[ Free Audible ] Say You're One of ThemAuthor Uwem Akpan – Autowiringdiagram.co

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


10 thoughts on “Say You're One of Them

  1. says:

    It s difficult to justify giving this book five stars as there are so many problems with it But to give it less would not acknowledge that its flaws and difficulties are outweighed by how it opens your eyes, gives you clear vision into things you didn t even know you d been shortsighted about before.Firstly, two of the stories are novellas of considerable length and extremely difficult to read This is because, in an effort to give local flavour to the dialogue, letters are transposed, French words, local words and words that seem to have no meaning but are used for emphasis pepper the text It does actually add to book, but it means its a slow read and there is no natural rhythm to the speech.Secondly, the stories in the novellas unfold very slowly indeed Almost like a big wave coming that you expect to crest and collapse in a spume of foaming water but instead just rolls over itself smoothly Not exactly an anti climax, just not what you expected.Thirdly, there is a lack of emotional involvement in events so horrific they demand a reaction, you want to feel the horror of the author but no, he is detached.So why five stars Because it is part of the uniqueness of the book that it is written in such a different way A conventional rendering of the stories that are all aspects of children s experience of tribal and religious wars in the 90s, would not have given us the same involved and emotional experience it s for us to be part of it and to feel it, not just to read it.I often read in people s reviews that they cried at the end of the book, well I usually take that with a pinch of salt, but with this book, it would be difficult not to feel that sting behind your eyes with the ending of the last story It s also well worth reading the very short interview with the author included at the end It is, in short, a brilliant book that will give you something of the reality of children in those circumstances that all the documentaries in the world won t Those are stories filmed and reported from a Western, foreign point of view whereas the book is the African experience of those events best told as stories by an author who lived through those devastating and murderous times.


  2. says:

    I m so angry with this book I could spit I can t even rate it, I m so angry with it.I certainly would never recommend it even though I think everyone should read it.It is an important book to read.I m glad I read it even though it was the most horrific, awful, despairing, bleak, pessimistic, horrific, sad thing I ve read sinceever.Glad is not the right word not at all the right word All those other words are right.5 amazing 1 did not like it Yes Both.You can t like this how can anyone LIKE this It s like poverty porn it ended up numbing me, angering me, leaving me feeling as exploited as the children crying in the sand.I feel myself blaming the author for showing me these things, in the way that he has.It s not that I don t know they exist It s not like he s shaming me as an individual, as a colonizer, as a slave trader, as an INGO worker, as a person living in a democracy, as a person who consumes than my share of oil, of food, of land, of air, as He s not shaming me for my ignorance, or blaming me for my involvement Although all of that simmers below the surface here.There is plenty of shame and blame to go around, but that is not Akpan s thing.Where one feels oneself as a reader feeling them and placing them is important.Especially when you feel yourself blaming the victims.Yeah Sit with that a whileI don t know that others will react with the shame blame response Maybe not This incredible tangle of emotions, the complexity of the shifting, illogical world within the stories, the convoluted politics, religion and social structures the real world where these children and women and men live and die horribly, horribly, horribly is perhaps best exemplified and explored in Luxurious Hearses I feel myself coming out of a swirl of emotions as I start to apply the logic of literary analysis here And I don t want to do that right now, so.Let me just say what Akpan is doing, how he is doing it is as important as the stories he is telling, which are true stories Fictionalized, obviously, but true Choosing to tell these stories through children s eyes is perhaps the most cold blooded authorial choice I think I ve ever witnessed.Each story is unrelenting in its despair, its hopelessness There are not enough synonyms for devastating to describe each story s ending This book brutalizes and traumatizes its readers as a way of demonstrating the brutality and trauma its characters have experienced are experiencing.For every reviewer who quibbles with the difficulty of the dialect, or the unevenness of the story length, or Oprah, I invite you to think about why that kind of analysis was comforting to you why is your focus there Where would your focus be if it wasn t there That is what I am thinking about.I am thinking about why and how.And I am feeling as helpless and hopeless in response to a piece of literature as it is possible to feel.And that is absolutely breathtaking in what it says about this book of short stories.And that is why I am rating it 5 stars.And that is why you should read it but only if you feel you can.


