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Say You're One of Them Paperback – Sep 18 2009


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books (Sept. 18 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316086371
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316086370
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.5 x 21 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 386 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #27,836 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Nigerian-born Jesuit priest Akpan transports the reader into gritty scenes of chaos and fear in his rich debut collection of five long stories set in war-torn Africa. An Ex-mas Feast tells the heartbreaking story of eight-year-old Jigana, a Kenyan boy whose 12-year-old sister, Maisha, works as a prostitute to support her family. Jigana's mother quells the children's hunger by having them sniff glue while they wait for Maisha to earn enough to bring home a holiday meal. In Luxurious Hearses, Jubril, a teenage Muslim, flees the violence in northern Nigeria. Attacked by his own Muslim neighbors, his only way out is on a bus transporting Christians to the south. In Fattening for Gabon, 10-year-old Kotchikpa and his younger sister are sent by their sick parents to live with their uncle, Fofo Kpee, who in turn explains to the children that they are going to live with their prosperous godparents, who, as Kotchikpa pieces together, are actually human traffickers. 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. (June) Read a web-exclusive q&a with Uwem Akpan at www.publishersweekly.com/akpan.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"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."—Jennifer Reese, Entertainment Weekly (EW Pick / Grade A)

"[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."—Janet Maslin, New York Times

"Uwem Akpan's searing Say You're One of Them captures a ravaged Africa through the dry-eyed gaze of children trying to maintain a sense of normalcy amid chaos."—Megan O'Grady, Vogue

"Akpan wants you to see and feel Africa, its glory and its pain. And you do, which makes this an extraordinary book."—Vince Passaro, O Magazine

"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."—Lisa Shea, Elle

"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."—Patrik Henry Bass, Essence

"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 Africa of this starkly beautiful debut collection, identity is shifting, never to be trusted...Akpan's people, and the dreamlike horror of the worlds they reveal, are impossible to forget."—Kim Hubbard, People

"From the bowels of the most impoverished, war-ravaged continent comes this strong, brave offering from Uwem Akpan, a Jesuit priest. What better lens to view this landscape than through the eyes of children--siblings about to be sold into slavery by their uncle, a Muslim boy trying to pass as a Christian on a bus traversing a religious war. No news report or documentary evokes the desperate straits of the African people so keenly. Like Isaac Babel's Red Calvary stories and Michael Herr's Dispatches, Say You're One of Them has invented a new language-both for horror and the relentless persistence of light in war-torn countries. I can't shake this book, and shouldn't."—Mary Karr, author of The Liars' Club

"Say You're One of Them is a beautiful, bitter, compelling read. The savagely strange juxtapositions in these stories are grounded by the loving relationships between brothers and sisters forced to survive in a world of dreamlike horror. Open the book at any page, as in divination, and a stunning sentence will leap out. Newspaper facts are molded by Akpan's sure touch into fictional works of great power."—Louise Erdrich, author of Love Medicine and The Plague of Doves

"Say You're One of Them is one of those collections that drops the reader into the midst of wonderfully rendered worlds, and compellingly so. I hope it finds the wide readership it merits." Oscar Hijuelos, author of The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love

"Say You're One of Them is astonishing, triumphantly unique. The stories flow with an eerie Chekhovian ease and understatement-the horrors are evoked with a matter-of-factness that is devastating, and the characters' memories and inner lives are always more real than the appalling events occurring around them. Uwem Akpan has moral greatness--you can never again put out of your mind what he has taken you firmly by the hand to get a close look at. The startling newness of his language gives us no choice but to listen."—Franz Wright, author of Walking to Martha's Vineyard, winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry

"Uwem Akpan's stories are extraordinary not just for the sheer power of their narratives and the sympathy and affection he lavishes on his child protagonists, but also for their importance in communicating the chaotic, strife-ridden world of Africa today. What an original, graceful, and necessary talent Akpan is!" —Ron Hansen, author of Mariette in Ecstasy

"Uwem Akpan writes with a political fierceness and a humanity so full of compassion it might just change the world. His is a burning talent."—Chris Abani, author of GraceLand and The Virgin of Flames

