August 12, 2008

Books in Clumps: Sad Stories About African Boys

Beasts of No Nation, by Uzodinma Iweala. This one is a first novel by a young Nigerian Harvard grad, and it was unusual, and interesting. It's the story of a young boy who is conscripted into a guerrilla army in an unnamed African nation, and parts of it are pretty horrifying. We never know which side he's (forced into) fighting for, or exactly how old he is, but the details of the experience are vivid and disturbing. The book is written in pidgen English, which I thought made the writing more effective, and drew you into his situation more fully, but a couple of people in my old book club found it distracting.

I also recently read What Is The What, by Dave Eggers. If you're going into this one thinking that it will be another sardonic, humorous Dave Eggers masterpiece, think again. This non-fiction book is the life story of Valentino, one of the Lost Boys of Sudan, as told to Mr. Eggers, and it is - not surprisingly - pretty brutal. I will admit there are moments of humor, but they already pale in my memory compared to the stories about small children being eaten by lions or murdered by ruthless soldiers. Not especially funny subject matter.

The book is not only about Valentino's trials as a boy in Sudan, but also about his eventual relocation to the U.S. and the subsequent challenges he had to face in this country. I really found this part of the story interesting, and overall, it is a moving and humbling piece of reading.

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