  3. says:

    Stories of abused and battered children in Africa are legion, but few cut as close to the bone as this collection by Uwem Akpan His five tales, two of which are novella length, are told with the uninhibited, truth filled voices of the children involved Each one takes place in a different country but the theme is universal the biggest challenge faced by children in Africa is staying alive.Akpan, a Jesuit priest with an MFA in creative writing from the University of Michigan, piles on details available only to one intimately familiar with the lives described Be forewarned some of those details are gruesome to the point of causing distress, which I am sure was his intent The imagery can range from the droll, like the description of the motorbike loaded with five people, various fruits and vegetables, a rooster and five rolls of toilet paper in Fattening for Gabon, to the most horrific sight a child can see, a parental bloodbath, in My Parents Bedroom This story ends the book and is the source of the title Say you re one of them, the command given by a desperate Rwandan Tutsi mother to her Hutu fathered child as machete wielding killers approach.Various dialects are used masterfully to both reveal characters and set scenes The jargon, slang, and foreign phrases may be off putting to some readers, but little meaning is lost when the dialogue is read in full context Quite frankly, the only time many readers can bear to imagine events like those in the book is when they take place on foreign shores We can be sickened and outraged by horrors on another continent the same happenings across the street from where we live would paralyze us with fright Fortunately, Akpan s familiarity with African poetry infuses much of the writing, giving the book a lyrical tone that keeps the violent passages from slipping into slasher movie territory As a person who has photographed and written about Africa extensively, I must confess I was not shocked by Akpan s stories Unfortunately, tales like them are all too familiar to me I was deeply moved by his dramatic intensity, however, and highly appreciative of his ability to put the reader inside the children s lives.


  4. says:

    This isn t a work to which I can assign stars it would be like ranking tourist visits to concentration camps this one was interesting, that one was intact, the other had the best museum shop, when in fact they are all horrific and unforgettable To further the analogy, reading Uwem Akpan was like reading Elie Wiesel devastating and heartbreaking, with details as vivid and palpable as yesterday The difference is that decades of history and a Western world romance with WWII have almost softened the edges of one of the world s most shameful periods with Apkan s work we are witnessing a Holocaust of poverty, corruption and crime that is occurring at this very moment I can t say I am glad that I read this It left me bereft and empty But I won t soon forget it It brought back the smells, sights, sounds of my time in Chad without any of the joy and hope that we are dared ourselves to feel in the presence of true survivors.


  5. says:

    This book brought me to tears, multiple times I actually had to put a little bit of distance in between finishing it and reviewing it The author, Uwem Akpan, wrote these stories to draw attention to the children of Africa and the struggles they face It is tempting to dismiss it as merely fiction, to reassure myself that people surely do not live this way, but I know too much of the reality to be able to do so The stories themselves are fiction of course, but pull from very real events I wouldn t recommend it to everyone Be prepared these are heavy.Story by story, may contain spoilers The Ex Mas Feast This takes place in a Nairobi shantytown, where a family tries to plan for holidays when they don t have money for food Chemicals for sniffing are given as gifts instead My younger sister went to Nairobi to visit with missionary friends of the family a few years back, and I was reminded of her photos image error


  6. says:

    I decided to read this book because of popular review People loved it Time loved it Essence loved it Entertainment Weekly loved it Maybe I should have checked my sources all owned by Time Inc duh but I figured that a book generating this much positive press would be worth reading.I won t go back on this opinion it was worth reading It was as about worth reading as most other books I have read nothing spectacular, but not a waste of my time, either What seemed wasteful in Akpan s book was the way that the lengthiest stories were the least effective Perhaps it was their length that diluted them perhaps if they had been shortened to the size and style of the stories that impacted me the most, that left me what felt like a taste of experience or shock, they would have felt like less of a chore to read.On the positive end, the longer stories gave me of a sense of the character narrating them Fattening for Gabon and Luxurious Hearses are both 136 pages, and I had the clearest pictures of Kotchikpa and Jubril respectively by the end of each of their stories This is only logical, however, since at the end of a full length novel, you fully expect to know the characters, or else you will have lost interest by page 150 I also felt I understood Jigana, the eldest son and narrator in An Ex mas Feast quite well despite its shorter 34 page length This is probably because the story did not attempt to accomplish much aside from depicting family dymanics, and told from a very distinctive point of view, this can create a story in and of itself.My favorite story was the book s title story, My Parents Bedroom, in which Monique s mother tells her, When they ask, say you re one of them For someone like me who finds titling works of writing incredibly hard, I found this a stroke of brilliance The title fits the story collection perfectly Meanwhile, this story had the most impact on me, not just because of its violence the other stories certainly contained violence but because of the narrator s ability to withhold understanding of what was occurring around her so that I, the reader, also did not know until she had figured it out And what she cannot understand, I cannot understand, as if I am her age, living inside of her Usually I hate being confused at the actions of other characters in the story But here, not knowing only makes sense, and it makes the story come alive.Short stories are a tough genre, and Akpan does indeed deserve acolades for his endeavors I just need to remember, in the future, not to read books on recommendation from the press I am almost always, in some capacity or other, disappointed.