"Say You're One of Them is not only good advice for surviving ethnic conflict; it's also, in Uwem Akpan's hands, an exercise in empathetic speculation--an exercise that, in this collection's case, seems nearly sacramental in the sobriety and miraculousness of its reach. Repeatedly these stories quietly enable us to imagine the unimaginable, and offer up to our view the unspeakable rendered with clarity and grace."—Jim Shepard, author of Like You'd Understand, Anyway, National Book Award Finalist, 2007, and winner of the Story Prize, 2008

"Say You're One of Them gives voice to Africa's children in beautifully crafted prose and stunning detail. Uwem Akpan is a major new literary talent." —Peter Godwin, author of When a Crocodile Eats the Sun

"Here is a truly unforgettable book. Say You're One of Them is an important, well-crafted, and ultimately devastating collection, and Akpan is a writer of rare gifts and deeply humane vision. I can't recommend these stories more highly."—Peter Orner, author of The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo

"Akpan has the largeness of soul to make his vision of the terrible transcendent. Beside [his stories], other fiction seems to dry up and blow away like dust."—Craig Seligman, Bloomberg News

"All the promise and heartbreak of Africa today are brilliantly illuminated in this debut collection..."—John Marshall, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

"With this heart-stopping collection, which includes the New Yorker piece, "An Ex-Mas Feast," that marked Akpan as a breakout talent, the Nigerian-born Jesuit priest relentlessly personalizes the unstable social conditions of sub-Saharan Africa.... The stories are lifted above consciousness-raising shockers by Akpan's sure characterizations, understated details, and culturally specific dialect."—Jennifer Mattson, Booklist

"All five of these stories are electrifying."—Maureen Corrigan, NPR's "Fresh Air"

"...a tour de force that takes readers into the lives glimpsed in passing on the evening news...These are stories that could have been mired in sentimentality. But the spare, straightforward language--there are few overtly expressed emotions, few adjectives--keeps the narratives moving, unencumbered and the pages turning to the end."Associated Press

"Brilliant...an extraordinary portrait of modern Africa."—Deirdre Donahue, USA TODAY

"This fierce story collection from a Nigerian-born Jesuit priest brings home Africa's most haunting tragedies in tales that take you from the streets of Nairobi to the Hutu-Tutsi genocide."—Margo Hammond & Ellen Heltzel, Minneapolis Star Tribune

"Akpan combines the strengths of both fiction and journalism--the dramatic potential of the one and the urgency of the other--to create a work of immense power...He is a gifted storyteller capable of bringing to life myriad characters and points of view...the result is admirable, artistically as well as morally."—Adelle Waldman, Christian Science Monitor

"It is not merely the subject that makes Akpan's...writing so astonishing, translucent, and horrifying all at once; it is his talent with metaphor and imagery, his immersion into character and place....Uwem Akpan has given these children their voices, and for the compassion and art in his stories I am grateful and changed."—Susan Straight, Washington Post Book World (front page review)

"Say You're One of Them is a book that belongs on every shelf."—Sherryl Connelly, New York Daily News

"Searing...In the end, the most enduring image of these disturbing, beautiful and hopeful stories is that of slipping away. Children disappear into the anonymous blur of the big city or into the darkness of the all-encompassing bush. One can only hope that they survive to live another day and tell another tale."—June Sawyers, San Francisco Chronicle

"These stories are complex, full of respect for the characters facing depravity, free of sensationalizing or glib judgments. They are dispatches from a journey, Akpan makes clear, which has only begun. It is to their credit that grim as they are-you cannot but hope these tales have a sequel."—John Freeman, Cleveland Plain-Dealer

"An important literary debut.... The reader discovers that no hiding place is good enough with these stories battering at your mind and heart."—Alan Cheuse, Chicago Tribune

