On Black Sisters Street by Chika Unigwe
A Novel

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Synopsis

On Black Sisters Street tells the haunting story of four very different women who have left their African homeland for the riches of Europe—and who are thrown together by bad luck and big dreams into a sisterhood that will change their lives.

Each night, Sisi, Ama, Efe, and Joyce stand in the windows of Antwerp’s red-light district, promising to make men’s desires come true—if only for half an hour. Pledged to the fierce Madam and a mysterious pimp named Dele, the girls share an apartment but little else—they keep their heads down, knowing that one step out of line could cost them a week’s wages. They open their bodies to strangers but their hearts to no one, each focused on earning enough to get herself free, to send money home or save up for her own future.

Then, suddenly, a murder shatters the still surface of their lives. Drawn together by tragedy and the loss of one of their own, the women realize that they must choose between their secrets and their safety. As they begin to tell their stories, their confessions reveal the face in Efe’s hidden photograph, Ama’s lifelong search for a father, Joyce’s true name, and Sisi’s deepest secrets—-and all their tales of fear, displacement, and love, concluding in a chance meeting with a handsome, sinister stranger.

On Black Sisters Street marks the U.S. publication debut of Chika Unigwe, a brilliant new writer and a standout voice among contemporary African authors. Raw, vivid, unforgettable, and inspired by a powerful oral storytelling tradition, this novel illuminates the dream of the West—and that dream’s illusion and annihilation—as seen through African eyes. It is a story of courage, unity, and hope, of women’s friendships and of bonds that, once forged, cannot be broken.


From the Hardcover edition.
 

About Chika Unigwe

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Chika Unigwe was born in Nigeria and now lives in Belgium with her husband and four children. She is an award-winning short story writer and the author of two novels, written in Dutch. On Black Sisters' Street was published by Jonathan Cape in 2009.
 
Published April 26, 2011 by Random House. 274 pages
Genres: Education & Reference, Literature & Fiction, History. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for On Black Sisters Street

Kirkus Reviews

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A survivor of wartime atrocities, including rape, she follows Polycarp, a kindly seeming Nigerian soldier, back to Lagos.

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The New York Times

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She makes you feel a wrenching sympathy for Efe’s willingness to lose her virginity to a fat, smelly old man because she hopes he will give her mauve lipstick and “good-quality hair extensions.” When Sisi, newly arrived in Belgium, is greeted with a paper-bag lunch of orange juice, bananas, super...

Apr 29 2011 | Read Full Review of On Black Sisters Street: A Novel

The Guardian

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On Black Sisters' Street by Chika Unigwe Buy it from the Guardian bookshop Search the Guardian bookshop Black Sisters' Street is Zwartezusterstraat, in the middle o...

Sep 11 2010 | Read Full Review of On Black Sisters Street: A Novel

Publishers Weekly

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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 u...

Jan 10 2011 | Read Full Review of On Black Sisters Street: A Novel

Examiner

Readers of On Black Sisters Street will inhabit the world of Sisi and her comrades Efe and Joyce.

May 19 2012 | Read Full Review of On Black Sisters Street: A Novel

Los Angeles Times

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Dreams play a big role in Chika Unigwe's novel, a bleak look at the African immigrant women who turn to prostitution in Europe as a way out of the poverty at home.

Jul 20 2011 | Read Full Review of On Black Sisters Street: A Novel

The Bookbag

On Black Sisters' Street reads like a collection of short stories, with Unigwe giving each woman a living, breathing, believable character and a page-turning tale.

Sep 26 2015 | Read Full Review of On Black Sisters Street: A Novel

The Bookbag

Summary: In Antwerp, three African sex workers mourn the death of sister prostitute, Sisi.

Oct 24 2009 | Read Full Review of On Black Sisters Street: A Novel

Reader Rating for On Black Sisters Street
81%

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