Book cover and spine photographs: David Sacks
In 2005, Uwem Akpan's first short story, "An Ex-Mas Feast," was published in The New Yorker's Debut Fiction Issue, signaling the arrival of a breathtakingly talented writer.
Through the sanitized windows of our televisions and newspapers, the truth about the pervasive poverty and violence that exists in so many African nations comes only in fits and starts, clouded by physical distance and apathy toward what we may feel we cannot relate to or change. In his first collection of stories, Say You're One of Them, Akpan brings to life the issues facing children in one of the most beleaguered places on earth, so that their voices will no longer go unheard.
In five separate narratives, each told from the perspective of a child from a different African country, Say You're One of Them vividly portrays the horror and beauty to be found in both the history-altering events and the mundane details of everyday life. In these stories of family, friendship, betrayal and redemption, Akpan highlights the tenacity and perseverance of his young protagonists.
The 8-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 12-year-old sister takes to the streets to raise these meager funds, his dream can't be realized. Food comes first. His family lives in a street shanty in Nairobi, Kenya, but their ways of loving and taking advantage of each other strike a universal chord. In the second of his stories originally published in The New Yorker, "My Parents' Bedroom," 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. This singular collection will also take the reader inside Nigeria, Benin and Ethiopia, revealing in beautiful prose the harsh realities of life in Africa for children.
Take a brief look at what each story is about
Akpan's voice is a literary miracle, rendering lives of almost unimaginable deprivation and terror into stories that are nothing short of transcendent.
— from the publisher
Start reading "An Ex-Mas Feast" from Say You're One of Them
More on Say You're One of Them
Published on September 18, 2009