What is the What

What is the What Summary and Analysis of Book I, Chapters XI-XIV

Summary of Book I, Chapter XI

When Tonya comes back to the apartment, she tells Michael to get inside the minivan while she and a small man transport the rest of Valentino's belongings out the door. They then leave for god without releasing Valentino from his bonds.

Valentino makes his way to the wall and bangs his feet on the door, hoping someone will hear his thuds. Many of his neighbors are Christians, and he wants them to do the "Christian" thing and help him during his turmoil. Yet nobody comes to his aid, which makes him think about the African slave trade and how it was conceived and perpetuated by Arabs long before Europe followed suit. Even now, he claims, the Arabs will raid villages and take young girls and boys for servants and sexual victims while the rest of the world ignores what is happening to Africa.

Summary of Book I, Chapter XII

Back in Africa, Dut Majok's group has accumulated 250 boys. They stopped in a village where the villagers tried to refuse them entry. Dut persuaded the chief to let them stay, but a handful of boys tried to steal food from the villagers and the group was chased out. A few boys were hurt or caught and did not continue on the journey.

Later, they came across a village with a blue dog, a dog they had noticed in a previous village. The village had been ransacked and burned by the murahaleen. Desperate for food, they boys pillaged the village looking for any remaining food and supplies for their journey.

The food does not help, though, and many of the boys are complaining about empty and upset stomachs. Many of the boys are left to die on the side of the road, and there is nothing Dut can do about it. Later, the group encounters some soldiers who have killed an elephant. They invite the boys to help eat the meat. Many of the boys, including Deng, eat the meat raw because they are too hungry to wait for it to cook. In the morning, Deng is dead. Valentino cannot cope with the loss of his friend, so he remains silent for the majority of the journey.

Summary of Book I, Chapter XIII

Valentino rolls to the door and tries to break it down. After 200 kicks, his door still won't budge. It makes him wish that just one person would notice his suffering and reach out to him, and he thinks about Mary Williams, the founder of the Lost Boys Foundation.

Achor Achor introduced Valentino to Mary a week after he moved to America. She had been an aid worker in the camps back in Africa, and she was sensitive to the refugees' plight. Mary was the adopted daughter of Jane Fonda, which provided her many opportunities to fund and reach out to the wealthy in order to raise funds for the organization. He and Mary liked each other, and she had always been a positive asset and friend to Valentino despite other Sudanese immigrants believing she was misusing the organization's funds on too many parties and celebrations.

Mary introduced Valentino to Phil Mays who eventually became Valentino's sponsor. Phil was very generous and gave Valentino plenty of his time and money, and then he supported Valentino while Valentino attended classes at Georgia Perimeter College.

Unfortunately, Phil moved to Florida and Mary disbanded the Lost Boys Foundation in 2005. She could not handle the stress. Yet as all the Americans he met moved on with their lives and careers, Valentino was left to struggle in Atlanta.

Summary of Book I, Chapter XIV

In Africa, the boys had to eventually cross the Nile with only two boats crossing at a time. As the boys waited on one side, other travellers began queuing behind them. While they are waiting, many people contract malaria after mosquitos in the area bite them.

After finally crossing the Nile, Valentino meets up with William K, who had fled Marial Bai. He joined Dut Majok's group, and they all began crossing the desert. Many of the boys became sick from hunger and heat stroke, even William K.

One night, truck's headlights began approaching the group and the boys all scattered. Valentino ran fast and far, and he tripped on barbed wire. A strange man approached him and offered to fix his wounds. The man took him to his home and fed him while asking questions about Valentino's identity. The man then tells Valentino not to let anyone know he was there, as the house is his hiding place from the war.

After Valentino rejoins the group, the boys come across bird nests. Some of the boys eat the eggs raw while others eat hatched birds. The boys get closer to Ethiopia, and they see corpses of men and women, mostly SPLA rebels. William K died of exhaustion soon after.

The group eventually reached Ethiopia, and Valentino and the boys were confused. The land looked barren with thousands of other sick and tired refugees; it was not the land of promise he had hoped for.


As the Arabic Muslims were the ones to start the slave trade of Dinka and other "lesser" African nations, it not only caused religious tension but social tension between the groups. The Arabs took women and children, boys and girls to be their slaves. Christians and Americans not only participated in this trade for a while, but they actively ignored what happened to the enslaved Africans. By talking about Christians ignoring Valentino's plight in his apartment in the same chapter as slave trade, Eggers makes a connection that American Christian's willful ignorance of slavery is similar to how they would not pay attention to Valentino's cries for help.

Valentino has gone through a terrible ordeal trying to get to Ethiopia. It can be overwhelming, and many may see the Lost Boys as adults instead of children because of all the horrible events they have witnessed. Eggers makes sure that readers remember that the Lost Boys are children, though, by using the blue dog in the village as a symbol.

These boys did not know their way around multiple countries in Africa; they got lost frequently. The dog stands as a representation of their inexperience, failures, and disappointment because they spent days walking in a circle just to return to a village they had already been to. Not only had they returned to the village only days later; but within that time, it had been completely destroyed and the dog had feasted on the dead bodies.

Many people came to the United States as refugees. They saw the country as their final destination, the beacon of happiness and home that they long for. But once Valentino came to the United States, he and the other Sudanese refugees had a difficult time assimilating. For Valentino, it was easier because Mary and Phil were good to him and took them under their wings. But others were not as lucky.

Many even resented the Americans helping them because the refugees felt as though the Americans were not doing enough. The accusations against Mary often spoke of how she threw too many parties with money from the Lost Boys Foundation rather than using those funds to send refugees to college.

This is a valid criticism, one that can be attributed to the notion that Americans do not want to deal with others' problems head-on. Valentino met many famous people over the years through the Foundation, but his description of their interactions showed that they wanted to help at an arm's length. Even Mary and Phil, who had been friends and mentors to Valentino, eventually left him to follow happier and less stressful pursuits. Yet Valentino and the other refugees were stuck in Atlanta with no means to leave or make a decent living for themselves.