Say You're One of Them

Say You're One of Them

by Uwem Akpan

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Overview

Uwem Akpan's first published short story, "An Ex-mas Feast," appeared in The New Yorker's Debut Fiction issue in 2005. The story's portrait of a family living together in a makeshift shanty in urban Kenya, and their attempts to find gifts of any kind for the impending Christmas holiday, gives a matter-of-fact reality to the most extreme circumstances--and signaled the arrival of a breathtakingly talented writer.

"My Parents' Bedroom" is a Rwandan girl's account of her family's struggles to maintain a facade of normalcy amid unspeakable acts. In "Fat­tening for Gabon," a brother and sister cope with their uncle's attempt to sell them into slavery. "Luxurious Hearses" creates a microcosm of Africa within a busload of refugees and introduces us to a Muslim boy who summons his faith to bear a treacherous ride through Nigeria. "What Language Is That?" reveals the emotional toll of the Christian-Muslim conflict in Ethiopia through the eyes of childhood friends. Every story is a testament to the wisdom and resilience of children, even in the face of the most agonizing situations our planet can offer.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780594731603
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication date: 09/18/2009
Pages: 384
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

Uwem Akpan was born inIkot Akpan Eda in southern Nigeria. After studying philosophy and English at Creighton and Gonzaga universities, he studied theology for three years at theCatholic Universityof Eastern Africa. He was ordained as a Jesuit priest in 2003 and received his MFA in creative writing from theUniversity of Michiganin 2006. "My Parents' Bedroom," a story from hisshort story collection,Say You're One of Them, was one offive short storiesby African writers chosen as finalists for TheCaine Prizefor African Writing 2007.Say You're One of Themwon the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best First Book (Africa Region) 2009 and PEN/Beyond Margins Award 2009, and was finalist for the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction.In 2007, Akpan taught at a Jesuit college inHarare, Zimbabwe.Now he serves atChristthe King Church, Ilasamaja-Lagos,Nigeria.

Read an Excerpt

Say You're One Of Them
Chapter One
An Ex-mas Feast
Now that my eldest sister, Maisha, was twelve, none of us knew how to relate to her anymore. She had never forgiven our parents for not being rich enough to send her to school. She had been behaving like a cat that was going feral: she came home less and less frequently, staying only to change her clothes and give me some money to pass on to our parents. When home, she avoided them as best she could, as if their presence reminded her of too many things in our lives that needed money. Though she would snap at Baba occasionally, she never said anything to Mama. Sometimes Mama went out of her way to provoke her. " Malaya! Whore! You don't even have breasts yet!" she'd say. Maisha would ignore her.
Maisha shared her thoughts with Naema, our ten-year-old sister, more than she did with the rest of us combined, mostly talking about the dos and don'ts of a street girl. Maisha let Naema try on her high heels, showed her how to doll up her face, how to use toothpaste and a brush. She told her to run away from any man who beat her, no matter how much money he offered her, and that she would treat Naema like Mama if she grew up to have too many children. She told Naema that it was better to starve to death than go out with any man without a condom.
When she was at work, though, she ignored Naema, perhaps because Naema reminded her of home or because she didn't want Naema to see that her big sister wasn't as cool and chic as she made herself out to be. She tolerated me more outside than inside. I could chat her up on the pavement no matter what rags I was wearing. An eight-year-old boy wouldn't get in the way whenshe was waiting for a customer. We knew how to pretend we were strangers-just a street kid and a prostitute talking.
Yet our machokosh family was lucky. Unlike most, our street family had stayed together-at least until that Ex-mas season.
The sun had gone down on Ex-mas evening. Bad weather had stormed the seasons out of order, and Nairobi sat in a low flood, the light December rain droning on our tarpaulin roof. I was sitting on the floor of our shack, which stood on a cement slab at the end of an alley, leaning against the back of an old brick shop. Occasional winds swelled the brown polythene walls. The floor was nested with cushions that I had scavenged from a dump on Biashara Street. At night, we rolled up the edge of the tarpaulin to let in the glow of the shop's security lights. A board, which served as our door, lay by the shop wall.

