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ES: Antoinette, one of Oprah's Book Club members, wants to know: "How long did it take you to write these stories? Did they come to you suddenly? What gave you the courage?"

UA: It took me eight years, 2000 to 2008, when my book came out. The only thing that came suddenly was the idea of writing about children. The rest came sentence by sentence, picture by picture. I kept rewriting, learning to write and experimenting. Courage? I did not look at it that way...it felt like something I had to do. It was like a vocation. I was afraid many times, of not succeeding, of getting the details of another culture and country wrong, of sitting through the painful scenes in the stories many times to get the details right...but I know all of these fears pale in comparison with what children who live through war, child trafficking, hunger actually have to face. They're the courageous ones!

Akpan talks about why his work is meant to challenge the reader

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