A Long Walk to Water


Linda Sue Park

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A Long Walk to Water Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Linda Sue Park's A Long Walk to Water. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Linda Sue Park

Linda Sue Park grew up in Chicago. She studied English at Stanford University where she also competed on the highly successful gymnastics team. Park later obtained a master’s degree in literature from Trinity College. Her books often explore Korean history and Park’s own Korean heritage, though A Long Walk to Water certainly does not. Her first novel, a children’s book called Seesaw Girl, was published in 1999 and won several awards. She has published several books for children and young adults in the past fifteen years, the most critically successful of which was A Single Shard (2002), a short novel set in Korea that won the Newbery Medal, usually considered the most prestigious American award for children’s literature. Currently, she lives with her family in Rochester, New York.
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Historical Context of A Long Walk to Water

The backdrop for the first half of the book (the half told through Salva’s eyes) is the Second Sudanese Civil War, which lasted from 1983 to 2005. During this period, the predominately Muslim central government of Sudan tried to impose sharia law on non-Muslim Sudanese citizens in the south. During the late 1980s, military officers staged a coup against the Sudanese government, declaring a new, non-Muslim government. In 1989, military officers staged a second coup and banned all other political parties. Throughout this period, there was widespread fighting in Sudan between South Sudanese troops vying for independence and North Sudanese troops fighting to keep the country intact. South Sudan became an independent country in 2011. While Linda Sue Park doesn’t offer many details about the historical background to Salva’s story, the information is essential to understanding the conflict that sets the story’s main events in motion.

Other Books Related to A Long Walk to Water

Readers interested in other books about Sudan and Sudanese culture are encouraged to read the novels of Tayeb Saleh, especially his masterful Season of Migration to the North (1966). Dave Eggers’ What is the What (2006) is a fictionalized autobiography (based on a true story) written from the perspective of one of the Lost Boys of Sudan. Richard Cockett’s Sudan: Darfur and the Failure of an African State (2010) is often regarded as one of the best histories of modern Sudan, emphasizing the clash of political and cultural forces that have contributed to civil war in the country.
Key Facts about A Long Walk to Water
  • Full Title: A Long Walk to Water
  • When Written: 2009-2010
  • Where Written: Chicago, Illinois and Rochester, New York
  • When Published: Fall 2010
  • Literary Period: 21st century fictionalized biography
  • Genre: Historical fiction (part of the book is based on the true story of Salva Dun, but Park emphasizes that the book has been fictionalized in parts)
  • Setting: Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, United States
  • Climax: The death of Uncle Jewiir
  • Antagonist: Poverty, warfare
  • Point of View: Third person limited; the book cuts back and forth between the perspectives of the two main characters, Salva and Nya

Extra Credit for A Long Walk to Water

A successful nonprofit. Salva’s organization, Water for South Sudan, is a real nonprofit organization; to date, it has built over three hundred wells throughout the Sudanese region.