Table of Contents


An Ex-mas Feast     3
Fattening for Gabon     37
What Language Is That?     173
Luxurious Hearses     187
My Parents' Bedroom     323
Afterword     355
Acknowledgments     357

What People are Saying About This

Megan O'Grady

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.
— Vogue

Kim Hubbard

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.
— People

Jeffrey Burke and Craig Seligman

A stupefyingly talented young Nigerian priest. Akpan never flinches from his difficult subjects—poverty, slavery, mass murder—but he has the largeness of soul to make his vision of the terrible transcendent.
— Bloomberg News

Alan Cheuse

An important literary debut.... Juxtaposed against the clarity and revelation in Akpan's prose-as translucent a style as I've read in a long while—we find subjects that nearly render the mind helpless and throw the heart into a hopeless erratic rhythm out of fear, out of pity, out of the shame of being only a few degrees of separation removed from these monstrous modern circumstances...The reader discovers that no hiding place is good enough with these stories battering at your mind and heart.
— Chicago Tribune

Jennifer Reese

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)

Vince Passaro

The humor, the endurance, the horrors and grace-Akpan has captured all of it.... The stories are not only amazing and moving, and imbued with a powerful moral courage-they are also surprisingly expert.... Beautifully constructed, stately in a way that offsets their impoverished scenarios. Akpan wants you to see and feel Africa, its glory and its pain. And you do, which makes this an extraordinary book.
— O Magazine

Margo Hammond & Ellen Heltzel

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.
— Minneapolis Star Tribune

Susan Straight

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.
— Washington Post Book World (front page review)

Sherryl Connelly

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

June Sawyers

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.
— San Francisco Chronicle

Patrik Henry Bass

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

John Freeman

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.
— Cleveland Plain-Dealer

Lisa Shea

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

John Marshall

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

Maureen Corrigan

Akpan's brilliance is to present a brutal subject through the bewildered, resolutely chipper voice of children...All five of these stories are electrifying.
— NPR's "Fresh Air"

Adelle Waldman

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.
— Christian Science Monitor

Deirdre Donahue

brilliant...an extraordinary portrait of modern Africa... [Akpan]...
is an important and gifted writer who should be read.
— USA Today

Interviews

A Message from the Author
I was born under a palm-wine tree in Ikot Akpan Eda in Ikot Ekpene Diocese in Nigeria. I was inspired to write by the people who sit around my village church to share palm wine after Sunday Mass, by the Bible and by the humor and endurance of the poor.

\ \ My grandfather was one of those who brought the Catholic Church to our village. I was ordained as a Jesuit priest in 2003, and I like to celebrate the sacraments for my fellow villagers. Some of them have no problem stopping me in the road and asking for confession!

\ \ I have very fond memories of my childhood in my village, where everybody knows everybody, and all my paternal uncles still live together in one big compound.

\ \ When I was growing up, my mother told me folktales and got me and my three brothers to read a lot. I became a fiction writer during my seminary days. I wrote at night, when the community computers were free. Computer viruses ate much of my work. Finally, my friend Wes Harris believed in me enough to get me a laptop. This saved me from the despair of losing my stories and made me begin to see God again in the seminary. The stories on that first laptop are the core of Say You’re One of Them. I received my MFA in creative writing from the University of Michigan in 2006.

\ \ I always look forward to visiting my village. No matter how high the bird flies, its legs still face the earth. When I get back to Ikot Akpan Eda, my people and I will celebrate this book in our own way -- with lots of tall tales, spontaneous prayers and palm wine! --Uwem Akpan

