Monday, April 06, 2009

Read This Book: What Is The What.

I read a lot of books, but rarely have I done book reports. But I'm in the middle of reading a new book that I cannot put down. So, it becomes the first entry in a new series I'll call, unimaginatively but clearly, "Read This Book."

It's called "What Is The What" and it's the engrossing, soulful and deeply human account of the true life of a boy from Christian southern Sudan who ended up, at age 5?, 6? was forced to flee his home village as it was raped and destroyed by Muslim warriors on horseback. He walked for weeks and weeks through the desert to Ethiopia, only to find himself then rerouted to Kenya, making a life for himself in refugee camps, eating anything he could while enduring the kinds of things no human being should have to endure -- finally landing in Atlanta, which brought new kinds of problems.

Now, if that sounds like a dreary book, you'd be wrong. Written by Dave Eggers as a novel, I have found myself on the edge of my seat, trying to absorb the entirety of his experience, sometimes in tears, sometimes jubilant, but always aware of the fact that if it were me, I'd have been dead a long time before.

Along with the sheer adventure, I was also treated to a history lesson -- and now those millions of people who have been forced into these camps -- now have faces and names and cultures and lives. The countries I've read about in this book now are more than just meaningless lines criss-crossing a continent that seems more like an intractable puzzle than a place where actual human beings live.

Bottom line, any book, for me, has to be a great read. And this is more than that. It's a great read that fills you with a sense of your own humanity and reminds you that we are all connected on this planet in one way or the other.

Darfur has been but "another problem" we have to contend with (along with Palestine, China, etc. etc.), and, like many people, I sometimes feel too overwhelmed to keep up with it all. I just want to scream to everyone to get a grip.

But that's what's so great about a terrific book. It pulls you into its own universe and you come out the other end changed and illuminated.

That's why I say about "What Is The What": READ THIS BOOK.
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New article in Arts & Understanding (with amazing photos)

http://aumag.org/2017/05/10/steve-schalchlin-advocate/