When civil war broke out in Sudan in the 1980s, some 25,000 boys ages three to thirteen fled the atrocities in their homeland on foot. They walked over 1,000 miles across barren desert to find refuge in Ethiopia and Kenya. Those who didn't die from starvation, wild animal attacks, and bombing raids eventually found shelter in a UN refugee camp in Kakuna, Kenya. Taking inspiration from Peter Pan's band of orphan boys who protected and provided for each other, a journalist of that day dubbed these children the Lost Boys.
In recent years, the U.S. has resettled nearly 4,000 of these young men. God Grew Tired of Us follows three of the Lost Boys—John Bul Dau, Daniel Abol Pach, and Panther Blor, chosen for relocation by the International Rescue Committee—to their new homes in Syracuse and Pittsburgh. This sounds like leaving hell for heaven, until you realize these men have never seen electricity, flushing toilets, or running water. And they're anguished to leave behind the friends who have been closer than family for 15 years. Still, with wide-eyed and wary hope, they come.
The first hints of what a different world they're entering occur on the airplane ride. The boys are fascinated by the overhead reading lights, the announcements from the captain that seem to come from nowhere, the oddly packaged food. They eat pats of butter and mustard packets as if they're part of the main course, wobble their way onto escalators in the airports, and marvel at Hasidic Jews and punk rockers in New York. The orientation to their new apartment includes the instruction that here we don't throw our trash out the window, as well as demonstrations on how to use a shower, refrigerator, toilet, and lamp. They boys watch with rapt attention ...1