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On Black Sisters Street: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, April 26, 2011

4.4 out of 5 stars 186 ratings

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In her U.S. debut, Nigerian immigrant Unigwe sets a melancholy tale in her adopted home of Belgium. When "Sisi" receives an offer from a questionable businessman to work in Belgium she accepts, agreeing to repay expenses as she works. She leaves the depressed, jobless Lagos only to find herself employed as a prostitute on Antwerp's Zwartezusterstraat (literally "Black Sisters Street") along with fellow Africans Ama, Joyce, and Efe. Despite her dire circumstance, Sisi falls in love with a native Belgian who encourages her to break free from her madam and the Lagos businessman. Freedom, however, remains elusive for Sisi, whose pitiful life is cut short with the swing of a hammer, prompting her Zwartezusterstraat sisters to share their own stories of fear, abuse, and violence, and allowing Unigwe to give powerful voice to women of the African Diaspora who are forced to use sex to survive. The author's raw voice, unflinching eye for detail, facility for creating a complex narrative, and affection for her characters make this a must read. (Apr.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Review

Praise for On Black Sisters Street

“ [‘On Black Sisters Street’ is] boiling with a sly, generous humor. Unigwe is as adept at conveying the cacophony of a Nigerian bus as she is at suggesting the larger historical events that propel her characters. ‘On Black Sisters Street’ marks the arrival of a latter-day Thackeray, an Afro-Belgian writer who probes with passion, grace and comic verve the underbelly of our globalized new world economy.”
--The New York Times Book Review  (*an Editors Choice selection in the 5/10 NYTBR)
 
“Powerful....The author's raw voice, unflinching eye for detail, facility for creating a complex narrative, and affection for her characters make this a must read.”
Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Gripping....As Unigwe tells her characters’ stories in interweaving narratives and time lines, the women embody depths of fear and displacement, as well as the will to survive and prosper."
--Booklist

“A novel of desperation, sexual exploitation, and, ultimately, sisterhood. … Unigwe has a talent for capturing the dashed dreams of young women who are stronger than they imagine. … The women’s personal stories are wrenchingly memorable.”
Library Journal

“In her English-language debut, the Nigerian-born Unigwe convincingly exposes an unfamiliar world without sentimentality. Capable drama that puts a human face on the scourge of human trafficking.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Spellbinding…combines a storyteller’s narrative flair with a reporter’s eye for grim, gritty details about the sex industry. … Nigerian-born Unigwe crafts her characters’ voices with crystalline prose and compassion, in a revelatory work as tough, humane and unsentimental as its heroines.”
MORE Magazine

“Chika Unigwe’s ON BLACK SISTERS STREET is a grand and compassionate and moving work of art. The best fiction succeeds when it allows a reader to open a door, step into a different world, look about and say, finally, I feel and know this place and these people as if I have visited many times before. Ms. Unigwe has done that for us with all the men and women of her new novel. We owe her much praise and much gratitude.”
Edward P. Jones, winner of the Pulitzer Prize

"Powerfully and gently, Unigwe gives voice to African women who walk the streets of their nightmares and dreams."
--Sefi Atta, author of Everything Good Will Come

“Chika Unigwe brings an ethnographic eye and masterful storytelling to bear on this complex portrait of African sex workers in Antwerp.  Her startlingly physical prose offers a fresh look at lives made and unmade between Europe and Africa.”
--Mateo Taussig-Rubbo, University of Buffalo

“Chika Unigwe has evoked a chilling, brutal, and terrifying world with warmth, compassion, and courage. The voices of degraded African women are clearly heard, their bodies vividly rendered, their sorrows deeply understood, and their humanity ultimately realized. On Black Sisters Street is a dark tale luminously told, a stunningly moving book.”—Lee Siegel, author of Love in a Dead Language
 
“Chika Unigwe writes with moral urgency nourished by a nuanced understanding of the human condition and prose that is elegantly calibrated. And for all the dark turns her work takes, On Black Sisters Street is suffused with warmth, hard-won wisdom, and a deep compassion.”—Chris Abani, author of Becoming Abigail and Song for Night
 
“A probing and unsettling exploration of the many factors that lead African women into prostitution in Europe . . . an important and accomplished novel that leaves a strong aftertaste. Unigwe gives voice to those who are voiceless . . . and bestows dignity on those who are stripped of it.”—The Independent

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Product details

  • Publisher : Random House; First U.S. Edition (April 26, 2011)
  • Language : English
  • Hardcover : 272 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1400068339
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1400068333
  • Item Weight : 1.15 pounds
  • Dimensions : 6.5 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.4 out of 5 stars 186 ratings

Customer reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5
186 global ratings
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Top reviews from the United States

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Top reviews from other countries

The Book Banque
3.0 out of 5 stars Unigwe explores tribalism, culture, family, love and loss, and human trafficking/ sex trade industry.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on May 30, 2017
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Book Nut
4.0 out of 5 stars An eye opener
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 28, 2019
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I.T.
3.0 out of 5 stars Fair
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 22, 2016
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Allie kat
5.0 out of 5 stars Wish there was more
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on August 23, 2018
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Lola
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 10, 2017
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