Informational texts to accompany Dave Egger's What Is the What: The Autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng
Based on the real-life story of Valentino Achak Deng, a Sudanese refugee now living in the United States, What Is the What is a fictional account of Deng's memories; Eggers reimagines details, individuals, and conversations in order to fill in the spaces of Deng's story of perseverance. Author Dave Eggers met with Deng over the course of years to understand Deng's history and craft the story, and Deng wrote the preface to the novel. The novel gives readers a glimpse at the experiences of the Lost Boys of Sudan, the thousands of orphans and displaced children in the Second Sudanese Civil War.
Close Reading Lessons
- TED Talk: The Key to Succes? Grit (Grades 9-10; CCSS.CCRA.R.8)
- Ranking Global Atrocities (Grades 11-12; CCSS.CCRA.R.6)
Applied Argumentative Writing Lessons
- Multiday Memoir: excerpt from “A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier” (Grade 9; CCSS.RL.9-10.6; CCSS.W.9-10.1)
- Multiday Short Fiction: The Prisoner Who Wore Glasses (Grade 10; CCSS.RL.9-10.6; CCSS.W.9-10.1)
- “War” by Luigi Pirandello (Grade 11; CCSS.RL.11-12.6; CCSS.W.11-12.1)
- Multiday Short Fiction: The Fly (Grade 12; CCSS.RL.11-12.6; CCSS.W.11-12.1)
Differentiated Lesson Sets for Grades 4-12
- Conflict and Dominance: How do conflict and the struggle for dominance affect the human spirit?
- Conflict and Character: How do different characters respond to conflict?
- Perseverance: How do we overcome challenges in our country, our communities, and our lives?