Tuesday, November 11th, 2008
Anyone who read What Is the What, Dave Eggers’s 2006 novel based on the true story of a young Sudanese refugee separated from his family, needs no introduction to the name Valentino Achak Deng. With Eggers channeling Valentino’s own unforgettable voice as narrator, What Is the What tells the story of Valentino fleeing his village as a young boy, encountering numerous life-threatening obstacles, and eventually making his way to refugee camps in Ethiopia and later Kenya before landing in the United States and finally reuniting with his family. In a review in the New York Times, Francine Prose compared the book to Huckleberry Finn and wrote: “The lyricism, the detail and, most important, the absolute specificity of these sentences are what make What Is the What so persuasive.”
Today, Valentino and Dave work together running the Valentino Achak Deng Foundation. Among their other projects, the foundation is currently working to build the first secondary school in Valentino’s region of Southern Sudan. Eggers and Achak Deng filmed a series of videos during their September 2008 trip to Southern Sudan.
The Story of the Foundation
Valentino’s Tour of the Future School
See more videos of Valentino and Dave’s trip on the foundation’s YouTube Channel.