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FREE EBOOK ⚶ Say You're One of Them õ Uwem Akpan s stunning stories humanize the perils of poverty and violence so piercingly that few readers will feel they ve ever encountered Africa so immediately The eight year old narrator of An Ex Mas Feast needs only enough money to buy books and pay fees in order to attend school Even when his twelve year old sister takes to the streets to raise these meager funds, his dream can t be granted Food comes first His family lives in a street shanty in Nairobi, Kenya, but their way of both loving and taking advantage of each other strikes a universal chord In the second of his stories published in a New Yorker special fiction issue, Akpan takes us far beyond what we thought we knew about the tribal conflict in Rwanda The story is told by a young girl, who, with her little brother, witnesses the worst possible scenario between parents They are asked to do the previously unimaginable in order to protect their children This singular collection will also take the reader inside Nigeria, Benin, and Ethiopia, revealing in beautiful prose the harsh consequences for children of life in Africa Akpan s voice is a literary miracle, rendering lives of almost unimaginable deprivation and terror into stories that are nothing short of transcendent Say You re One of Them by Uwem Akpan Tragic, frustrating, majestic, bewildering are all words I would use to describe this short story collection I have never read so many sad tales that did not come out of Russian literature This collection is breathtaking in so many ways that mere words do no justice Akpan is a true artist that paints with words a world so tragically wrong that it bothers you to your core To know that such a world exists shames us all Yet the writing is so beautiful that Say You re One of Them by Uwem Akpan Tragic, frustrating, majestic, bewildering are all words I would use to describe this short story collection I have never read so many sad tales that did not come out of Russian literature This collection is breathtaking in so many ways that mere words do no justice Akpan is a true artist that paints with words a world so tragically wrong that it bothers you to your core To know that such a world exists shames us all Yet the writing is so beautiful that you realize that you are reading great literature Uwem Akpan is a Jesuit Priest and an obvious observer of the conflicts that ensnare his country and continent This work will move you to tears, but there are so many deeply good people that you come away with hope for the future and hope that Akpan writes evenstories It would be a shame for his talents to go to waste He is a master storyteller and there simply needs to be work of this caliber available The short story format has seen better days, too many low rent talent and not enough avenues for the works to be exposed, it is rare to see such a glaring amount of talent in the format from a new writer I hope that this collection can revive the format that has fallen on hard times as of late It s difficult to justify giving this book five stars as there are so many problems with it But to give it less would not acknowledge that its flaws and difficulties are outweighed by how it opens your eyes, gives you clear vision into things you didn t even know you d been shortsighted about before.Firstly, two of the stories are novellas of considerable length and extremely difficult to read This is because, in an effort to give local flavour to the dialogue, letters are transposed, French w It s difficult to justify giving this book five stars as there are so many problems with it But to give it less would not acknowledge that its flaws and difficulties are outweighed by how it opens your eyes, gives you clear vision into things you didn t even know you d been shortsighted about before.Firstly, two of the stories are novellas of considerable length and extremely difficult to read This is because, in an effort to give local flavour to the dialogue, letters are transposed, French words, local words and words that seem to have no meaning but are used for emphasis pepper the text It does actually add to book, but it means its a slow read and there is no natural rhythm to the speech.Secondly, the stories in the novellas unfold very slowly indeed Almost like a big wave coming that you expect to crest and collapse in a spume of foaming water but instead just rolls over itself smoothly Not exactly an anti climax, just not what you expected.Thirdly, there is a lack of emotional involvement in events so horrific they demand a reaction, you want to feel the horror of the author but no, he is detached.So why five stars Because it is part of the uniqueness of the book that it is written in such a different way Aconventional rendering of the stories that are all aspects of children s experience of tribal and religious wars in the 90s, would not have given us the same involved and emotional experience it s for us to be part of it and to feel it, not just to read it.I often read in people s reviews that they cried at the end of the book, well I usually take that with a pinch of salt, but with this book, it would be difficult not to feel that sting behind your eyes with the ending of the last story It s also well worth reading the very short interview with the author included at the end It is, in short, a brilliant book that will give you something of the reality of children in those circumstances that all