Say You're One of Them by Uwem Akpan

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Synopsis

Uwem Akpan's stunning stories humanize the perils of poverty and violence so piercingly that few readers will feel they've ever encountered Africa so immediately. The eight-year-old narrator of "An Ex-Mas Feast" needs only enough money to buy books and pay fees in order to attend school. Even when his twelve-year-old sister takes to the streets to raise these meager funds, his dream can't be granted. Food comes first. His family lives in a street shanty in Nairobi, Kenya, but their way of both loving and taking advantage of each other strikes a universal chord.

In the second of his stories published in a New Yorker special fiction issue, Akpan takes us far beyond what we thought we knew about the tribal conflict in Rwanda. The story is told by a young girl, who, with her little brother, witnesses the worst possible scenario between parents. They are asked to do the previously unimaginable in order to protect their children. This singular collection will also take the reader inside Nigeria, Benin, and Ethiopia, revealing in beautiful prose the harsh consequences for children of life in Africa.

Akpan's voice is a literary miracle, rendering lives of almost unimaginable deprivation and terror into stories that are nothing short of transcendent. Bonus material included in eBook: an interview with the New Yorker, photos, questions and topics for discussion and song download.

 

About Uwem Akpan

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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.
 
Published June 9, 2008 by Little, Brown and Company. 368 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, Children's Books. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Say You're One of Them

Kirkus Reviews

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The least arresting story is the slight and familiar “What Language Is That?” Their families profess liberal, inclusive attitudes, but a Christian child and her Muslim best friend are prohibited from communicating when rioting breaks out in Addis Ababa, although the girls do find, perhaps briefly...

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The New York Times

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It’s Christmastime in Kenya in “An Ex-Mas Feast,” the first short story in Uwem Akpan’s startling debut collection, “Say You’re One of Them.” The narrator is Jigana, an 8-year-old boy.

Jun 27 2008 | Read Full Review of Say You're One of Them

The New York Times

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The horrors that Akpan writes about here — and almost every story is a catalog of horrors — exist outside the realm of the rational or classifiable.

Jul 27 2008 | Read Full Review of Say You're One of Them

The Guardian

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Say You're One of Them by Uwem Akpan Find this on the Guardian bookshop Search the Guardian bookshop All the stories in Uwem Akpan's debut collection focus on the l...

Mar 08 2009 | Read Full Review of Say You're One of Them

The Guardian

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Say You're One of Them by Uwem Akpan Buy it from the Guardian bookshop Search the Guardian bookshop It's hard to pinpoint the bleakest moment in Akpan's internatio...

Apr 11 2009 | Read Full Review of Say You're One of Them

The Guardian

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Say You're One of Them by Uwem Akpan Buy it from the Guardian bookshop Search the Guardian bookshop These five stories, each set in a different country, reveal the ...

Nov 09 2008 | Read Full Review of Say You're One of Them

The Guardian

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Most writers will insist they do not write about themes or places, but rather about people, and the people in Akpan's stories simply happen to live in Africa - or, more precisely, in a Kenyan slum, an Ethiopian suburb or in Rwanda in 1994.

Jul 05 2008 | Read Full Review of Say You're One of Them

Book Reporter

Uwem Akpan is a Nigerian Jesuit priest and writing teacher living in Zimbabwe, and his stories are garnering much acclaim.

Jan 23 2011 | Read Full Review of Say You're One of Them

Entertainment Weekly

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.

Jun 06 2008 | Read Full Review of Say You're One of Them

Pajiba

However the phrase “Say you’re one of them” or a similar sentiment is invoked at some point in all of the stories and underlines the premise of an “us vs them” mentality and in many of the stories the children’s only hope of survival is by blending with “them” and hiding their otherness.

Feb 25 2009 | Read Full Review of Say You're One of Them

About.com Bestsellers

They are, however, difficult to read one after another because of the weight of the material.ProsAkpan taps into the minds of children to provide a unique perspective.The characters are ones with which readers can relate despite how different their worlds are.These are important stories to be tol...

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Bookmarks Magazine

Janet Maslin Critical Summary Hailed as "a major literary debut" (San Diego Union-Tribune) and "brilliant" (USA Today), Uwem Akpan’s collection Say You’re One of Them fulfills the promise of his 2005 short story, "An Ex-Mas Feast," in the New Yorker.

Jun 01 2008 | Read Full Review of Say You're One of Them

Chicago Tribune

If, in the overly long follow-through, this story with the amazing setup seems to drag a bit, it may be the flaw of the first-book writer who wants to cram everything into a story rather than leave things out.

May 31 2008 | Read Full Review of Say You're One of Them

Oprah.com

Only Uwem Akpan, a Nigerian-born writer and Jesuit priest, could guide us though such desperate terrain, from street slums in Nairobi to war-torn Rwanda, with something like hope in our hands.

Dec 19 2009 | Read Full Review of Say You're One of Them

Oprah.com

His debut collection of stories, Say You're One of Them (Little, Brown), features the most delightful author bio I have ever encountered: "I was born under a palm-wine tree in Ikot Akpan Eda in Ikot Ekpene Diocese in Nigeria.

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