An internationally renowned human rights activist and member of the “Lost Boys of Sudan” is giving an author reading at Syracuse University.
John Dau ’11 will headline The Writing Program’s Nonfiction Reading Series on Thursday, Nov. 19, at 3:30 p.m. in Room 207 of the Hall of Languages. He will read from his critically acclaimed memoir, God Grew Tired of Us (National Geographic, 2007), also the subject of an award-winning documentary by the same name, and from his children’s book, Lost Boy/Lost Girl: Escaping Civil War in Sudan (National Geographic, 2010). The Syracuse University Bookstore will be on hand to sell copies of both books.
The reading, which is free and open to the public, is sponsored by The Writing Program in the College of Arts and Sciences. For more information, call 315-443-1091.
“We’re honored to present a reading by John Dau, whose experience of surviving the second Sudanese civil war and then resettling in the United States is both courageous and inspiring,” says Eileen Schell, associate professor of writing and rhetoric. “His story is a reminder of not only the hardships of war and privation, but also the strength and resilience of the human spirit.”
In 1987, 13-year-old Dau fled his village in Sudan, narrowly escaping Arab troops who had been sent to exterminate black Christian men. He soon joined 27,000 other exiles, known as the “Lost Boys of Sudan,” and spent the next 14 years alternately crossing the sub-Sahara on foot and living in refugee camps. In addition to being pursued by soldiers, the boys fended off wild animals, and faced starvation, dehydration, and disease on a daily basis.
"We chewed tall grasses, and ate mud to stay alive. I was barefoot and wearing no clothes; at night the desert was so cold. We thought about our parents all the time,” he says.
More than half of the “Lost Boys” died by the time Dau and others reached an Ethiopian refugee camp, from which they were forced to flee and return to Sudan, only to be subjected to twice-a-day bombing raids.
"When the bombardment became unbearable, we moved south,” says Dau, who eventually wound up in a refugee camp in Kenya. "There, at age 17, I started my formal education, writing letters and numbers with sticks in the dirt."