What is the What?

I happened to grab this book in an airport bookstore.  I was making a connection and the book’s cover art just caught my attention as I ran by. OPRAH is definitely sleeping on this joint, this is that book!  The writer, Dave Eggers was able to take such a riveting  subject matter and not only educate, the reader, but deliver the story in a manner that was not only thought provoking, but was laced with humor, throughout. The comic relief allowed me to identify with the characters, to connect with their plight and remain entranced in what might otherwise have been far too heavy a subject matter, at least for someone who just wanting to get in some “good”  easy reading. I finished the book feeling compelled to take action and to share.

So anyway, this young dude Achak who is like ten years old or so, is forced to flee his village in the Sudan alone and without his parents and family, when civil war breaks out.  Soon dude hooks up with other “lost boys” and they’re numbers begin to multiply exponentially as they trek across Sudan, Ethiopa, and Kenya, fleeing the militia and wild beast, and dodging land mines and air raids.  After thirteen years of living in refugee camps, he is selected for relocation in America, Atlanta to be precise, land of the free, the Falcons, and So So Def!  The plot thickens when Achak arrives in Atlanta’s urban jungle only to discover “What is the Nigga”!  Oh, did I just use the “N” word?  Yes, I think I did.  I went as far as to type it.  A nigga is anyone who is so vicious, so malicious, so violent, so volatile, so disruptive, so disrespectful, so rambunctious, so unthoughtful or so abrasive (this species on the loose in every color) that someone  could consider running from a lion in the jungle a less horrific experience than to encounter him, (the Nigga).  While there is no implication of sorts in this book, after reading about Achak’s initial encounter, I, almost felt like suggesting that signs be posted up throughout cities in the U.S. for other such newcomers, particularly those sharing our same dark skin that read:

“You are now entering the Urban Jungle, please beware of the Nigga!”

I have shared “What is the What” with many friends and strangers alike who have enjoyed reading it as much as I did. I have given it as a gift  on a few occasions.  This is definitely my pick..

See, they have warning signs over there.

See, they have warning signs over there.

Me and Don C. kickin' it with the kids in J' Berg in July, 2006.

Me and Don C. kickin' it with the kids in J' Berg in July, 2006.


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