What is the What

What is the What Summary and Analysis of Book II, Chapters XIX-XXI

Summary of Book II, Chapter XIX

Julian calls Valentino back. As Valentino explains what happened, Julian relates and explains that he was mugged a few months back. But since he just returned from the Iraq war, he was prepared and beat the potential muggers up.

They take an MRI scan, and Valentino tells Julian about being in Africa amidst the Sudanese civil war. Julian asks if Valentino fought in the war, and Valentino says no. Julian says he is glad.

Summary of Book II, Chapter XX

Back in the refugee camp, the leader of the SPLA visits Valentino and others. Through propaganda, he tries to lift the spirits of the refugees and encourages the boys to join the army. Many boys begin to leave daily, but as the UN relief presence grows, more SPLA soldiers come to impose their own rules. The soldiers even threated the children not to talk to any of the relief workers or suffer the consequence.

One day, the soldiers bring a group of prisoners and parade them in front of the refugees. One of the prisoners breaks free from the group and protests their treatment, and the SPLA solders begin killing all the prisoners in front of the children. The children begin running.

Nobody is safe at Pinyudo anymore, so Valentino, Dut Majok, and others plan their escape. Dut gets separated from Valentino, but Valentino meets up with Achor Achor to continue the journey. They spend a great deal of time trying not to get caught, but they eventually make their way to Pochalla.

Summary of Book II, Chapter XXI

Even though Valentino and Achor Achor have made it to Pochalla, it is still not safe for them. Valentino has an eye infection, but there is no way to make it better. Yet nearly as soon as the make it to Pochalla, they have to go to another camp. These camps are all overrun with SPLA soldiers using brutal and hostile tactics to keep refugees in line.

Eventually, Valentino travels to Kenya to the Kakuma camp. He knows what to expect now, but at least it is farther away from the SPLA soldiers and the conflict in Sudan. It was difficult for him to go any farther, though, and he collapses on the path. Yet a girl on the path forces him to walk to the camp.

Valentino begins thinking about Tabitha as he is walking home from the hospital. He was upset that he had not been more proactive with Tabitha. She was visiting a friend when her ex barged in and stabbed her 22 times before jumping off an overpass.


While Julian had made Valentino wait, the two men have much in common. Valentino lived through terrible war-induced poverty, and Julian had been involved in a large-scale war in the Middle East. Both men have seen horrors, and they seem to have bonded over it for a short while.

There is a difference between the two, however, and that is because Julian actively participated in the Iraq War while Valentino tried his hardest to avoid it. Valentino's conscious remained clean. Julian, though, had suffered through the trauma of battle. This is why he is glad that Valentino did not fight in the war. Living through it was hard enough, but participating in the bloodshed would have made his situation even worse.

Before the SPLA soldiers arrived in the camps, things were fairly decent for the refugees. There was little food and living was tight, but they felt as though the UN aid workers were present, trying to help. Yet the sudden and hostile military presence caused all sorts of problems for the refugees.

We can see how the SPLA recruited soldiers: through unadulterated propaganda, singing and inciting feelings of nationalism. It works on a number of boys, as many join the SPLA after hearing the speech. This is a tactic often used in war; leaders will use rousing speeches, songs, parades, and other events to create unity and solidarity in order to support the military.

Oftentimes, leaders will also create an "us-versus-them" mentality to make the citizens feel like they are better than the enemies. This occurred in the novel when the soldiers brought in the prisoners into Pinyudo and tried to say the prisoners were traitors and rapists. This rhetoric was meant to demonize the enemies and make the Sudanese boys want to fight for the country's honor.