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on October 27, 2009
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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on April 6, 2011
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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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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on January 26, 2010
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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on October 28, 2009
'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. The children are forced to live with their Uncle while their parents are living with AIDS. The children are introduced to their 'godparents' who they are told are paying for their parents medicine and giving them many gifts. The children enjoy the attention, and enjoy the luxurious meals at first. They are oblivious to their Uncle's intentions, When they being to notice his unusual behaviour they being to question their godparents acts.

'What Language Is That?'

This is the third story and incredible short. Two best friends wake up one morning and are told by their parents that they can no longer speak to each other due to religious conflicts. Although, the parents are trying to protect the children we see the impact this has on them.

'Luxurious Hearses.'

Jubril is a young sixteen year old Muslim who was born to a Christian father and Muslim mother. His brother adopted the Christian faith and was eventually stoned in front of him. While the violent in his area had escalated Jubril feels he must escape. Jubril's only hope is to escape on a bus full of Christians. He hides his right hand being cut off, his name and his Muslim ideas. He is afraid of women and television, but must try to come to terms with them on the bus.

'My Parents Bedroom'

This is the last story in the collection. This story really affected me. The children in the story have a Hutu father and a Tutsi mother. The parents are forced to choose between the tribes, this results in the children witnessing their mothers death at the hands of their father.

In conclusion, I really enjoyed the book. I'm not a huge fan of short stories and for that reason I didn't love the book. I do recommend it, and I am happy that I read it. However, I do feel it is a little overrated because Oprah chose it as a book club choice.
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on October 7, 2010
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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on February 5, 2010
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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on October 18, 2010
I was very disappointed by this book. I found it very hard to read as they were writing as they would speak. Some words are in a different language. I managed to finish the first story but I got frusttrated with the second story. I'm not on the third story but I am not enjoying this read at all. I'm disappointed with the way it was written.
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on November 10, 2009
This book touches you; a scary, I don't like this, when will this be over kind of touch. We need to know what children in this world endure to make a change. Thank you to author Uwen Akpan for sharing their stories.
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on October 26, 2009
Loved this book!! Beautiful writing style and loved how the story was told through the eyes of a child.
However.. I HATED the ending of story #3 "Fattning for Gabon". Anyone else feel the same?
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