Wow! I can't believe there isn't more buzz and more sales of this book considering what a powerful life-changing tale John Bul Dau has to tell. As far as a window to what a human soul can endure and a confirmation of faith in the unflappable power of the human spirit to overcome horrid adversity just to survive, Bul Dau's "God Grew Tired of Us: A Memoir," has to rank right up there with "Left to Tell," by Immaculee Ilibagiza and Anne Frank's Hiding Place Diary.
After reading this book, you can even rush out to the theater and catch the Oscar deserving "God Grew Tired Of Us," documentary about John, Panther, and Daniel plight of coming to America. The movie and the book are ultimately tales of redemption and hope and how new beginnings in new countries can be a life catalyst. But be warned, the book is not for the faint of heart and placid of wills. It will gently urge you to do something, anything to turn the tide in the Darfur region of Sudan, where genocide on a massive scale has been perpetrated by the current government while the international community largely looks on unaffected and unacting.
John's voice though doesn't reach to such global assumptions and is never preachy. It is a simple tale of tragedy on a holocaust-like scale every bit as terrible as Rwanda's civil war. John escapes to Kukuma refugee camp and eventually finds his way with two of his best friends and fellow "lost boys," to a New York Syracuse apartment and the difficult process of transitioning to a new life and new culture begins.
Ultimately John fights to hold on to his Dinka culture and I dare you to fight to keep a dry eye when John discovers not only is his mother still alive in Sudan (whom he was separated from at age 13) but reunites with her in a New York airport with dramatic tears and full-on celebration of joy. It is a defining moment that captures in a simple sentence the power of families and the power of the human spirit to survive.
There are so many moments of clarity in John's text. He eventually comes to ask the question, "Why did the United States choose to intervene in Kosovo and not in Sudan or Rwanda?" Though this may sound like a bleak tale it is not. John's writing is actually quite laugh out loud humorous as he explains how Panther, Daniel, and John learn how to live in America. Navigating through things we take for granted like how to turn on and off a lightswitch, what the garbage can is for, and how bills build up the more money you make. John eventually sees a way to turn his plight into a national call to action by starting up a "Lost Boys," non-profit movement and finding a way to keep his culture alive, his family alive, while being influenced by the unavoidable Americanization that occurred.
I really can't give a strong enough recommendation for John Bul Dau's "God Grew Tired of Us." It is one of the 5 most powerful books (and films too) that I have experienced in my life of 38 short years. I had the privilege to work with Sudanese refugee families in Head Start and know the horror and terror of their tales and what they will be pushed to do to find a better life for their children. Ultimately, John Bul Dau finds himself making the same choices in this finely written book. It reminded me very strongly of the Jewish Holocaust remembrance movement's slogan, "Lest we not forget." Have we forgotten already about the tragedies Bul Dau and millions others are experiencing in Sudan? I think not. I think there is still time to act and Bul Dau's book will leave you inspired. It's a must read. --MMW