Sorry if you’ve heard this from me before, but I am a HUGE David Eggers fan. According to Wikipedia – that is where I stalk all my heroes – Mr. Eggers is author to several books, owner of the publishing company McSweeney’s, co-founder of the literacy project 826 Valencia, AND he went to high school with Vince Vaughan.
So what, you shrug, there are thousands of authors. With e-publishing, everybody is a publisher. And non-profit foundations? Throw a rock these days and you hit one. Agreed, but David Eggers is the real deal folks.
In 2000, he won popular recognition with his first book A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. All the important book people liked it. But they could not agree to which category it belonged. Was it memoir? Creative non-fiction? What was it? The story is of a young man (Eggers) who loses both parents to cancer and is faced with raising his eight-year old brother Toph. What drew me to the work is the wacky writing style. As you read you can almost feel Dave’s nervous energy causing his knee to go up and down as he writes. He doesn’t follow standard writing conventions; I like that in a book. After the success of his first book, he started 826 Valencia Project to encourage young people to write and read. Today, the project’s methods are copied by others throughout the United States.
Watching the news last week about the conflict in Sudan-South Sudan, I was reminded of Mr. Eggers’ book What is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng. Published in 2006, the book is categorized as memoir and fiction. It is about the Lost Boys of Sudan’s experiences while living in America. It features one Valentino Achak Deng. When Mr. Eggers discovered that Mr. Deng and The Lost Boys were not doing so well in American, he helped Mr. Deng tell his story. Can you imagine, at the age of five or six, seeing people in your village brutally massacred and then running into the waste lands where your friends are eaten by lions, then having to live in a refugee camp until you are eighteen? This story is another “heartbreaking work” by Mr. Eggers. The profits from this book go to The Valentino Achak Deng Foundation which helped Mr. Deng finish college in America and go back to his home in South Sudan. His foundation is now building schools for boys and girls and helping to rebuild the village he was forced to flee.
The conflict between Sudan and South Sudan is about oil and religion. If you would like to gain an understanding about the human side of the clash, buy and read What is the What. You will gain insight into what is happening there and help Mr. Deng with his good work of building a new nation.
Mr. Eggers, your pen is a mighty sword.