Dave Eggers

by Claudia Hudson

Who Dave Eggers is depends entirely upon who you ask.

To some, he is an author, bloggist, publisher, and revolutionary of the written word. Fans see him as flawlessly indie, San Francisco hip, noncommercial and unconventional; critics, as a best-selling novelist whose memoir, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, lends a literary voice with such pungent originality that they are left to wonder what even greater success his next work might bring.

To some, he is a human rights expose facilitator, creating a venue by which the otherwise voiceless, those most affected by contemporary social injustice, can speak loud and clear for once.

To others he is the founder of a unique nonprofit writing workshop and tutoring center for students ages 8-18, that originated in San Francisco and now hosts 6 chapters nationwide.

And yet to others, he is a champion for education in war-ravaged Sudan, co-founder of a foundation whose key focus is to build schools in the ongoing aftermath of one of modern history’s greatest human rights calamities.

The word ‘versatile’ does not even skim the surface of Eggers’ psyche.

Though not yet entirely a household name, to many Dave Eggers is nonetheless a hero, and depending on what facet of his work has drawn a person in likely details what heroic quality they see in him – be it that of a novelist, an activist, or a community educator. Whichever way you look at him, though, Eggers -- still only in his mid-30s -- is revolutionary, ingenious and bold, with the ability to shift into new avenues with uncanny grace and inconspicuous ease.

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<a href=https://thephoenix.com/secure/uploadedImages/The_Phoenix/Arts/Books/070216_inside_eggers.jpg>Eggers and Valentino Achak Deng</a>
Eggers and Valentino Achak Deng

It started in 1998 with Timothy McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern (“created by nervous people in relative obscurity and published four times a year,”) a small San Francisco based literary journal which has since grown exponentially and now hosts a monthly magazine with readership of 20,000, and an audience of more than 1 million unique monthly web visitors.

Two years later Eggers received wide appeal with his poignant memoir A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, chronicling his emotions upon becoming the legal guardian of his 8-year-old brother at the age of 22, after the death of both parents. The book was so widely accepted that it was even a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Adding to evident versatility, he is currently working on its movie adaption.

Additionally, his nonprofit free writing / tutoring “826” centers offer children in the United States an unconventional, unique way of learning writing, while simultaneously keeping them safe and off the streets. His San Francisco and Brooklyn centers are so unique, in fact, that they host a “pirate supply (retail) shop” and “super hero supply shop” respectably, at the front.

Eggers is in an increasingly rare school of thought that writers can, in fact, change the world through their work, in a physical, very tangible sense, beyond the metaphorical or intellectual.

 

<a href=https://www.flickr.com/photos/cdw806/480955671/>Eggers with Deng</a>at a Save Darfur Rally
Eggers with Dengat a Save Darfur Rally

While his publishing company, McSweeney’s, continues to produce profitable prints, the proceeds from his book What is the What?, go to Sudanese refugees at home and abroad. Its autobiographical subject, Valentino Achak Deng, is, himself, a survivor of the war in Sudan who currently resides in the United States. Deng was known as a well-spoken advocate for the Sudanese diaspora in Atlanta and his friend, Mary Williams – founder of the Lost Boys Foundation – put he and Eggers in contact in 2003.

Deng asked Eggers to help him write his autobiography -- the concept behind the book was that Eggers, through his writing, could convey the true reality of the war and its aftermath simply by chronicling the real-life experiences of Deng.

During the 3 years it took to write the book, Deng and Eggers visited southern Sudan, and much to his dismay, found its condition far worse than Deng had ever imagined. He decided to use the funds from the book to help offer better educational opportunities to those in southern Sudan, and the refugees in the US, establishing the Valentino Achak Deng Foundation in 2006.

 

Valentino returned toThe newly elected officers of the Marial Bai Women's Action Group. With a grant from the Foundation, the group will launch small business ventures, beginning with a restaurant.
Valentino returned toThe newly elected officers of the Marial Bai Women's Action Group. With a grant from the Foundation, the group will launch small business ventures, beginning with a restaurant.

As its first major philanthropic project, the foundation is planning an educational center (which hosts a school, a community center, a library, athletics facilities and more) in Deng’s hometown of Marial Bai. Additionally, to help promote local businesses and entrepreneurship , a microfinance program will also be established. In the US, the foundation’s focus is advocacy efforts for Sudan policy, as well as refugee assistance in terms of scholarships, and other programs.

Egger’s other major philanthropic project is Voice of Witness. Using oral history to expose human rights crises both in the US and around the world, the series of books offers victims a precious gift – a voice of empowerment with which to tell their tales. The books are being designed for a wide readership – from high school students to major policymakers, in hopes that change will come about.

With Eggers at its helm, it is inevitable that it will.

Page created on 12/7/2007 10:28:22 PM

Last edited 1/4/2017 11:41:39 PM

Related Links

Mc Sweeney's author page on Dave Eggers - provides biographical information about him, as well as list of his works, awards, links to interviews, and more.
Valentino Achak Deng Foundation: - Believing that the strength, determination, and diversity of the Sudanese people will enable them to build a peaceful and prosperous future, the Valentino Achak Deng (VAD) Foundation aims to empower war-affected Sudanese populations at home and abroad.
The Voice of Witness series - allows those most affected by contemporary social injustice to speak for themselves. Using oral history as its foundation, Voice of Witness seeks to illustrate human rights crises through the voices of the victims.
826 National is a family of seven nonprofit organizations dedicated to helping students, ages 6-18, with expository and creative writing. - The mission is based on the understanding that great leaps in learning can happen with one-on-one attention, and that strong writing skills are fundamental to future success.
TED - Once Upon a School