Dave Eggers is the author of six previous books, including his most recent, Zeitoun, a nonfiction account a Syrian-American immigrant and his extraordinary experience during Hurricane Katrina and What Is the What, a finalist for the 2006 National Book Critics Circle Award. That book, about Valentino Achak Deng, a survivor of the civil war in southern Sudan, gave birth to the Valentino Achak Deng Foundation, run by Mr. Deng and dedicated to building secondary schools in southern Sudan. Eggers is the founder and editor of McSweeney’s, an independent publishing house based in San Francisco that produces a quarterly journal, a monthly magazine (The Believer), and Wholphin, a quarterly DVD of short films and documentaries. In 2002, with Nínive Calegari he co-founded 826 Valencia, a nonprofit writing and tutoring center for youth in the Mission District of San Francisco. Local communities have since opened sister 826 centers in Chicago, Los Angeles, Brooklyn, Ann Arbor, Seattle, and Boston. In 2004, Eggers taught at the University of California–Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, and there, with Dr. Lola Vollen, he co-founded Voice of Witness, a series of books using oral history to illuminate human rights crises around the world. In addition, The Wild Things novel based loosely on the storybook by Maurice Sendak and the screenplay co-written with Spike Jonze, will be available in bookstores. A native of Chicago, Eggers graduated from the University of Illinois with a degree in journalism. He now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife and two children.
Valentino Achak Deng was born in southern Sudan, in the village of Marial Bai. He fled Sudan in the late 1980’s during civil war, when his village was destroyed by murahaleen—the same type of militia that currently terrorize Darfur. Deng grew up in Ethiopian and Kenyan refugee camps, where he worked for the UNHCR as a social advocate and reproductive health educator. In 2001 he resettled to Atlanta. Deng has toured the US and Europe speaking about his life in Sudan, his experience as a refugee, and his collaboration with author Dave Eggers on What Is the What, the novelized version of Deng’s life story. As a leader in the Sudanese diaspora, Deng advocates for the universal right to education and the freedom of his people in Sudan. In 2006, Deng and Eggers established the Valentino Achak Deng Foundation to help rebuild Sudanese communities by increasing access to educational opportunities. The Foundation has constructed the very first high school in Valentino’s region of Southern Sudan, which opened in May 2009, and plans for a library, teacher-training college, and community center are currently underway. www.valentinoachakdeng.org
This event was co-sponsored with the Center for the Humanities