ES: What was your childhood like?
UA: I had a very good childhood in my village. I have very fond memories of my grandparents. My paternal uncles live in one big compound. So there were lots of children. I was born in 1971, after the Nigerian-Biafran war.
ES: Tell us about your family. What was life like for you growing up in Ikot Akpan Eda?
UA: I have three brothers. My parents are retired teachers. I enjoyed growing up in Ikot Akpan Eda. Lots of relatives and celebrations. Since I did not go to school till I was 6—which was the age children generally went to school then—I played a lot and ate a lot. We did not have lots of toys, so we made our toys. We looked forward to the seasons, the dances and masquerades, etc. We had lots of storytellers. Everyone knew everyone, which is always a recipe for gossips and rivalry and intrigues and community spirit and support. Church was also huge in our lives. Then school. I remember I cried every morning the first few weeks at school.
ES: You've talked about the storytelling that takes place in your village. What are those stories like?
UA: You have fables. When I was growing up, some evenings the elders would gather the children and tell them fables. Now TV has taken over, and it's not the same anymore. You also have elders talking about the village history. Then you have people like Sunday Unwa Ukpekpe, my mother's cousin. This man could fictionalize any historical event to get people to laugh or to make people learn something. Even the elders sat in awe when he told stories. He could also make something up. Nothing was beyond him.
How long did it take for Akpan to write Say You're One of Them?