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Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By V. Mathies on Oct. 27 2009
Format: Paperback
This is a finely written and deeply compassionate picture of life on a troubled continent. Told through the eyes of children, each of the stories in this collection has something educational for those of us privileged enough to live in the West. The author's skill is in helping you to live these realities. No matter how deep our troubles seem to be here, these children's stories give you perspective. They also motivated me to think about what organizations I could contact to help relieve some of this misery. Don't miss this; it's one of the best things I've read this year.
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Format: Paperback
I usually read literary short stories with an attitude of detached admiration - of the narrative technique, of the shaping of the story arc, that kind of thing. Very rarely do I feel the kind of tension I did reading these -- I think it's the closest I've come to a genuine experience of Aristotle's catharsis involving pity and fear. In 'Fattening for Gabon' I was riveted, anticipating not just the actual taking of the children, but the realization that the adoptive godparents of whom they were so enamoured were actually child traffickers, and that their uncle was selling them. The hysterical shame and torment on the part of the uncle is horrible to see. In "Luxurious Hearses", a young Muslim boy is trying to pass for Christian so he can ride on a bus to his father's home in southern Nigeria, fleeing religious violence in the north. I was sick with tension reading about how he tries to disguise his accent and hide his missing hand, which will reveal him as a Muslim. I don't know how anyone turns the discomfort and recognition provoked by a book like this into a positive change (other than making another donation to World Vision). Anything that puts a face on the statistics has to be a move in the right direction.
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By Heather Pearson TOP 500 REVIEWER on July 27 2010
Format: Hardcover
This book is comprised of 5 stories of various lengths. They all deal with children trying to grown up in Africa and some of the horrors they are being exposed to. Like children everywhere, they deserve a safe place to live and grow. With numerous civil wars and "ethnic cleansings" they have been exposed to and threatened with things that no child should every have to deal with.

Mr. Akpan has presented the stories of these children in such a way that while the attrocities are clear, he has also shown compassion and even hope.

I really can't do justice to this book without telling you in detail of each story, which would then go on for pages and pages.. I highly recommend that you get a copy of this book and read these stories for yourself. I had heard of some of the things that were happening, yet I really never stopped for long to think of how they would affect the children involved. Now I look at my children and say many words of thanks that they wake up every morning safe.
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By Jan on Jan. 26 2010
Format: Paperback
I found it brutal, that anyone would cut a child's hand off is beyond belief and that a mother would condone it was even more shocking to me. I had to stop reading at times to try to understand how war changes peoples attitudes toward other innocent people caught up in it and the lengths they will go to try escape it.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Mrs. Q: Book Addict on Oct. 28 2009
Format: Paperback
'Say You're One Of Them' is a collection of five short stories written from a child's perspective about life in Africa. These children face poverty, genocide, religious conflicts and unimaginable atrocities. This is not a book of hope, it's a book that will keep your mind wandering. Through the five stories we see how these children loose their purity. Children's lives are guided by their living situation. Imagine being a 12 year old prostitute and your parents are happy that you have 'white' clients because your salary, funds your brothers education. Imagine living with your uncle, while he is trying to sell you and your sister to the highest bidder, to raise his status in the Church. These stories are not for the light-hearted. Although, I really enjoyed the collection of short stories. However, I must admit I did find the dialogues difficult to follow. Some stories I wished were a little shorter.

'An Ex-Mas Feast'

This is the first story in the collection. We are introduced to a destitute family living in a make-shift shanty. Maisha is a 12 year old prostitute and her family encourages her 'profession' in order to fund her brothers education. Maisha's relationship with her parents is strained, and she is constantly quarrelling with them. She's not only is the breadwinner in the home, she seems to be adult. In this story we see the destruction of the family. When Maisha decides she no longer wants to be in the home, her brother decides he no longer wants to go to school much to his parents dismay. He rather have his sister than his education.

'Fattening For Gabon'

The second story in the collection is as shocking as the first. We begin the novel learning the Uncle is trying to sell his nephew and niece.
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Format: Hardcover
this is poignants storys. true .that is what wars are all about. you could
write this story in Afganistan, irak , Palestine, and it would be the same.

It makes you think.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Amanda Slack on Feb. 5 2010
Format: Paperback
I liked this book, but it was sad and troubling as well. What an eye opening view of what is going on in other countries.
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