Customer Reviews

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Say You're One of Them 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 204 reviews.
Cheryl_Foster More than 1 year ago
I read this book last week and wasn't surprised to see it selected to Oprah's book club, simply because it's a wonderful and unusual book that is deeply touching. SAY YOU'RE ONE OF THEM is a book of five short stories written by Uwem Akpan. All of the stories are set in Africa and are told from a child's perspective. They deal with such topics as slavery, religious conflict, genocide and poverty. These are stories of love and sacrifice. They are stories of compassion and confusion. They make you wonder how children can grow up and survive under such circumstances. Some of the stories will leave you feeling numb. The story that had the biggest impact on me was My Parent's Bedroom. It's the story of Monique, a young girl living in Rwanda with her Tutsi mother and her Hutu father. There is conflict between the two tribes, which Monique and her brother Jean don't understand. It all comes to a horrifying ending for their family when their mother makes the ultimate sacrifice. I can't describe the horror I felt at the end of this story. I enjoyed SAY YOU'RE ONE OF THEM and think it's a significant book, but I found some of the dialogue very difficult to read. I think it would have been even harder if I didn't know some French. There were times when I had to read sentences several times to extract their meaning. Here's an example of dialogue, chosen at random: "My mama no be like dat," Jubril argued. "I say I dey come. I go join una now now. Ah ah, no vex now. Come, pollow me go fark dis cows, and I go join." This book isn't a fast read, but I think it's an important one. The title of the book comes from the fact that children in Africa sometimes have to deny their identity and say they're one of "them" (another tribe or religion) in order to survive. You will be a different person after you've read this book. This week I'm reading EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE 2.0, which is also an incredible book that is having a HUGE impact upon me personally. If you have any interest in personal development, I recommend buying both books. Now I just need to figure out what I'm going to read next week!
iluvvideo More than 1 year ago
This is a truly eye opening collection of stories, each from a child's perspective, about issues of survival in today's Africa. While the stories are set in a few countries, they don't try to single any one out in particular. Nor are the people all poor, uneducated and oppressed. The stories encompass a diverse Africa, more unique and real than I knew. I was drawn into many situations that I found myself overwhelmed at what was required just to survive, let alone triumph over the adversities. The writing is eloquent in giving a voice to an Africa unseen by most of the world outside her borders. It made each story live beyond just facts on a page. These things were happening to people I felt close to, and cared about. Take the plunge. Read this book. I'm sure you'll remember it long after you finish
JohnElliott More than 1 year ago
Akpan reveals the atrocities that take place in Africa, mostly Nigeria, and the fate of children, the religious and tribal battles and bloodshed, the ignorance and corruption, and the negative effects perpetrated by big corporations on the people and how little the people matter to these big companies. It is almost unbelievable. In fact one story left me so distraught that I awoke two nights in a row with nightmares. Recently, the bloodshed in Jos, Nigeria, between two religious groups, mirrored a story in the book. Everyone loses, and the children lose the most.
1louise1 More than 1 year ago
This isn't my usual choice of reading, but I'm glad Oprah suggested it. It certainly is an eye-opener, revealing the horrors of every day living other parts of the world must endure just to survive! We must count our blessings every day for all we have. This isn't one I will reread but I'm glad I read it. I have suggestions below on ones that I learned a lot from, are totally heartwarming and I will reread these because of the way they made me feel.
Guest More than 1 year ago
'Fiction that gives the children of Africa a voice' is what this book is called. These are voices that are difficult to listen to from our sheltered lives. This book is for anyone who ever said, 'Why didn't I ever hear about this?, when an injustice is publicized.
momoftwinsMM More than 1 year ago
A great piece of literature, but it is not for the faint of heart. The stories are well written, and gives us just a glimpse of the travesties that children in Africa have had to face due to poverty & war from the perspective of a child. In all honestly, I just wanted to finish the book because it was too sad, and with each story, I kept anticipating that something bad was going to happen. My stomach was in knots. If you want an honest read, this is for you. If you're looking for a good piece of fiction to escape, I would suggest you look for something else.
BillPilgrim More than 1 year ago
