We didn’t visit the Sudan on this trip, nor even come across people from there.  I did however manage to read two great books about the recent history of the area, and both left a powerful impression on me.  Given that we’ll be visiting Auschwitz tomorrow, it’s an appropriate time to post about these books.

The first is a short book called The Translator, by Dauod Hari.  I would read this book every night, and summarize it each day for my family.  It’s about a young man growing up in Darfur who eventually becomes a translator for journalists from the western world covering the atrocities inflicted on the Darfur tribe by the Sudanese government.  It’s a book you can read in a short time, and it’s very, very powerful.  It makes the horrors that the people of Darfur are experiencing quite tangible. 

The second, longer book is What Is the What? by Dave Eggers, about a different young man growing up in the Sudan.  This boy has the improbable name of Dominic Valentino Achak Deng, and it will make you cry to follow his life history.  The horrible trajectory of his life includes being one of the “lost boys” who walked for months across Sudan to escape, temporarily, to an Ethiopian refugee camp.  After a few months there, the refugees are run out of Ethiopia, back to Sudan, and then walk for months to a different refugee camp in the most desolate part of Kenya.

In Kenya, Achak lives there in a shanty-town refuge camp for ten years, incredibly.  He eventually is selected for deportation to the United States, hoping for a better life.  Things in the U.S., though, don’t go all that well, and a center plot line of the story is how he’s robbed at gun point in his Atlanta apartment, bound, beaten, and abandoned, finally be found by a friend more than a day later.

Both Daoud and Achak made it out of the Sudan to the U.S.  And both have dedicated their lives to helping their fellow Sudanese.  It’s painful and quite emotional to be thrust into the middle of each boy’s horrific life.  And it’s so shocking, and horrifying, to think that a genocide of this scale (about 500,000 are estimated to have been killed and some 2,000,000 displaced) is happening during all of our lifetimes, with little done by the U.S. government to bring it to a halt.

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