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Eggers Blends Fact, Fiction of Sudanese 'Lost Boys'

Nov 1, 2006 (All Things Considered)

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The "Lost Boys" of southern Sudan are the tens of thousands of children who fled the Sudanese civil war of the 1980s. After Arab militias attacked their villages, they walked hundreds of miles on a terrifying journey toward safety.

Many children died from starvation, disease and additional attacks. Those who survived made it to refugee camps in Ethiopia.

One of those children was Valentino Achak Deng. When his village was burned, he couldn't find his parents. He was about 6 years old.

Deng is 25 now, and a student at Allegheny College in Pennsylvania. His story is the basis of a novel written by Dave Eggers. It's a blend of fact and imagination called What Is the What.

Deng and Eggers talk about their collaboration and about the many traumas the children endured.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

More from the Interview

Valentino Achak Deng and Dave Eggers traveled to southern Sudan together in 2003. They managed to fly to Deng's village, Marial Bai, on a cargo plane. They describe their visit and Deng's reunion with his family:

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