Dis­turbed in Their Nests: A Jour­ney from Su­dan’s Dinka­land to San Diego’s City Heights

Alelphon­sion Deng, Judy A. Bern­stein Black­stone Pub­lish­ing (NOVEM­BER) Soft­cover $17.99 (448pp), 978-1-982546-22-9

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews | Adult Nonfiction - KARL HELICHER

Ale­phon­sion Deng and Judy A. Bern­stein con­tinue the story of Deng’s death-de­fy­ing life, mov­ing from the Su­danese civil war to the mean streets of San Diego.

The coau­thors pre­vi­ously wrote the award-win­ning They Poured Fire on Us From the Sky. This se­quel cov­ers a brief pe­riod, from Au­gust 2001 through June 2002, but it proves to be a cru­cial time. Dur­ing that pe­riod, nine­teen-year-old Deng, his brother, Ben­son, and his cousins, Lino and Ben­jamin, tried to ad­just to life in San Diego. Al­though death wasn’t im­mi­nent, the city’s strange, some­times threat­en­ing in­hab­i­tants pre­sented their own chal­lenges.

In short, al­ter­nat­ing chap­ters, Deng and Bern­stein, the Lost Boys’ In­ter­na­tional Res­cue Com­mit­tee men­tor and guardian an­gel, de­scribe the same events from two very dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives. Without Bern­stein, Deng would likely not have over­come some life-threat­en­ing con­cerns, in­clud­ing par­a­sites con­tracted in Africa and a mug­ging by neigh­bor­hood crim­i­nals.

Deng’s job as a bag­ger at a neigh­bor­hood gro­cery is de­scribed with hu­mor and com­pas­sion, in­clud­ing when a young cus­tomer called Deng “hot.” Not re­al­iz­ing that this was a com­pli­ment, he thought he was be­ing laughed at for body odor. Such seem­ingly small cul­tural dif­fer­ences trig­gered post-trau­matic stress disor­der and de­pres­sion, both by-prod­ucts of Deng’s years in Su­dan and Kenya, chang­ing him from a thought­ful young man into a recluse. The book brims with sto­ries of the boys’ bumpy ad­just­ment, mov­ing two of them to­ward an even­tual role in a Hol­ly­wood film.

By its end, the book takes a turn to­ward the up­beat, show­ing that ran­dom acts of kind­ness, no mat­ter how seem­ingly small, can go a long way in help­ing im­mi­grants ad­just to their new lives and new pos­si­bil­i­ties. This me­moir will bring com­fort to those en­dur­ing sim­i­lar chal­lenges.

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