God Grew Tired of Us: A Memoir Paperback – Jan 22 2008
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Just 13 in 1987 when he was driven from his village and separated from his family in the raging civil war in southern Sudan, John Bul Dau spent years in refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya, until in 2001 he came to the U.S. as one of 4,000 Lost Boys of Sudan. His memoir is the subject of a new, award-winning documentary film. Like Deng's They Poured Fire on Us from the Sky (2005), this is a stark, first-person account of trauma and survival. Dau tells it quietly, in fast, simple prose true to the young teen's viewpoint. He's funny about the culture shock in America and honest about his years in the camp, even the fact that, trauma notwithstanding, he liked being tabbed as a leader. Although appreciative of this country and the chance for work and college, he never denies his connections to Africa. Unforgettable photos document his reunion--after 19 years--with family he did not know were alive. Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
"This earnest, heart-on-the-sleeve memoir reinforces the preciousness of all human life and should serve as a reality check for the rest of world." Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
"This is a memoir of terror, triumph and humour as Bul Dau adapts to his new life, learning along the way that differences can be bridged peacefully." Windsor Star (Ontario)
"One sweetly funny moment in this book occurs when Dau meets a nice guy named Brad, who turns out to be the film’s producer, Brad Pitt." Times-Picayune (New Orleans)
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However, it is ultimately a story of overcoming in spite of the overwhelming odds stacked against him and in the end Dau finds a new life in America and reconnects with other Sudanese refugees to trace their remarkable journeys and then begin the daunting task of searching for any family that might have survived. This book should be required reading and as with survivors of the holocaust, Dau's story must be told to ensure that such atrocities are not allowed to be repeated. Dau's purpose that he finds in being spared from death is simply inspiring as are his words: "They call me a Lost Boy, but let me assure you, God has found me".
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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
Lots of people look up to the rich and famous, rock stars, models, actors or even the President as people they would like to meet. John Dau is at the top of my list of whom I would like to meet. Simply for me to tell him that I am sorry. Sorry that while I was a teenager hanging out at the mall eating when and what I wanted with no worries other than my bicycle might be stolen; he was starving, thirsty, dirty, naked, no shoes, no soap. no toothbrush... No family, no knowledge of if his family was even alive. He had NOTHING! While I was relatively safe begging my parents to buy me more of this and more of that all of which was so important to me to have then. Now I would have given up everything to John had I known of the situation.
Now I know, and feel ashamed. Thank you John for telling us your story and getting the information out to the world. I will find a way that my help is needed and contribute to help ensure others do not have to go through what you did.
John, I am so glad that you did not grow tired of God.
Sudan is not only the largest country in Africa, and one of the most complex (572 tribes that speak 114 languages), it's also one of the most war-torn. The Darfur genocide in western Sudan rightly grabs our attention, but for twenty-five years civil war raged in the southern part of the country. The "white" Arab and Muslim government in Khartoum has tried to impose strict Islam as the state religion for the entire country, but the black and Christian south rebelled. In 2005 a Comprehensive Peace Agreement was reached.
When the Khartoum government bombed Dau's village of Duk Payuel in 1987, he fled with thousands of other displaced Sudanese. He was thirteen years old. Rape, disease, pillage, daily burials, wild animals, famine (they sometimes ate mud and drank urine), government troops, and hostile tribes did not prevent Dau and some 265,000 Sudanese from reaching refugee camps in Ethiopia to the east. Most of them were young boys and a few men, as women and girls could hardly survive, and so they became known as the "Lost Boys of Sudan." When Ethiopian troops started slaughtering them, the refugees trekked 500 miles south to safety in Kenya. By then Dau was eighteen. Nine years later he was one of only 3,600 Sudanese refugees in Kenya who were resettled in the United States.
Dau is the first to thank the many people who helped him in America, but it bears saying that by his account he was totally self-sufficient about six months after he arrived. He finished community college, entered Syracuse University, met and married a Sudanese woman from his Dinka tribe, started several foundations to help Sudan, sent most of his hourly wages back home, and was featured in the award-winning documentary film God Grew Tired of Us; The Story of the Lost Boys of Sudan (Sundance Grand Jury and Audience awards in 2006). It's only fitting that Dau's improbable story ends with reconnecting with his mother, father, and siblings. "God," he writes, "had not forgotten me after all."