Cover Image: Walk Toward the Rising Sun

Walk Toward the Rising Sun

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Member Reviews

I really wanted to like this book. I loved A Long Walk to Water and enjoyed What is the What which are both about the lost boys of Sudan and their journeys to America, but this book just didn't flow well for me, It was a very slow read.
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This was an amazing tale of a refugee’s life. It highlights the struggles, the determination, and hope that I’m sure all refugees experience just to make a better life. Well written and I’m excited to get the book in the hands of my students!
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When a book begins with a six-year-old village boy in a dirt clearing watching his perfectly still uncle get six ritual lines sliced across his face with a sharp knife, you know the book is not set in Kansas. Walk Toward the Rising Sun, by Ger Duany with Garen Thomas, is set in war-torn Sudan. Ger, the young Sudanese boy in the 1980s will have much more danger to face. His older brother Oder, whom he idolizes, and his father are soldiers. For a time, he performs as man of the house to his mother and younger siblings in his family made up of his father’s other wives and children. They are all surprisingly supportive of each other as the men and boys of astonishingly young ages spend most of their time away in battle.

Death, violence, hunger, and escapes from danger become a way of life until Ger becomes a child soldier. His brother Oder advises him to get an education so he can get out of this unsettled life, and he takes advantage of any educational opportunities when he can get even if the “school” is under a tree. 

A plane trip to America in the 1990s brings new life as a refugee but also another set of problems as he confronts racism, PTSD, and temptations into a flamboyant lifestyle that threatens to destroy the dreams his dead brother has instilled into him. A combination of his own heart and purposes and people who help steer him into ways he can help others eventually brings him to a better place. 

The book, told as a straight-forward narrative, compelled me to keep reading. Nikki Grimes has said that what is missing in the calls for diversity in reading is how important these books are for everyone. I hope the closest I ever come to knowing what it would be like to live in the middle of war, perpetually hungry, with school haphazardly held under a tree is in the pages of a book. However, a well-told biography like this can make me see a tall skinny Sudanese boy as a fellow human being with emotions and feelings not all that different from my own.
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I regularly read memoirs, especially those that show a perspective that is different from my own. This book would fit well into a unit about refugee experiences, or just world experiences. It took me a bit to get into the narrative style but it's a read that draws you in. I have read a number of books that offer a personal story from an African nation and they're all equally heartbreaking. 

This would be engaging for young adult readers and I'll keep it in mind when we explore adding new books.
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Actor, international model and UNHCR ambassador and Sudanese refugee, Ger Duany’s memoir is filled with contrasts.  He begins his story by recounting watching his uncle undergo ritual scarification in his small village in southern Sudan. Family is important to him and, since his father has several wives, he has a great many half brothers and sisters and it seems like everyone is somehow related.  His father is a soldier allied with one of the factions in the war and is only occasionally around.  His family spends time in refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya.  Eventually he is sponsored to seek asylum in the United States. 

Suddenly, he is trying to carve out a new life in Des Moines, Iowa.  The culture shock is immense. Ger visits a store and marvels at the meat department, wondering why someone would slaughter so many of their cows at one time? His reflections about this time are very revealing about the nuances of race in America. He spends some of his time trying to fit in with his African-American peers, who don’t actually have a high opinion of him.  Being an adolescent in the United States is completely different than in Sudan where he had a high degree of freedom.  Having to follow rules and school bell schedules chafe. 

It is no wonder that he wanders a bit aimlessly for several years, pursuing his love of basketball and falling into acting and then modeling, eventually becoming extremely successful. 

His style of storytelling is detached.  You sometimes feel like he’s describing the event as if he’s watching it from the outside.  This is not a bad thing and some of the events that happen to him are so raw, the loss of beloved younger siblings for instance, that you wonder how he managed to get through it.  

This memoir compares well with Ishmael Beah’s “Long Way Gone” and Waris Dirie’s “Desert Flower” and is told with a great deal of heart.
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Walk Toward the Rising Sun is a breathtaking, raw, beautifully written memoir about a Sudanese boy whose life, and entire childhood, are completely upended when the civil war breaks out. He experiences losses and extraordinary trauma as he witnesses war ravaging his communities, people turning on each other, dear family members and friends getting killed or turning their allegiances to the oppressors. But all through that, Duany remains determined to make a better life for himself, and keeps the words of a lost family member in his mind constantly as his inspiration to keep going. Eventually, he makes it to the United States and we see how he makes a new life for himself, while remaining deeply and inextricably connected to his family and his homeland. 

There is enough nuance and to poetic prose to keep older readers challenged and engaged, but Duany also has a way of organizing the chapters and even the paragraphs and phrases that makes it easy to follow, do some deeper analysis, and connect with both the details and the broader themes of the memoir. 

I think Ger Duany did an absolutely remarkable job with this memoir. He makes the story of an inconceivably difficult and traumatic series of events accessible to younger readers who need to learn about these histories. I hope libraries and schools truly all over the world will make this powerful story accessible to children. It will stick with me for a long time and provided me with a framework to learn more about this history.
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A moving and honest telling of the experience of growing up in the midst of war, and becoming a child soldier in Sudan.  Duany's honesty is particularly moving in describing his difficulty in dealing with racism in America and the dealing with PTSD.
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A care-free childhood in Sudan ricochets into daily survival as civil war forces the author's family to flee and fight.  Escaping to America at age 18, Duany struggles to build a new life.
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It’s hard to explain to middle and high schoolers what war and being a refugee may be like. Mr. Duany describes it from a child’s point of view and gives the audience a deeper understanding of war and survival. I would recommend reading it with Refugees/Gratz, Call Me American/Iftin, or A Long Way Gone/Beah Definitely for mature students and with guidance, recommended 12+. 
 #WalkTowardtheRisingSun #NetGalley
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