  7. says:

    Uwem Akpan graphically portrays horrendous conditions in several African countries child trafficking prostitution rape murder, religious conflict Sharia mandated amputations starvation etc These stories are no doubt grounded in fact, but two defects in the collection detract from its potential power First, the various narrators describe terrible circumstances in such a detached reportorial, matter of fact way that the lack of emotional engagement has the unfortunate effect of disengaging the reader as well Second, whatever authorial talent Akpan possesses lies in short stories, but two of the pieces in this volume are far too long 130 pages or so , and could be cut drastically without compromising the shape of the work These two criticisms are related Combine a detached narrative with a prolix tale and you get a concoction in which the end can t come soon enough If you want to sample Akpan s work and many people will surely be doing so now that Oprah has blessed it try the three short stories in this book An Ex mas Feast , What Language is That , and My Parents Bedroom.


  8. says:

    I think the point of the book was to leave you unsettled, to make you feel and empathize with characters in which our western culture individuals will probably never meet I absolutely love books that dive into other cultures, religions and social systems I love Africa and used to believe my calling in life was to minister to HIV AIDS orphans, so I greatly educated myself and began writing every paper and project I could on the injustices engulfing Africa But this book to me, was a major disappointment.I was left unsettled, angry and disappointed The book was pure hopelessness, where everyone is miserable, unhappy, killing and raping one another I am not ignorant to the injustices that have plagued Africa s history and continue on, but I am also a believer that their cultures and people are not hopeless and miserable I know many probably disagree, but his choice to write in locale dialect was absolutely pointless because he didn t provide the reader with enough to understand the dialogue taking place which further confused the reader as to what was going on All of the dialogue is like this You dey trop intelligent for ton age A no flin nu ganji You remember well, ah non, you cannot just tell everybody about your plans, you know 68 N ma plon we ya Fofo Kpee fumed at me How come ta soeur dey behave better dan you egbe, Kotchikpa 92 No big difference de between omennoto le Naked people nulopo lo we ye yinpartout 117 Dis Igbo feofle, said another, dis delta feofle, dis Yoruba feofle, de whole menace prom soud, all of dem must die 259 I completely agree that using the flavor of the languages and using locale dialect to interject throughout stories can add depth and dimensions and help color that story better But Akpan s use was too much and obnoxious making the 360 page book beyond frusturating and difficult to read becuase not only do you not understand what words are trying to be sounded out but you have no clue what is going on in the story which to makes it absolutely pointless.One of my biggest disappointments with Akpan s writing style is his choice in telling the parts of the stories that he did The first story I have no real recollection of because I was so lost with the language The second story, I got very into and was very interested Akpan built up Feasting for Gablin and began building the story to this climax that he never reached The story just ends and all the crap he used to fill in the beginning of the story seems like such a waste to just go on to the next one What Language is That Starts, ends and moves to the fourth story, Luxurious Hearses This fourth book is maybe the reason for my overall and complete disappointment and decision that this book was a waste of time It is the longest of all five stories and goes absolutely no where The dialogue is repetive, confusing and just goes in circles, I read the first 90 pages of it before deciding it was waste of my time and moved to the final book The final book, My Parents Bedroom, is the only book of any depth or substance but ends just as hopeless as the previous stories Never been so disappointed with a book I was truly excited about reading Definitely a waste of time.


  9. says:

    Say You re One of Them by Uwem Akpan Tragic, frustrating, majestic, bewildering are all words I would use to describe this short story collection I have never read so many sad tales that did not come out of Russian literature This collection is breathtaking in so many ways that mere words do no justice Akpan is a true artist that paints with words a world so tragically wrong that it bothers you to your core To know that such a world exists shames us all Yet the writing is so beautiful that you realize that you are reading great literature Uwem Akpan is a Jesuit Priest and an obvious observer of the conflicts that ensnare his country and continent This work will move you to tears, but there are so many deeply good people that you come away with hope for the future and hope that Akpan writes even stories It would be a shame for his talents to go to waste He is a master storyteller and there simply needs to be work of this caliber available The short story format has seen better days, too many low rent talent and not enough avenues for the works to be exposed, it is rare to see such a glaring amount of talent in the format from a new writer I hope that this collection can revive the format that has fallen on hard times as of late.


