I just finished Dave Eggers’ latest, a fictionalized account of one of Sudan’s “Lost Boys,” Valentino Achak Deng.

(Aside: Does anyone want to go to a reading by Zadie Smith — with cameos by Vendela Vida and Maggie Gyllenhall — on Jan. 16? It’s a benefit for Eggers’ nonprofit, 826NYC, which offers writing support to kids and teens.)

And I loved it. For a lot of reasons; first and foremost, it’s just a compelling story with just about every dramatic element out there — war, violence, love, faith, politics, great evil and tremendous good. But it’s more than that, so much more. It challenged the way the mainstream media reported the story of the displaced. It captured the ambiguities surrounding international aid and its utility. It reflected the frustrating curse of relative wealth, the way in which every struggle abets a new struggle, and the universal difficulty of puzzling out an identity in a constantly changing world. Above all, it offered a bleak sense of hope and affirmed the power of connecting, simply connecting, to those around us, even when we’re hurt, even when we’re broken.

While I was reading it, my thoughts inevitably turned to the unrest in Kenya, the country in which many of the displaced Sudanese (and Somalis, and Burundians, and Ethiopians …) settled. I don’t even know how to begin unpacking my thoughts; what does the situation in what is considered one of Africa’s beacons of light mean for the continent? Is it fair to even pose that question, with my meager American knowledge of life there, societies there? What next? What now?

Advertisements