What is the What

CLJ Reviews What is the What by Dave Eggers

What We Read

What is the What is a statement, not a question. It’s also the autobiographical tale of Valentino Achak Deng and several other Lost Boys of Sudan, refugees whose diaspora has taken them around the world in search of new homes. Achak tells two stories in What is the What: first, he talks of the nearly impossible escape from Sundan – over deserts, across rivers, through refugee camps, dodging bullets and bombers and lions the entire way – and paints a poetic history of his people, the Dinka; second, the story begins with Achak being robbed at gunpoint in his apartment – the other half of the narrative shows an immigrant adjusting – painfully – to American society.

What We Did (and How We Did It)

Superaweome. As host, I engaged each Book Club member in a 1:10 (made popular by George Stroumboulopoulos’s 2:20) – everyone had to answer “what is The What?” Some folks thought it was the AK-47, while others thought it was Africa and others felt that The What was plain ol’ curiosity. The second activity involved Barack Obama. You see, he was visiting the refugee camp in Kakuma. Book Club split into two teams and each group was asked to put on a performance that would convince President Obama to do something about the plight of Sudan. It was amazing stuff.

What We Thought

War, poverty and being a refugee really sucks. This being said, in the saddest corner of the most terrible places in the world there seems to always be love, hope and peace that wiggles its way through the cracks. We reflected on hardship and what its meant to us. We talked about how friggin’ terrifying it would be to be hunted lions and, yeah, soldiers, too. The topical discussion of what the heck to do with millions of refugees around the world wrapped up this installment of Book Club. Thanks, Dave Eggers, for the simply fantastic read. This book – and this Book Club – was definitely one of the best.

As told by John Horn…