Say You’re One Of Them by Uwem Akpan

In a word…. breathtaking.  In another word… heartbreaking.  ~  Sheila

Ever since this book showed up in my email on a book list I have wanted to read it.  While not a big fan of Oprah’s Book Club selections – this one caught my and my heart from that first look at the cover, to the details of what the book was about on the back…

Each story in this jubilantly acclaimed collection pays testament to the wisdom and resilience of children, even in the face of the most agonizing circumstances.

A family living in a makeshift shanty in urban Kenya scurries to find gifts of any kind for the impending Christmas holiday. A Rwandan girl relates her family’s struggles to maintain a facade of normalcy amid unspeakable acts. A young brother and sister cope with their uncle’s attempt to sell them into slavery. Aboard a bus filled with refugees—a microcosm of today’s Africa—a Muslim boy summons his faith to bear a treacherous ride across Nigeria. Through the eyes of childhood friends the emotional toll of religious conflict in Ethiopia becomes viscerally clear.

Uwem Akpan’s debut signals the arrival of a breathtakingly talented writer who gives a matter-of-fact reality to the most extreme circumstances in stories that are nothing short of transcendent.

Uwem Akpan talks about living together in the world:

When Hatchette Audio offered me aa chance to review the audio version of this book, I jumped at the chance. Three Cd’s long, I started listening to these stories in my car as I ran my errands around town – and from that very first story, being told in a thickly accented voice that only added to the read – my heart caught in my throat.

My friend Heidi, had just read the book for her book club and she passed it on to me and I did something I have never done before, I woudl listen to the audio in the car, and at home I would read the same stories through the book.  Visual through sight and sound – both formats were so real, so intense with reality that I wept.

My time in Honduras had me witness to some of the things that were discussed throughout this read, but at the same time I found my eyes open to new things I had not thought about until they were brought up here…

  • While I had seen children on the streets of Honduras huff glue, and I knew it was to take away their hunger…. I had never thought about families huffing glue – or offering it to their children to help them ease the pains of lack of food.  That amazes me that I had never thought of that before.
  • I had also seen prostitutes in Honduras…. but this audio (and book) explains a deeper purpose to the young women standing on the corners.  When there are no jobs, when you have no means to survive and the only resource you have is yourself… you do what you have to do to survive.  I’ll never look at them the same way again.

This book brought to me a new deeper level of compassion that I thought I had understood and now feel as though I had only grazed the surface.  Ewem Akpah takes you for a walk in the shoes of children that should never know such pain, such forms of reality…  and there is nothing left out as these stories rip through your mind, and seem so harsh they cant be real – but I know they are based on truth.

On the end of the CD and in the back of the book there is an interview with author Uwem Akpan that was a pleasure to listen to as he describes where the stories came from and how he chose to tell the ones that he did. Both formats were soaking in breathtaking reality.

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.

Listen here to the song that was inspired by Say You’re One Of Them, written by Angelique Kidjo.

I have three copies of this audio book to give away – to sign up see the giveaway here

Thank you to Hachette Audio Book for the audio to review

Thank you to my friend Heidi, for the use of her book

14 thoughts on “Say You’re One Of Them by Uwem Akpan

    1. Lisa I think you will really enjoy this. I am not sure if I favored the book or the audio. The audio added a great voice to the stories but the book lent me a way to read it again when I coudnt believe what had just happened.

    1. Stephanie it amazed me to think that after all the times I have worked with people and children in Honduras and seen much of what this book/audio talked of… I missed a huge part of what was happening there.

  1. Nice review.It is so easy not to think top deeply into things. I am definitely guilty of that. I have these on audio and I am looking forward to listening to them.

    1. Nicole I look forward to your thoughts on these. I still need to look at some other reviews. I wonder if because it hit a little close to home for me that I really sunk into the read or if it gives everyone this effect.

    1. Aarti, I agee. I am not much for short stories as I like to really get into my characters and many times short stories do not give you that opportunity. This however was just right… the stories are so deep – so true to life and the things that are in our world that they are long enough for you to get into what is happening but not so long that they become heavy.

  2. I’ve seen many great reviews on this book, including yours! I’ve never been able to focus on audiobooks for some reason. I will add this to my TBR list and hope to have it in paperback sometime.

    1. I think this one could hold your attention Julie. The book was written well too, you just have to get into the swing of the slang they use in the book like “dem” for them…. etc…

  3. I really want to listen to this-I recently started listening to audio books-it makes my sitting on the freeway more enjoyable. I just finished a book you may like-Sarah as in Abraham and Sarah.

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