Extended Audio Sample

Download What Is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng; A Novel Audiobook

Extended Audio Sample What Is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng; A Novel Audiobook, by Dave Eggers Click for printable size audiobook cover
4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 4.00 (40,282 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Dave Eggers Narrator: Dion Graham Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: July 2007 ISBN: 9781482977066
Regular Price: $29.95 Add to Cart
— or —
FlexPass™ Price: $14.95$5.95$5.95 for new members!
Add to Cart learn more )

In a heartrending and astonishing novel, Dave Eggers illuminates the history of the civil war in Sudan through the eyes of Valentino Achak Deng, a refugee now living in the United States. We follow his life as he’s driven from his home as a boy and walks, with thousands of orphans, to Ethiopia, where he finds safety—for a time. Valentino’s travels, truly Biblical in scope, bring him in contact with government soldiers, Janjaweed-like militias, liberation rebels, hyenas and lions, disease and starvation—and a string of unexpected romances. Ultimately, Valentino finds safety in Kenya and, just after the millennium, is finally resettled in the United States, from where this novel is narrated. 

In this book, written with expansive humanity and surprising humor, we come to understand the nature of the conflicts in Sudan, the refugee experience in America, the dreams of the Dinka people, and the challenge one indomitable man faces in a world collapsing around him.

Download and start listening now!

BK_BBCA_000001

Quotes & Awards

  • “Told with humor, humanity, and bottomless compassion for his subject…It is impossible to read this book and not be humbled, enlightened, transformed.”

    Khaled Hosseini, #1 New York Times bestselling author

  • “[An] Astonishing story…of immerse power, emotion, and even in the midst of horror, beauty.”

    Salman Rushdie, #1 New York Times bestselling author

  • “A book with the imaginative sweep, the scope and, above all, the emotional power of an epic. Intense, straightforward, lit by lightning flashes of humor, wisdom and charm.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “A testament to the triumph of hope over experience, human resilience over tragedy and disaster.”

    New York Times

  • “A moving, frightening, improbably beautiful book.”

    Time

  • “An absolute classic…Compelling, important, and vital to the understanding of the politics and emotional consequences of oppression.”

    People

  • “A sweet and sometimes very funny story of one boy’s coming of age…Strange, beautiful, and unforgettable.”

    San Francisco Chronicle

  • What Is the What is a story of real global catastrophe—a work of such simple power, straightforward emotion, and genuine gravitas that it reminds us how memoirs can transcend the personal to illuminate large, public tragedies as well…Exudes authenticity.”

    Washington Post

  • “As an emotional primer about the impacted recent history of the Sudan, about the fighting between north and south, government and rebels, Arabs and Dink, murahaleen and SPLA, Eggers’ ventriloquism could hardly be bettered. He makes Achak’s an authentic and affecting voice of the grimmest narrative of our times.”

    The Observer (London)

  • “[An] engrossing epic…Eggers’ limpid prose gives Valentino an unaffected, compelling voice and makes his narrative by turns harrowing, funny, bleak, and lyrical. The result is a horrific account of the Sudanese tragedy but also an emblematic saga of modernity-of the search for home and self in a world of unending upheaval.”

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  • “Reworking this powerful tale with both deep feeling and subtlety, Eggers finds humanity and even humor, creating something much greater than a litany of woes or a script for political outrage. What Is the What does what a novel does best, which is to make us understand the deeper truths of another human being's experience.”

    Booklist (starred review)

  • “An excellent audiobook…Reading in a clear, convincingly expansive African cadence that is a pleasure to the ear, Dion Graham sounds all the right notes of bewilderment, fear, discovery, mirth, and joy in Valentino’s coming-of-age in the Kakuma refugee camp and his abrupt exodus to the land of plenty, catching both the otherness and the universality of his experience and providing a compelling personal window on an ongoing global tragedy.”

    Library Journal (audio review)

  • What Is the What is a novel that possesses the best qualities of a documentary film: the conviction of truthfulness and the constant reminder of the arbitrariness of fate, for worse and for better. By setting his story of African annihilation and survival as a story of American immigration, Eggers ensures that it belongs to us all, as it must.”

    Philip Gourevitch, author of We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda 

  • “Dave Eggers has done something remarkable with this book. He has managed to cross many barriers both real and artificial to tell the story of one man’s tragedy and triumph in a way that emphasizes his simple humanity above the drama of his terrible situation. It is a book that shows there is no reason why geographical and cultural divides should prevent us from attempting to understand each other as citizens of this world.”

    Uzodinma Iweala, author of Beasts of No Nation

  • “I have been interacting with the Lost Boys since the late 1980s, from the time they were first displaced in Sudan to their arrival in the United States. I thought I had heard and seen it all. But reading Valentino’s story has touched emotions in me I didn’t even know I had. Dave Eggers tells the story of Sudan through Valentino’s eyes, but he also elucidates the best and worst of our common humanity.”

    John Prendergast, International Crisis Group

  • “[Eggers] is as adroit at telling another person’s biography as he is narrating his own…Labeled as a novel, this work nonetheless has a historical basis and lends a personal face to the brutality of civil war, squalor, and the struggle for survival…While visceral and heartrending, Deng’s and Eggers’ joint story is ultimately a powerful tale of hope. When both People and the ever-glum Michiko Kakutani of the New York Times rave, how can one resist?”

    Bookmarks

  • “Eggers writes smoothly and never seems to interfere with the message of his subject. No one who reads this book will forget its scenes of acute suffering and the triumph of the human spirit.”

