Walk Toward the Rising Sun is the amazing autobiography of a young Sudanese boy who went from a child soldier to an international peace activist, a struggling refugee to a Hollywood actor. In this Q&A, Ger Duany tells us about his journey and what it was like to relive it while writing his powerful story.
1. What made you want to tell your story to young people?
I want to share my story with the younger generation because they carry our future on their shoulders. They are brave and smart and see things through new eyes, which is much needed now. I believe they can and will change this world.
2. What was the most challenging part of writing your story? What was the easiest?
The most challenging part of writing my story was reliving it. Because to truly tell a story, you have to go back to that moment. Reliving my sister’s death was awful, something I never want to uncork again. I also wrote my mother a heartfelt letter in my native tongue, which brought back lots of emotions. It was tough to relive but also necessary.
3. What comes to mind when you think of “home”?
When I think of home, I think of family and community gatherings with traditional ceremonies, warmth, dance, and laughter, while creating life in the midst of civil war.
4. Family history is a major theme of your book. Can you tell us about one of your favorite family traditions?
One of my favorite family traditions is the festivities and ceremonies that welcome the New Year. We would sing songs and dance while inviting good spirits.
5. Perseverance is another major theme. What was your first reaction to life in America when you arrived?
At first, I was in absolute amazement of everything. New land, new people, and the English language that connects the world. How would I acclimate? How could I navigate in a strange land when I did not speak the language? There was a lot of emotions—I was torn between leaving friends and family behind and being happy at a chance for a new beginning, which would let me reach back and lend a much-needed helping hand.
6. How did you overcome the challenges of being in a new country?
I had lots of challenges—from learning the language to fitting in and missing family and friends. Somehow, in the midst of trying my best, I found basketball, and it kept me grounded. So I poured all my happiness, frustrations, and everything into it. That was my major outlet, and it helped me overcome daily obstacles.
7. What do you hope readers take away from the story?
Naturally they should take what is needed or whatever they can relate to. I want people to know that I’m just like them. I have the same core values—love of family, community, and even country. I just had a different start. I know that anything is possible, and we all are creating our own story, right now, at this moment—make yours great.
8. What is your advice for young people who want to write their own stories but don’t know where to start?
My advice is to keep a journal. Entertain yourself with your own writing. Service your elders in any capacity and learn how to ask for help. Make time to read or listen to different audiobooks, including Walk Toward the Rising Sun. Do yourself a favor by doing activities that challenge you physically and mentally.