I got this book out of the library when I read on line that Oprah was scheduled to announce her next book club selection in a few weeks, and it looked like it was going to be this one, based on some clues that had been revealed. It was on the shelf in Hyde Park. When I tried to renew it after she announced it on her show, there were already several holds waiting, so I had to finish it in time to return. It consists of five short stories that take place in different countries in Africa. The are all focused on children and the effect that the dire circumstances of their life affect them. The first story, "An Ex-Mas Feast" takes place in Nairobi, Kenya. It is 32 pages long. The story revolves around a ten year old boy whose family is living in extreme poverty. His older sister is twelve and is earning money as a prostitute, selling herself to Western tourists. He parents encourage this. Next is "Fattening for Gabon," a 134 page story about two children who are going to be sold by their uncle and taken to Gabon. We see at the beginning of the story how the children are prepared for this in a way that convinces them that this is a good thing. "What Language is That?" is the shortest story at only 12 pages. It is about two girls in Ethiopia who are best friends until their religious differences make that impossible to continue. "Luxurious Hearses" is 134 pages. A teen-age boy who is from a mixed Christian-Muslim marriage has to flee from the mostly Muslim north of Nigeria to the mostly Christian south. He grew up in the north and was raised Muslim. But, he was facing attack from his former friends in the north because of his Christian heritage. He travels to the south, heading to his Christian father's village, on a bus filled with Christians who are also fleeing for their own protection, and he has to hide the fact that he is Muslim from them. "My Parents' Bedroom" is about a young girl in Rwanda, who is from a mixed Hutu-Tutsi marriage during the Hutu on Tutsi genocide that occurred there. It is another very short tale, only 30 pages. Of course, I was already aware of how desperate the situation is for so many in Africa, due to wars and other conflicts, poverty, disease, etc. The first story of the collection was so depressing, that I almost stopped reading the book. There is no hope in any of these stories, and you will feel greatly for the characters. Nothing much good happens in their lives. The stories will deeply affect you though.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Don't select this book based on the comments on the cover. It does portray the resiliency of youth and it is very worthwhile to be aware of the great troubles children face in various African countries, but each story ends with very little hope. The cover seems to suggest something uplifting. I did not find that to be the case at all. It certainly made me want to sponsor children in developing countries or send donations to groups working with underprivileged children, but so many stories with tragic endings felt like endless emotional punches.
WrldTraveler More than 1 year ago
I did not know this was a collection of 5 stories when I purchased the book, but I have been pleasantly surprised. I have visited some of the places mentioned in the stories and I remember the setting. But this opened my eyes as to what happens behind closed doors in some homes. The story is written from the perspecitve of children and their hope and innocence makes it eaier for you to absorb the stories of travesties committed against children.
KJG More than 1 year ago
Interesting story with a gripping plot. A little dry at times but definitely worth the read.
bellakat75 More than 1 year ago
These stories are an accurate portrayal of life in a third world country.
morgan4peace More than 1 year ago
This book can be taken as just a great story, as it is fictional. Or it can be taken as a message about many untold stories going on in Africa right now. The stories in this book are all told from a child's perspective, giving it an interesting and touching voice. Although the stories are fictional, they closely resemble problems and events in many countries in Africa. I would recommend this book for both people who are familiar with these problems and people that would be interested in learning through a well-written fiction. By the end of the story, your heart really goes out to these characters and everything they represent. The only thing that becomes difficult about this book is that occasionally words in the child's language are used in place of the English word without much explanation of what it means.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
While I found this book uncomfortable to read most of the time, it is very original in format and wonderfully written. The treatment of children in our world is often abhorent and though the subject matter is difficult, it is important for all of humanity to be reminded or informed of what is happening to our precious children and the forces creating these terrible circumstances.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book makes you think and react to incidents you probably are not accustomed to hearing, seeing or even knowing exist. It takes your emotions to the limits and shows the cruelty of mankind and the gentle retort of a child who is trying to make sense of some of the most tragic situations one can find themselves faced in life. It shows the willingness of children to forgive the worst of situations and their capacity to love beyond what adults can make them endure.
bridget3420 More than 1 year ago
I've never had to worry about not having food or shelter. I never had to wonder whether or not I would be able to attend school. These are some things that have always been an automatic in my life. I find that a lot of people take the most simple things for granted, me included. I don't know what I would do if I were to walk in someone else's shoes. One of the main reasons I love books is because it gives you a chance to be someone else. At least until you turn the last page. Part of the reason that I am as strong as I am, is because reading gives me strength. This book/audiobook, cannot be read/heard without feeling a sense of empowerment. As you've probably guessed, I really enjoyed this.
mlholly More than 1 year ago
