What is the What

What is the What Study Guide

What is the What is a 2006 novel written by Dave Eggers. While Eggars takes full authorship of the book, the story is the autobiography of Valentino Achak Deng. Deng is a Sudanese refugee and was a member of the Lost Boys of Sudan.

After immigrating to the United States, Deng felt it was necessary to tell his story. Yet Deng was only taking beginners writing classes at Georgia Perimeter College, and he wanted a more adept writer to do his life's story justice. A friend put Deng in contact with Eggers, and the two embarked on a years-long relationship where Deng described a lifetime of torture and hardship.

What makes the novel interesting is that, while Eggars stays true to the spirit of Deng's story, he takes creative license with conversations and smaller scenarios. Deng agreed with this rendition; he knew there were conversations and instances that he could not remember. These scenes as well as others were adapted to fit into a more narrative form. Yet Deng insists that What is the What is just as impactful as he hoped it would be.