Oprah: So obviously you wrote the book and it was your intention for us to read all of the stories. But as they're written, if you only read one story, you have the experience of that particular child or that particular family or that particular incident.
Uwem: Yes. You know, I—I've never before this—I'd never written a book before. I—I've never tried a novel before. So I tried short stories or long short stories and they came together and I'm like, oh, okay, let me make this into a book and see whether I can pull it together.
Oprah: Beautiful job.
Uwem: Thank you.
Oprah: Beautiful job.
Uwem: Thank you, Oprah.Thank you.
Oprah: Jocelyn's Skyping in from her living room. You know, I love this. Anderson Cooper, you and I both speak to people all over the world all of the time, you know, on your forum and my forum. Your forum, 360, my forum, The Oprah Show, but there's something so intimate, really.
Oprah: About being able now to go to Jocelyn's living room in Boston and talk to her. Jocelyn appeared on our show not long ago to talk about this book. She's read every book club selection from the very beginning. And I just think that's so great. What do you want to ask Father Uwem?
Jocelyn: Well, first of all, I do love this forum and I do kind of feel like we're best friends now, Oprah.
Oprah: Yeah, kind of we are. And Anderson, you know, I kind of feel like Anderson and I are really having a date. He was on the show the other day and we said we were gonna have a date Monday night.
Anderson: I feel completely overdressed.
Oprah: We're very cas. We're very cas. I should have told you it was a cas date.
Anderson: Yeah, well, you know.
Oprah: Go head, Jocelyn, what is your question for Father Uwem?
Jocelyn: My question is when you were writing these stories about poverty and prostitution and religious wars, did you have any idea that people at the other side of the world with lives so far removed from the tragedies you were writing about, that they would be able to relate to the emotional context so strongly? Was that your, was that your goal? Did you have any idea that that would happen?
Uwem: I had some problems with an audience. You know, who am I writing this for?
Oprah: Who were you writing this for?
Uwem: At first I thought I was writing for just Africans. So I did not put the energy into describing things in very minute details. But after a while, I—I said to myself, the people of Nigeria don't necessarily understand what is happening in Kenya, you know. And the people of Kenya don't understand the pidgin English spoken in Nigeria. So what is this thing of trying to write for Africans? An African is so diverse, you know. So I started saying, well, let me write these stories in such a way that whoever reads these stories will have some basic understanding. They may not understand everything, but they can feel, you know, the inside of these characters.
Oprah: But you weren't writing for Jocelyn in Boston.
Uwem: No, I did not begin writing for Jocelyn. It was only after I had said to myself, and this is something that came up when I dealt with the publishers.
Uwem: They began to say something like, okay, Americans won't understand this pidgin English. Water it, you know, down. And I said, well, it's not only Americans. A Senegalese does not understand this pidgin English in Kenya. A Nigerian doesn't understand this pidgin English in Ethiopia.
Oprah: That is such an important point because I think so many Americans and maybe people in other countries as well look at Africa and we think of Africa the continent and all Africans the same.
Oprah: In the same way that many people think of all Americans are the same.
Oprah: And not understanding that we're different regions, different accents, different backgrounds. And so it is the same with Africans.
Uwem: Yeah. Yeah. It is.
Oprah: Well, so tell me, Jocelyn, how this opened up your heart.
Jocelyn: You know, I was reading one of the stories and I—I've said before I don't typically read short stories and, you know, I started thinking I was not gonna be able to understand any of the emotions because it was so far removed from my life.And then I read "What Language Is That?" and it was about, you know, the two friends...
Jocelyn: ...Who have discovered this recent language they had and I recently lost a very close friend of mine and I realized I read actually the story the night of her memorial and I started crying because we did have a secret language. And it was something I didn't realize and I couldn't believe I was having this emotional connection to these stories about, you know, something so far removed from my life. But it was really so close.