I found this book of short stories to be excellent! I could feel the emotions of the characters and my interest was held throughout all five stories. I read this book over a couple of days and I couldn't believe it was over when I finished.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Uwem Akpan manages to make human, visual and real characters whose lives are sordid, awful, immoral etc., at least in our western, safe-at-home picture window way of thinking. The stories of child slavery, prostitution etc., are told in a voice that simply tells us what the people are doing and seeing, often leaving it to us to decide what they might be feeling. After all it is what the characters feel that matters as we are so often led by our own feelings of the circumstances presented in a story. Here, I can really see through the eyes of the children and can leave my own ego out of it. It is a beautiful way of writing, story-telling.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Each story ended with no regards for the reader. The stories were so well written that the ending always caught you off guard that you had to read it over again to make sure you actually read it correctly. Great book, sad stories.
nfmgirl2 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was a very brief audiobook, being only 3 CDs long, with one story per CD. Of course, my copy does say "Unabridged Selections: 3 Stories on 3 CDs read by Robin Miles and Dion Graham". So it seems that this is not the complete book, but only 3 of the stories from the book.The first story was the most powerful, told from the perspective of a young girl in Rwanda living through the genocidal slaughter of the Tutsi by Hutu members- a slaughter that turned family members and friends and neighbors against one another. This story drew me in, and the characters came alive for me. I loved this story, in a tragic and broken and heart-wrenching sort of way.The second CD contained the story of a destitute Kenyan family living in shanty town, trying to gather presents for "X-Mas" (it was odd hearing them continually calling it "X-Mas" and never "Christmas"). This was my least favorite of the three stories.The final CD consisted of the story of two young girls, best friends for years, torn apart by the religious differences of their parents. The third CD ends with an interview with the good-natured author.These stories were brought to life by two narrators with authentic African accents, breathing life into the characters. As I've said before, I loved the first story, and loved the narration.This was a quick audiobook, allowing me to listen through it in just a few hours, even though I had my attention towards the book continually interrupted by my workday. If all of the stories had been as good as the first one, this book would have been fantastic, but as it was the book was "okay". It had its moments.
bridget3420 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I've never had to worry about not having food or shelter. I never had to wonder whether or not I would be able to attend school. These are some things that have always been an automatic in my life. I find that a lot of people take the most simple things for granted, me included. I don't know what I would do if I were to walk in someone else's shoes. One of the main reasons I love books is because it gives you a chance to be someone else. At least until you turn the last page. Part of the reason that I am as strong as I am, is because reading gives me strength. This book/audiobook, cannot be read/heard without feeling a sense of empowerment. As you've probably guessed, I really enjoyed this.
rocketjk on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Each one of these stories is a dagger through the heart. The stories in this collection are all seen through the eyes of children, and each story illuminates in gripping and heartbreaking detail and intensity the violence, strife and economic struggles to be found throughout Africa. Each story takes place in a different country, and through the eyes of the child protagonists, we are taken into the heart of poverty, child slavery and cold-blooded inter-tribal and inter-religion slaughter. The writing is stunning, bringing each character and each tragic situation fully alive in all its inhuman, but also human, intensity. This is a very rough book, but, I think, an essential one. Highest possible rating.
MaryC22 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A powerful collection of short stories told through the eyes of children living in different countries in Africa. Each story left me speechless. In America, where we can find hope if we are looking, it's hard to imagine a place that is filled with such hopelessness. But in the face of such adversity all children are able to carve out a place for joy. Even if you only read one or two stories, you'll come away with a better sense of the struggles that exist in the far away continent of Africa.
BillPilgrim on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I got this book out of the library when I read on line that Oprah was scheduled to announce her next book club selection in a few weeks, and it looked like it was going to be this one, based on some clues that had been revealed. It was on the shelf in my local library. When I tried to renew it after she announced it as the selection on her show last week, there were already several holds waiting, so I had to finish it in time to return it on the initial due date.It consists of five short stories that take place in different countries in Africa. The are all focused on children and the effect that the dire circumstances of their life affect them. The first story, ¿An Ex-Mas Feast¿ takes place in Nairobi, Kenya. It is 32 pages long. The story revolves around a ten year old boy whose family is living in extreme poverty. His older sister is twelve and is earning money as a prostitute, selling herself to Western tourists. He parents encourage this. Next is ¿Fattening for Gabon,¿ a 134 page story about two children who are going to be sold by their uncle and taken to Gabon. We see at the beginning of the story how the children are prepared for this in a way that convinces them that this is a good thing.¿What Language is That?¿ is the shortest story at only 12 pages. It is about two girls in Ethiopia who are best friends until their religious differences make that impossible to continue.