Wednesday, October 28, 2015

[Memphis Reads 2015] Fresh Reads Top Ten Winner Baker Al-Jafari

What is the What
Baker Al-Jafari

When I was first handed the book, I wondered why it had such an odd title, but then after reading the book, it came to me. The metaphoric meaning of the “What” in Dave Eggers’ book What is the What is the human’s nature of wanting to know the unknown, which in some cases leads mankind to choose the unknown over something sure. There were many instances throughout the book that common mistakes were made by choosing the unknown instead of taking the sure thing that they have in front of them. “This is our first chance to choose the unknown” (531). Choosing the unknown is technically the same thing as gambling, because when people gamble they don’t know whether they will win or lose. If mankind didn’t want to know what the What was, then mankind would be a superior race because that’s one of the biggest flaws to mankind. The story of creation told by Achak’s father talks about how God gave man cattle and the What, which was unknown, but man choose the cattle, which was the wise decision (61-62). Choosing the What wouldn’t always be a bad decision, because Achak had to make decisions like that throughout the whole book from his time in refugee camps to coming to America.

Four years ago I was put in a situation where I had to make a hard decision not near anything as hard as Achak’s decisions but, I had a choice either stay in Jordan a third-world country where I have grown accustomed to living in or pick the “What,” which, in my case, was moving to America, a land that was across the globe and very different than the one I had grown up in. I had been born in America, but I lived in Jordan almost all my life, so I had no memory of living in America, because I left America when I was still a child. I had either to stay in Jordan with all my friends, family, customs and beliefs or move to America to live with my dad, start over and start a new life, new school, meet new people. I wasn’t up for all that at first, because of my shy nature. I always thought that when I moved to America I wouldn’t be able to make friends and start over the right way. I chose the What, going to a country unknown to me. I didn’t want to do it at first, but I did it. I moved to America my freshman year of high school. I overcame my fears, met new people, and started over. I basically started a new life for myself, a life with opportunities to become something, opportunities I didn’t have back home, so moving to America changed my life in ways I couldn’t even explain. Not all were good though, but still it gave me a better life than living in Jordan.

--Baker Al-Jafari

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