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Say You're One of Them (Oprah's Book Club) Paperback – Bargain Price, September 18, 2009
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"Awe is the only appropriate response to Uwem Akpan's stunning debut, Say You're One of Them, a collection of five stories so ravishing and sad that I regret ever wasting superlatives on fiction that was merely very good. A." (Entertainment Weekly (EW Pick / Grade A) Jennifer Reese )
"[A] startling debut collection... Akpan is not striving for surreal effects. He is summoning miseries that are real.... He fuses a knowledge of African poverty and strife with a conspicuously literary approach to storytelling filtering tales of horror through the wide eyes of the young." (New York Times Janet Maslin )
"Uwem Akpan's searing Say You're One of Them captures a ravaged
"Akpan wants you to see and feel
"Uwem Akpan, a Nigerian Jesuit priest, has said he was inspired to write by the 'humor and endurance of the poor,' and his debut story collection...about the gritty lives of African children--speaks to the fearsome, illuminating truth of that impulse." (Elle Lisa Shea )
"Nigerian-born Jesuit priest Akpan transports the reader into gritty scenes of chaos and fear in his rich debut collection... Akpan's prose is beautiful and his stories are insightful and revealing, made even more harrowing because all the horror-and there is much-is seen through the eyes of children." (Publishers Weekly )
"Haunting prose.... A must-read." (Kirkus Reviews )
"Uwem Akpan's stunning short story collection, Say You're One of Them, offers a richer, more nuanced view of Africa than the one we often see on the news....Akpan never lets us forget that the resilient youngsters caught up in these extraordinary circumstances are filled with their own hopes and dreams, even as he assuredly illuminates the harsh realities." (Essence Patrik Henry Bass )
"African writer and Jesuit priest Uwem Akpan depicts the plight of African children with the kind of restraint only possible when an author fully inhabits his characters-he manages to be empathetic without being condescending." (The Village Voice )
"In the corrupt, war-ravaged
About the Author
Uwem Akpan was born in Ikot Akpan Eda in southern Nigeria. After studying philosophy and English at Creighton and Gonzaga universities, he studied theology for three years at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa. He was ordained as a Jesuit priest in 2003 and received his MFA in creative writing from the University of Michigan in 2006. My Parents’ Bedroom, a story from his short story collection, Say You’re One of Them, was one of five short stories by African writers chosen as finalists for The Caine Prize for African Writing 2007. Say You’re One of Them won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book (Africa Region) 2009 and PEN/Beyond Margins Award 2009, and was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction. In 2007, Akpan taught at a Jesuit college in Harare, Zimbabwe. Now he serves at Christ the King Church, Ilasamaja-Lagos, Nigeria.
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In the title story, set in Rwanda in 1994 when members of the Hutu ethnic group killed up to a million rival Tutsis, a child cowers in a home while machete-wielding mobs rampage outside and refugees stuff themselves in a tiny loft above. There is no escape, particularly since the parents are from different groups, so there will be blood.
In “Luxurious Hearses,” the religious violence that is endemic in Nigeria is compressed into a bus filled with escapees seeking refuge. A young man who has procured a precious ticket to ride to his one-time home must conceal his Muslim identity from the Christians on the bus—hard to do since he lacks his right hand, a sure sign that he is Muslim, and a thief at that. Akpan unforgettably conveys the madness that erupts in this confined space as the bus hurtles to hell.
Child trafficking in West Africa is the background of “Fattening for Gabon,” in which a brother and sister are imprisoned by a seemingly friendly uncle and his gang. The boy’s attempts to save his sister and himself can only lead to violence.
“Say You’re One of Them” is no “Flame Trees of Thika” or even “The Green Hills of Africa.” It’s a classic expose of what happens when civil society is just an easily abandoned pretense.
...but I give it 5 stars because Mr. Akpan had the courage to write it, and write it so painfully well as he describes the horrors that the children and their families face. The story and words are authentic; there's no sugar coating, or lessening of the harsh realities. He reminds us that the image of childhood as most of us feel it should be...and as our kids experience it...is no where near the same reality for countless many children. This book is a chilling glimpse of that other world that is very, very real that we cannot ignore or look away from. We must continue to work together as nations to make the world better for us all!
It’s a difficult book to read. Because of the content, sometimes continuing to turn the pages is an effort. And because Akpan sprinkles the stories generously with the mélange of languages spoken in Africa, parsing the meaning of what people are saying can be hard too. But on those difficult-to-turn-and-understand pages, Akpan always splashes a generous measure of the best of humanity: love, loyalty, responsibility, empathy, self-sacrifice, and faith.
In these stories of children’s lives, general themes emerge: the variety of religions and languages in Africa, the power of faith, the role of the media, the relationship between men and women, the struggle of families to stay together, the driving force of the sex trade, the relentless force of tribalism, and always the plight of the children.
Someone in my bookclub described the book as “beautifully written and utterly heartbreaking” – as the kind of book a person can’t just read. Afterward, there’s the need to do something.
Most recent customer reviews
The stories are profound. Heartbreaking. Awful. Devastating.
You may feel a range of emotions. Disbelief. Anger. Frustration.Read more