¿Luxurious Hearses¿ is 134 pages. A teen-age boy who is from a mixed Christian-Muslim marriage has to flee from the mostly Muslim north of Nigeria to the mostly Christian south. He grew up in the north and was raised Muslim. But, he was facing attack from his former friends in the north because of his Christian heritage. He travels to the south, heading to his Christian father's village, on a bus filled with Christians who are also fleeing for their own protection, and he has to hide the fact that he is Muslim from them.¿My Parents' Bedroom¿ is about a young girl in Rwanda, who is from a mixed Hutu-Tutsi marriage during the Hutu on Tutsi genocide that occurred there. It is another very short tale, only 30 pages.Of course, I was already aware of how desperate the situation is for so many in Africa, due to wars and other conflicts, poverty, disease, etc. The first story of the collection was so depressing, that I almost stopped reading the book. There is no hope in any of these stories, and you will feel greatly for the characters. Nothing much good happens in their lives. The stories will deeply affect you though.
TrishNYC on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Say you're one of them is a compilation of short stories that tackles the ills facing Africa. Where this book differs from many other books is that it presents Africa from the perspective of children in different perilous circumstances from homelessness, prostitution, genocide, slavery etc. It is a powerful book that speaks to the state of childhood and the destruction of innocence.The title of the book derives from the instructions given by a mother to her daughter just before the genocidal mob arrives at their house. The daughter is half Hutu(her father) and half Tutsi(her mother). As her mother tries to figure out how to escape, she wants her child protected from the mob and leaves this instruction in the hopes that that a Hutu affiliation will save them.There is also the story of two siblings sent to live with an uncle as their parents die of AIDS. At first all is going well but suddenly their uncle seems to be flush with cash. He buys a new motorcycle and holds an elaborate party in his church to celebrate his new fortune. But this fortune comes at a price, one that the children will soon discover involves them.There is also a story of child prostitution with one child sacrificing her body to provide money for her family and get an education for her brother. Another story documents the journey of a sixteen year old boy as he tries to flee northern Nigeria when his own people turn on him. He gets on a bus packed with mostly southerners who are themselves fleeing and hopes to join his southern family who he has never met. He tries to conceal his northern identity by remaining silent most of the time but once in a while finds himself on the verge of discovery. As he interacts and observes his fellow passengers, he realizes how lost he is in his own country. The product of an inter tribal marriage between a northerner and a southerner, he has spent most of his life in the north and has been a Muslim for most of his life. With the outbreak of religious and ethnic violence, he tries to flee the north in hopes of joining his southern family where he hopes he may be shielded from the violence.The stories enclosed are all heart breaking. Genocide, poverty, war etc are all sad facts but when they are happening to children, they are even sadder. Many times as I read, I found myself getting annoyed at the actions taken by the main characters. But then I had to remind myself, they are children. They are acting as children ought and are naive as to certain evils in the world. They want to trust authority figures, they want to hang on to a kind face but what happens when the authorities betray you and the kind face hides a monster?The book did tend to get long winded at times but I think that is because it is told from the perspective of children who many times will document everything both relevant and irrelevant. Also as I read, I noticed that there were a lot of African phrases, local patois and idioms thrown. I was left wondering how much a person who is unfamiliar with Africa, African speech and dialects will grasp the full meaning and importance of what is transpiring. Personally I believe that this may in fact hinder the full enjoyment of the book for someone without the aforementioned knowledge but I could be wrong.
bermudaonion on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Say You¿re One of Them is a book of five short stories written by Uwem Akpan. All of the stories are set in Africa and are told from a child¿s perspective. They deal with such topics as slavery, religious conflict, genocide and poverty. These are stories of love and sacrifice. They are stories of compassion and confusion. They make you wonder how children can grow up and survive under such circumstances. Some of the stories will leave you feeling numb.The story that had the biggest impact on me was My Parent¿s Bedroom. It¿s the story of Monique, a young girl living in Rwanda with her Tutsi mother and her Hutu father. There is conflict between the two tribes, which Monique and her brother Jean don¿t understand. It all comes to a horrifying ending for their family when their mother makes the ultimate sacrifice. I can¿t describe the horror I felt at the end of this story.I enjoyed Say You¿re One of Them and think it¿s a significant book, but I found some of the dialogue very difficult to read. I think it would have been even harder if I didn¿t know some French. There were times when I had to read sentences several times to extract their meaning. Here¿s an example of dialogue, chosen at random:¿My mama no be like dat,¿ Jubril argued. ¿I say I dey come. I go join una now now. Ah ah, no vex now. Come, pollow me go fark dis cows, and I go join.¿This book isn¿t a fast read, but I think it¿s an important one. The title of the book comes from the fact that children in Africa sometimes have to deny their identity and say they¿re one of ¿them¿ (another tribe or religion) in order to survive. You will be a different person after you¿ve read this book.