Reading Questions for Say You're One of Them
Warning: Discussion questions may contain spoilers. Read at your own risk!
- Each of the stories in Say You're One of Them is told from the perspective of a child. Do you think this affected your reaction to ? If the narrators had been adults, might you have felt differently about the stories?
- Why do you think Uwem Akpan chose to depict these events through children's eyes?
- How do Akpan's young characters maintain innocence in the face of corruption and pain?
- In "An Ex-mas Feast," Maisha leaves her family to become a full-time prostitute. Do you think she chose to depart, or did her family's poverty force her to flee? Is it possible to have complete freedom of will in such a situation? Is it reasonable to judge a person for her actions if her choice is not entirely her own?
- In "Fattening for Gabon" the children's uncle and caretaker, Fofo Kpee, sells them into slavery. How does Fofo's poverty and vanity contribute to his unthinkable actions?
- Do Fofo Kpee's pangs of conscience and final actions redeem him for you? Why or why not?
- In "What Language Is That?" Hadiya and Selam are kept apart by their parents after the escalation of religious conflict. Have you ever experienced a situation in which friends and family have objected to someone in your life for reasons you didn't understand? What did you do? How did you feel?
- The bus in "Luxurious Hearses" is a microcosm not only of African hierarchies and religions but also of the continent's numerous languages and dialects. Discuss how speech is related to class, culture, religion and heritage. How does the dialogue function in the other stories? Do we hold similar attitudes about language in our own culture? What are some examples?
- This book takes its title from instructions given to a Rwandan girl by her mother in "My Parents' Bedroom." Did the familiar domestic detail in this story—Maman's perfume, little Jean's flannel pajamas, toys like Mickey Mouse in the children's room—intensify for you the horror of what ensued? Is there comparable detail in any of the other stories that helped you to identify with Akpan's characters?