    Kliatt

  • A New York Times Bestseller
  • A 2006 Time Magazine Book of the Year for Fiction
  • Winner for the 2007 Independent Publisher Award for Literary Fiction
  • A 2006 National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist
  • A 2007 New York Times Book Review Notable Book

Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Ingrid Cops | 2/17/2014

    " Dit is echt een van mijn lievelingsboeken. Heb nog nooit zo meegeleefd met een hoofpersonnage, vooral omdat het gebaseerd is op ware feiten die voor mij ooit 'de-ver-van-mij-bed-show' waren. Je wordt niet bepaald vrolijk van dit boek, maar ik ben heel blij dat ik het gelezen heb! Een absolute aanrader. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jhrebik | 2/15/2014

    " Terrific book. Painful and captivating. I couldn't put it down. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jen Denis | 2/12/2014

    " If you're choosing any book about the Lost Boys to read, choose this one. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Cindy Hartner | 2/5/2014

    " I am not a non-fiction girl, but this was probably the best non-fiction book I've read. The humble, grateful, hopeful characterization Eggers reveals in Achak Deng is moving, profound and truthful. I took my time in reading it because I wanted to savor every page. I highly recommend reading this important and attitude-changing book. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Corrine | 2/1/2014

    " This book is about the Lost Boys of Sudan. It is so sad, but so amazing. This is one of the best books I've ever read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Caley | 1/30/2014

    " I greatly enjoyed reading this book. Although I agree with other reviewers that the poorly done transitions and oftentimes annoyingly overt African history lessons become too much after almost 400 pages of text, I don't think these flaws detracted from the overall importance of the novel. Although Eggers' story focuses on the life of one Sudanese refugee, the novel provides great insight into the lives of refugees and displaced people worldwide. I'm grateful to have read this book, its characters will long stay with me. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jenny Kim | 1/18/2014

    " This is my least favorite Eggers book, and it's because the subject matter is different from what I'm used to. However, the vivid writing is classic Eggers, and that helped me along toward finishing the book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lennard | 12/15/2013

    " lezen die hap "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Vicki | 12/1/2013

    " David Eggers and Jennifer Egan are my two new favorite writers. I just can't find them fast enough, and I keep reading mysteries in between to make the time go faster, or slow me down in reading them all up. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Beverly | 11/22/2013

    " I loved the way Eggers framed the story of Achak's time in Africa through a mundane, but bad trauma here in the US. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Alex | 8/2/2013

    " "Enjoyable" isn't exactly the right word, given the subject matter, but a really good read. I found the frame to be a teensy bit heavy-handed at times but appreciate the clear prose and the narrative voice. Definitely recommend. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sally | 4/24/2013

    " One of my all time favourites. The amazing, heartbreaking,inspiring story of one of Sudan's lost boys. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Al Toby | 10/25/2012

    " Haunting immigrant story told in a fascinating way. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Rachael | 10/13/2012

    " eye-opening look into the life of a refugee child. and an adult living in a strange new land. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Psalm | 6/20/2012

    " Wow..helps you appreciate how spoiled and entitled we are in the USA. Most of us have no idea of what suffering is. Even through all of the challenges he went through, he kept his humanity and humor. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Galen | 6/9/2012

    " Everyone is passionate about Dave Eggers. He's a love-him-or-hate-him writer and for what it's worth, I love him. If you don't, then avoid this book. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Lex Siegel | 5/27/2012

    " Forever sticks to your heart and soul. I am grateful to Eggers for putting this book out into the world. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Dayf Hoff | 4/21/2012

    " This is a painful book. It's a book that I'm glad has been written, because it's an important story, but it's hard to read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Russell | 4/11/2012

    " Incredible. Life-changing read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Rebecca Gates | 1/28/2012

    " I loved this but some parts were slow. Truly gripping story that tugged at my heart. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Gerard | 7/17/2011

    " Much too long, could have been done in half the number of pages--repetition and elaboration made it more boring to me than the topic deserves. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Lauraadriana | 6/29/2011

    " This surely one of the best books I've read. The story of Valentino one of the Sudan Lost Boys...We learn his story and how he walked from Sudan to Kenya looking to find a place of safety...It's a fantastic and moving story. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Paul | 6/24/2011

    " This book fits nicely in with the classes I teach, but sometimes I wonder how to make students aware of the horrors of the world and still give them some faith that there's hope for things to get better.... No answers here.

    "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Vicki | 6/7/2011

    " David Eggers and Jennifer Egan are my two new favorite writers. I just can't find them fast enough, and I keep reading mysteries in between to make the time go faster, or slow me down in reading them all up. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Michael | 6/6/2011

    " not so funny, but endearing as all. ALMOST made me want to volunteer to help refugees, but then i realized, how would they help themselves and have such harrowing stories about defeat and success? "

Write a Review
What is FlexPass?
  • Your first audiobook is just $5.95
  • Over 90% are at or below $12.95
  • "LOVE IT" guarantee
  • No time limits or expirations
About the Author
Author Dave Eggers

Dave Eggers won the 2009 Literarian Award from the National Book Foundation. He is the author of What Is the What, among other books. He is the editor for McSweeney’s, an independent publishing house in San Francisco, and is the cofounder of 826 National, a network of nonprofit writing and tutoring centers for youth with locations in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Boston, Ann Arbor, and Seattle. With his high school students he edits The Best American Nonrequired Reading, a yearly anthology, and with his brother Toph he cowrites the Haggis-on-Whey series of semi-informative books, which includes Giraffes? Giraffes!, Animals of the Ocean (in Particular the Giant Squid), and Cold Fusion.

About the Narrator

Dion Graham, from HBO’s The Wire, also narrates The First 48 on A&E. Winner of dozens of Earphones Awards and the prestigious Audie Award for best narration, he has performed on Broadway, off Broadway, internationally, in films, and in several hit television series. His performances have been praised as thoughtful and compelling, vivid and full of life.