Say You're One of Them Webcast Transcript
Jocelyn: Oh, you're welcome. You're welcome. I love it. And I love—the book club has changed my life and I thank you so much for this selection. This was absolutely wonderful.
Oprah: Thank you. I want to say that CNN mobilized their correspondents all over Africa to cover some of the real-life issues. One of the reasons I love the book so much is because having done this show for years and just being a citizen of the world, I understood that the book was written as fiction, but that the stories were real. And CNN is here to show us some of the real-life issues from Say You're One of Them. We'll be seeing their reports throughout this webcast. Anderson, why don't you introduce this first piece.
Anderson: Yeah, in this webcast we're gonna show you three pieces in all from various places in Africa. We're gonna show you a case of child trafficking. You're actually gonna meet a young woman, you're also gonna meet a young woman living on the streets of Nairobi. It really could be ripped right out of the pages of "An Ex-Mas Feast." But we wanted to see where Father Uwem's home village is, what his life was like there, so our correspondent Christian Purefoy went back to the Nigeria to talk to the Father at his original home.
Oprah: Wow. Great. Let's see that.
Anderson: Uwem Akpan is a local hero who's now become a worldwide sensation. He's a Jesuit priest in his native Nigeria, a man of God, and also of the word, the written word. Our reporter, Christian Purefoy, asked him how it feels to be a best-selling author.
Uwem: It's still unreal at this point. I keep pinching myself. I'm still trying to take in that whole experience. I—I don't know. I don't know. I'm just grateful to God.
Anderson: Purefoy traveled to Akpan's home village in southeast Nigeria, far from the dizzying world of agents and publishers.
Uwem: So this is my family house.
Anderson: His mother says he loved storytelling from the time he was young.
Margaret: When Uwem was a young boy, along with his brothers, he would want me to tell him stories every evening. Even in the afternoon. So some evenings I would be very tired, and he would say, "Ahh, is that what my grandfather used to do to you? He always told you stories, so tell me stories."
Anderson: Akpan began telling his own stories, however, and his first big break came in 2005 when The New Yorker Magazine published one of his short stories.
Uwem: You see, I started off going into the priesthood, you know, and then writing came, you know, later. For me, the two are very intertwined right now and, you know, connected. I probably don't have to choose.
Anderson: The stories he chose to tell in his book are heartbreaking works of fiction that parallel real life for many children in Africa. He has a degree in creative writing from the University of Michigan, but can't really explain how he does it.
Uwem: I don't understand fully what happens in the process of creative -- in the process of creative writing. The thing is a gift. It's difficult to, you know, to really explain. Otherwise I could have bottled it and sold.
Anderson: His writing is raw and real but it's suffused with hope.
Uwem: We see that these children are more, you know, they're like our children. They're innocent. Where the adults have failed, the children seem to triumph in their love and support of each other.
Oprah: Thank you, Anderson, for that. We're gonna move on now to the first story in Say You're One of Them. It's called "An Ex-Mas Feast " and it's about a young boy living on the streets of Nairobi with his family. Tell us about where that story came from, Father.
Uwem: I went to Nairobi to study theology in the year 2000. The year before I'd just discovered the gift of, you know, fiction. And I went to there and I saw lots of street...
Oprah: How did you discover the gift of fiction? Can you tell me?
Uwem: Yes. I—I used to write poems and essays. I tried to get them into the newspaper. I had published some of them, you know, before. And they rejected, they rejected my stuff.
Uwem: And I was heart broken. I was pissed off. I...
Oprah: A Father gets pissed off. Very nice to know.
Uwem: We are human beings. We are human beings.
Oprah: They even say I was pissed off. Very good.
Uwem: I was very depressed about it. And a few months later I discovered that the same newspaper, the Nigerian Guardian, was publishing short stories. So I'm like, well, why don't I try? So I attempted. And I was very energized. I was very excited. I worked all day but I wrote at night and I was just very taken by the experience of trying to...