the reader´s guide from McSweeney´s.
"The Niceness Racket." A critical review by Lee Siegel of The New Republic.
April 23, 2007, pages 49-53.
Principally examines and criticizes the decision to fictionalize the autobiography. Excerpts: "Just one more instance of the accelerating mash-up of truth and falsehood in the culture," "Innocent expropriation of another man´s identity is a post-colonial arrogance."
"The Lost Boy," The New York Times Book Review
by Francine Prose, December 24, 2006
Excerpt: "Dave Eggers has made the outlines of the tragedy in East Africa -- so vague to so many Americans -- not only sharp and clear but indelible. An eloquent testimony to the power of storytelling, ´What Is the What´ is an extraordinary work of witness, and of art."
The McSweeney´s collection of responses
The book´s publisher reprints reviews from many sources, as well as an interview with the author and subject.

Below are a few articles about subjects covered or raised by What Is the What.

Crawley, Mike. "´Lost Boys´ of Sudan find new life in America. (Cover story)." Christian Science Monitor 92, no. 243 (November 07, 2000): 1.
Concisely summarizes the story of the Lost Boys of Sudan.
Chanoff, David. "Education Is My Mother and My Father: How the Lost Boys of Sudan escaped the destruction of their ancient culture and landed in the 21st century." American Scholar 74, no. 4 (September 2005): 35-45.
Focuses on the learning experience of Lost Boys in Boston and suggests that their experience gives them unique perspective on the humanities and social sciences and that learning has become for them a survival mechanism.
Witthoft, Brandy. "Out of Africa: misrepresenting Sudan´s ´Lost Boys´." Forced Migration Review (March 2007): 65-66.
Suggests that inaccuracies exist in the picture that´s been conveyed to the public of the Lost Boys´ trek.
Dean, Roger. "Rethinking the Civil War in Sudan." Civil Wars 3, no. 1 (Spring2000 2000): 71.
Discusses the causes, politics, and ideologies in Sudan´s civil war, as well as the role of religion, water and power supplies, and external factors.
Reeves, Eric. "Sudan: Humanitarian Crisis, Human Rights Abysm." Human Rights Review 1, no. 3 (April 2000): 80.
Focuses on the humanitarian crisis and human rights violations resulting from Sudan´s civil war, especially slavery and genocide.
Deng, Francis M. "Sudan--Civil War and Genocide." Middle East Quarterly 8, no. 1 (Winter2001 2001): 13.
Discusses the nature of the social, religious, and political tensions between north and south Sudan and the way those differences led to war and human rights disasters.
De Waal, Alex. "Reflections on the Difficulties of Defining Darfur´s Crisis as Genocide." Harvard Human Rights Journal, (Spring2007 2007), 25-33,
Considers earlier instances of genocide in Sudan and the implications for other crimes against humanity if the 1948 Genocide Convention definition is applied to the atrocities in Darfur.

Web Sites

The McSweeney´s Reader´s Guide to What Is the What
Written by Greg Larson and offered by the publisher of the book, this PDF document includes an FAQ, a list of characters, a list of suggestions for activism to help the people of Sudan, a brief timeline of Sudanese history, a short examination of the idea of Southern Sudan as an autonomous entity, and a few titles of recommended reading, along with a review, interview, and article about Valentino´s (then known as Dominic Arou) return to Marial Bai in 2003.
The Valentino Achak Deng Foundation
News, photos, and video of Valentino´s foundation´s work to rebuild and improve his home village of Marial Bai in southern Sudan, excerpts of reviews of What Is the What, news from Sudan otherwise, and more.
CIA World Factbook information on Sudan
Current information providing an overview of Sudan´s geography, people, government, economy, historical background, and more.
Sudan: A Nation Divided
A BBC Special Report with a large number of linked articles about the conflicts in Sudan. Thorough coverage from Britain´s most prominent news source.
Refuge & Rejection: The Humanities in the Study of Forced Migration
A site focusing on the study, from the perspective of the humanities, of people displaced by war, political upheaval, persecution, and natural disaster, hosted by Arizona State University and edited by a board including professors from ASU, Emory University, the University of Waterloo, and the University of Manchester. It includes original articles, a bibliography, a page of relevant links, and an art gallery.
Darfur: A Selected Bibliography
Books, government documents, articles, and web sites compiled by Eric Kofi Acree, Africana Librarian at Cornell University.
University of Minnesota Institute for Global Studies and Human Rights Library : Asylum and Refugee Resources
Includes links to a general introduction to refugee and asylum issues, relevant treaties, information about country conditions, publications, aid and activist organizations, and more.
Eyes on Darfur
From Amnesty International. Includes information about the crisis generally and various specific locales, a photo gallery, analysis of the conflict, and encouragement of and suggestions for activism.
Africa Web Links-- An Annotated Resource List from the African Studies Center at the University of Pennsylvania
A subject directory of web sites. Pages are available pointing toward web sites about various topics as they relate to Africa, including such things as business, the environment, health, food & agriculture, human rights, history, religion, and relief work, among others.
Yale University´s Genocide Studies Program Sudan page
Includes links to photos and other images, papers, and more resources.

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