  10. says:

    This cover has one of the most beautiful photos I kept seeing it in the bookshop, picking it up and dithering but ultimately putting it down again In the end, a few people on Goodreads got me interested in it they were talking about how it was the latest book in Oprah s book club but that they d read the sample story and it was so depressing and they didn t want to read something that upset them.That actually made me want to read it I want to be confronted, to be challenged, to be emotionally involved, to be taken out of my comfort zone, to learn something new, to experience something different Sometimes I want a fun story, or a romantic one, and that s fine too But I also thirst to have my intellect engaged, and to explore a culture, a way of life, an attitude or understanding, different from my own And, even though I haven t yet read many, I love hearing stories set in Africa, fiction or nonfiction Maybe it s a primitive part of my subconscious that centuries of Anglo heritage hasn t quite subsumed, but I feel drawn to this land of human origins, to where it all began Africa and the Middle East In a way, aren t they everyone s ancestors Aren t their cultures and beliefs everyone s heritage And aren t their problems the concern of us all not least because in many ways our western lands have caused some of them I feel that if a book is confrontational, upsetting even, that makes it important to read To shut yourself off from negative experiences is detrimental, not just to yourself and the development of your world view, but on a collective scale to the world itself.This collection of five stories three short stories and two novellas are set in Nigeria, Benin, Kenya, Rwanda, Ethiopia, revolve around the experiences of children from different socio economic, cultural and religious backgrounds, and show how universal a tragedy is their lot, and the lot of all their people, but especially how the things adults do to each other effect children.The first story, An Ex mas Feast , is set in a shanty in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya There are street children and then there are street gangs eight year old Jigana is a street child living with his street family in a tin hovel, sniffing glue to keep the hunger at bay They re all saving so he can go back to school, including his oldest sister Maisha who is selling herself on the streets to rich white men Jigana loves Maisha and would rather join a street gang than see her become a full time prostitute The story goes back and forth between the present, Christmas, written in present tense and bits from previous days, written in past tense Their dialect is a hodgepodge of their native one and English, and can make it an effort to read Sometimes I don t know if something is meant literally or not I m not even sure if Jigana and Maisha and Naema, Baby and the twins are even related to the ones they call Mama and Bapa I m not sure but I think not, except for the authority Mama and Bapa have On the other hand, it s understandable that these children would want to have a family, a home, somewhere they can return to and belong if they don t actually have one, they create one But again, I m not sure.Akpan wrote the story from Jigana s first person perspective, and he is wise for his age that kind of maturity that comes from having no real chance to be a real child The sense of distance and coldness that infects the prose works in this particular story, saving it from becoming melodramatic and indulgent In Fattening for Gabon , two small children are being cared for by their uncle, Fofo Kpee Fofo meaning uncle , because their parents are dying of AIDs, in his small tin shack by the coast in Benin Fofo Kpee makes his living ferrying people across the border into Nigeria, and picking coconuts He quite possibly has some serious debt, because he makes a deal with a corrupt immigration official who he calls Big Guy, to sell the children to child slavers in Gabon At first, Kotchikpa and his little sister Yewa are excited, and eagerly learn their lines in order to go over the border, while Fofo Kpee becomes almost paranoid about the deal Soon his guilt sees him try to flee with the children, but escape is clearly not an option.Reflecting the various colonial influences, the characters speak a mishmash of their native tongue, French and English, and at times it was even harder to read than the first story Yet even with the unfamiliar native words sprinkled through their speech, you could still follow what they were saying Here the distance inherent in the prose made it harder to get into the story that and the increasing amount of detail present, though it does allow the story to focus on the inner heart and mind without the burden of plot As with the other long story, Luxurious Hearses , not a lot happens it s all in the details, and the interactions of the characters But even though the story is written in past tense by Kotchikpa, it s too unemotional, too mature a voice Yewa, who s only about six, feels like a real child Kotchikpa is old enough to start seeing things differently, but he s on the cusp That was a subtle distinction, and yet and yet the distance created a coldness that made it hard for me to really sympathise, to really invest myself in the story It could have been much shorter.After the slow, lengthy story about child trafficking, the third is so short it feels over before it s even begun Set in Ethiopia, What Language is That feels like filler, like playing Danger Mouse to fill the gap between Doctor Who and Gardening Australia on the ABC It s about two six year old girls from rich families who live across the street from each other and are best friends until religious fighting