Posted by: mollyscafeistanbul | October 8, 2010

another book report from molly’s cafe: what is the what

my school teachers never dreamed that little molly would be writing book reports from her own cafe in istanbul, turkey!  but here i am with yet another report on a recently read book.

what is the what


what is the what was written by dave eggers.  the narrator is one of the lost boys of sudan.  he addresses various people that he is in contact with and tells his story to them in a series of flashbacks.  he starts off in his home village of course, though as he tells the story, he is in america.  i actually did not want to read this book because i did not want to get depressed.  however, although the story of this young man’s life is harrowing, i did not find it depressing.



the action starts when he opens the door of his apartment to a black couple who then proceed to tie him up and rob him, leaving a boy to watch over him.  we learn how valentino achak deng left his village when it was attacked.  he met up with other boys who walked and walked and walked.  he saw other boys die, he saw brutality, and he saw  hope.  they all ended up in a refugee camp where he became a leader within the camp.  the reader gets a sense of the hostility among tribes and among political factions.  somehow this boy matures without a great sense of bitterness and embraces the opportunity to go to america to make something of himself and to help his countrymen.

this book is called a novel, but apparently there is a real valentino.  as i read the book i thought often of my sri lankan helper arun.  he did not have exactly the same experiences, of course, but he also is an exile from his country and can speak matter of factly about family members and friends who have been killed by the government.  we westerners live in a very protected environment and it is good to be reminded of the lives of others so much more unfortunate.

the book is very readable and i highly recommend it.


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