LeeAnn: Hi, Oprah. Hi, Father Akpan. How are you?
Uwem: Thank you.
LeeAnn: So for Luxurious Horses... I'm sorry, "Luxurious Hearses."
LeeAnn: I did have a question about that story. I was wondering, religious conflict seems to be such an insurmountable problem. Do you think, is it realistic to think that we can bring an end to religious conflicts?
Uwem: I think it's realistic to think that we can reduce, you know, incidents of religious conflict, especially the violence that, you know, come with religious conflicts. As you can see, people are being manipulated, and religion is very important, and politicians really know how to do this. People in Nigeria are always, you know, they have a political agenda. They tap on religion and they use that as a vehicle to destroy. So these things, you know, many times it begins in northern Nigeria and the southerners who live there are killed and people in the south become very angry, you know, and start killing northerners there out of revenge. And the government has refused, you know, to tackle who sponsors these riots.
Oprah: Now what's interesting about this story is as long as everybody thought that he was one of them on the bus they treated him as one of them and, you know, respected his humanity and it was fine. And it was only when they recognized, you know, that he wasn't...
Oprah: ...Because of his hand, that they then decided to immediately destroy him which, you know, speaks to me to the -- not just the irrationality but to the craziness of...
Oprah: ...Judging people because of their religious beliefs.
Uwem: Yes. Lack of forgiveness is right in there. And Jesus tells the parable of the Good Samaritan, who is your neighbor, you know. And it's sort of like I tried to say, who is your neighbor on this bus, you know, who will save your life? Who will die for you? And it ends up being this crazy, you know, soldier who has fought in a foreign country and has been cheated back home and I want people to look at this question. Even in your country, you know, who is your neighbor? It may not come down to, to tribalism but sometimes it comes down to race. You know, we still have issues around this. When that person stands before you, what are you seeing? Are you seeing his color? His religion? You know, what are you seeing? You know, can you say this is a human being?
Oprah: We do it in different, you know, all kinds of prejudices. Not just race or religion but, you know, how much money you have. How much square footage you have. What kind of car you drive. Where your kids go to school. Is it private school or not? What kind of pocketbook you carry. You know, how high are your high heels? Are they Manolo Blahniks? Where do you shop? You know, many, many, many, many ways to divide ourselves from our united humanity.
Oprah: That's what this story is about.
Oprah: Yeah. You got that, right, LeeAnn?
LeeAnn: Yes, I did. And thank you very much. The book is just so realistic, it's chilling. It's an incredible piece of work. It's amazing.
Oprah: Yeah. It's like being able to go to Africa and not leaving Appleton, Wisconsin.
Oprah: We have Ann on the line. Thank you so much for joining us. Ann on the line from Portland, Oregon. Hi, Ann.
Ann: Hello. I'm so thrilled to be here with you. For me, "Luxurious Hearses" was just so haunting in its portrayal of how easily manipulated and the relatively shifting allegiances of the crowd.
Ann: And how quickly and easily their fear was herded towards violence.
Oprah: Could you believe the ending? Ann, could you believe that ending?
Ann: No. No.
Oprah: Weren't you stunned? Weren't you stunned by the ending?
Ann: Absolutely. Absolutely. You know, the dog and the twitching of the nerve. It was just, just overwhelming.
Oprah: I could not believe after, after that long a ride, because I was exhausted. I was literally exhausted on that bus. I could not believe it ended that way.
Ann: Well, one of to me, Father's masterful strokes is how he rachets and rachets and rachets the tension and the multi-dimensional paradoxes and ironies throughout the story that heighten your experience as a reader. And for me, that is so true in terms of how you read it and experience it. But I also wonder how much us in the West will think this is just Africa? And I would love to hear both of you speak about how you see the relevance of the manipulation of the crowd by leaders with an agenda and how that is relevant to us in the West and in the larger world.
Oprah: Good point. Good point. I'll let you answer that. Go ahead.
Uwem: Yes. I think that's a very good question.
Oprah: Very good, Ann.