in the streets forces their parents to prohibit their friendship because Selam is Muslim and the narrator is Christian In their innocent, childlike way, they can t see that it should make a difference.Because this story is written in present second person voice you instead of I , after the present tense of An Ex mas Feast and the past tense of Fattening for Gabon , it makes the book start to read like an amateur writer s notebook of experimentation Yes, there are many ways to write a story, but that doesn t mean you should use it just because it exists and you want to try it It has to work for the story, and second person rarely works It aims for a universal voice, to create a common feeling, to involve the reader as protagonist but often it s just unsettling, creepy or alienating I m not sold on it working in this particular story In a way, it did, but I can t shake off this image of a writer who doesn t understand the less is adage.The fourth story, Luxurious Hearses , is the longest and the most painful to read simply because it s set on a stationary bus On the one hand, it could be read as a superb story that puts a lone Muslim teenager on a bus of Christians, all fleeing north Nigeria for the apparent safety of the south, all bringing their differing cultural and religious values as well as their fears onto a bus while around them Muslims and Christians are killing each other only to find that it s happening in the south now too Tempers flare, suspicions turn nasty, the country is a new democracy but only in name the police are still corrupt, and some want the generals back They fight over who has the rights to the oil, over traditional beliefs and modern religions, and who gets a seat on the bus The Luxurious Buses company sells tickets for every inch of aisle space as well as the prized seats some buses are full of corpses, people killed in the north being returned to their families in the south for burial.Jubril is the lone Muslim, pretending to be Christian but finding it hard when there are women all around him and the TVs on the bus come on He undergoes many moments of revelation and change of opinions while on the bus, remembering how he got here, his past born of a Muslim mother and a Christian father and trying to keep his head down not easy when your right hand has been amputated for stealing a goat, a sure sign that you re Muslim.It s a fascinating exploration of the psyche of this fifteen year old, and into the people the bus is a microcosm of the country, in a way even when they re or less of the same religion, strife occurs, showing it s not just religious differences that cause these people to turn on each other.For as interesting as it is, though, it s also a slog to read There s a wide variety of dialects on the bus, including people who can t pronounce l or sh , making for an obstacle course of dialogue The ending isn t pretty but it is a natural culmination of everything that was brewing on that bus.The final story is perhaps the most tragic the story of a Rwandan family at the start of the genocide, My Parents Bedroom is about Monique and her little brother Jean, and their beautiful, graceful Tutsi mother and their Hutu father if you don t know much about Rwanda as a Belgian colony, the Belgians deliberately set the lighter skinned, classically beautiful Tutsis up as the superior native race, and the Hutus darker, broader in the face as the lower class, creating simmering racial tension that hadn t been there before until it finally exploded and they started killing each other though soon enough it was the Hutus who were doing the worst What happens to Monique and Jean s parents is devastating, and here the distant, chilling quality of the narration creates both distance and intimacy It s written in the present tense, and for once this does narrow time down to this moment, and not let you escape Because we see things through Monique s young eyes, it s hard to tell at first what s happening, but as you near the end of the story everything makes sense a harsh, brutal kind of sense Like when she sees blood running down the lounge room wall, and how her parents seem so cruel to her even after she s nearly raped by a man in her own bedroom.The stories are powerful where they re let down is the writing Akpan has potential, but he s not entirely successful here That distance I keep mentioning, it s inherent in the prose of all the stories, even when they re written in first person, and it detaches you from the stories The dialogue is realistic but too cluttered and hard to read, which breaks the flow and detracts from the point of the story I didn t feel like it made the characters Other, just that it kept me from really understanding Which could just be my flaw Sometimes it was hard to follow what was going on the way a child sees things, no matter how mature they are, is going to be somewhat different and there s plenty you need to infer, or that is implied Which I don t mind at all, except that I lacked confidence in what I understood to be happening, because there was no definitive answer that reassured you that you were on the right track Nowhere in Fattening for Gabon , for instance, does anyone say that they re child traffickers that one s fairly obvious, granted, but I wasn t 100% because I was wondering about a few other plausible possibilities until I read the interview with the author at the end It s a small quibble.All in all, these are some powerful stories, not sensationalised, perhaps a little contrived at times, and they don t try to force emotion or dictate your reaction, which I appreciate I ll be interested in what the author, who is a Jesuit priest, writes about next one thing s for sure, it will be set in Africa.