the documentaries in the world won t Those are stories filmed and reported from a Western, foreign point of view whereas the book is the African experience of those events best told as stories by an author who lived through those devastating and murderous times I m so angry with this book I could spit I can t even rate it, I m so angry with it.I certainly would never recommend it even though I think everyone should read it.It is an important book to read.I m glad I read it even though it was the most horrific, awful, despairing, bleak, pessimistic, horrific, sad thing I ve read sinceever.Glad is not the right word not at all the right word All those other words are right.5 amazing 1 did not like it Yes Both.You can t like this how can anyone I m so angry with this book I could spit I can t even rate it, I m so angry with it.I certainly would never recommend it even though I think everyone should read it.It is an important book to read.I m glad I read it even though it was the most horrific, awful, despairing, bleak, pessimistic, horrific, sad thing I ve read sinceever.Glad is not the right word not at all the right word All those other words are right.5 amazing 1 did not like it Yes Both.You can t like this how can anyone LIKE this It s like poverty porn it ended up numbing me, angering me, leaving me feeling as exploited as the children crying in the sand.I feel myself blaming the author for showing me these things, in the way that he has.It s not that I don t know they exist It s not like he s shaming me as an individual, as a colonizer, as a slave trader, as an INGO worker, as a person living in a democracy, as a person who consumesthan my share of oil, of food, of land, of air, as He s not shaming me for my ignorance, or blaming me for my involvement Although all of that simmers below the surface here.There is plenty of shame and blame to go around, but that is not Akpan s thing.Where one feels oneself as a reader feeling them and placing them is important.Especially when you feel yourself blaming the victims.Yeah Sit with that a whileI don t know that others will react with the shame blame response Maybe not This incredible tangle of emotions, the complexity of the shifting, illogical world within the stories, the convoluted politics, religion and social structures the real world where these children and women and men live and die horribly, horribly, horribly is perhaps best exemplified and explored in Luxurious Hearses I feel myself coming out of a swirl of emotions as I start to apply the logic of literary analysis here And I don t want to do that right now, so.Let me just say what Akpan is doing, how he is doing it is as important as the stories he is telling, which are true stories Fictionalized, obviously, but true Choosing to tell these stories through children s eyes is perhaps the most cold blooded authorial choice I think I ve ever witnessed.Each story is unrelenting in its despair, its hopelessness There are not enough synonyms for devastating to describe each story s ending This book brutalizes and traumatizes its readers as a way of demonstrating the brutality and trauma its characters have experienced are experiencing.For every reviewer who quibbles with the difficulty of the dialect, or the unevenness of the story length, or Oprah, I invite you to think about why that kind of analysis was comforting to you why is your focus there Where would your focus be if it wasn t there That is what I am thinking about.I am thinking about why and how.And I am feeling as helpless and hopeless in response to a piece of literature as it is possible to feel.And that is absolutely breathtaking in what it says about this book of short stories.And that is why I am rating it 5 stars.And that is why you should read it but only if you feel you can Stories of abused and battered children in Africa are legion, but few cut as close to the bone as this collection by Uwem Akpan His five tales, two of which are novella length, are told with the uninhibited, truth filled voices of the children involved Each one takes place in a different country but the theme is universal the biggest challenge faced by children in Africa is staying alive.Akpan, a Jesuit priest with an MFA in creative writing from the University of Michigan, piles on details a Stories of abused and battered children in Africa are legion, but few cut as close to the bone as this collection by Uwem Akpan His five tales, two of which are novella length, are told with the uninhibited, truth filled voices of the children involved Each one takes place in a different country but the theme is universal the biggest challenge faced by children in Africa is staying alive.Akpan, a Jesuit priest with an MFA in creative writing from the University of Michigan, piles on details available only to one intimately familiar with the lives described Be forewarned some of those details are gruesome to the point of causing distress, which I am sure was his intent The imagery can range from the droll, like the description of the motorbike loaded with five people, various fruits and vegetables, a rooster and five rolls of toilet paper in Fattening for Gabon, to the most horrific sight a child can see, a parental bloodbath, in My Parents Bedroom This story ends the book and is the source of the title Say you re one of them, the command given by a desperate Rwandan Tutsi mother to her Hutu fathered child as machete wielding killers approach.Various dialects are used masterfully to both reveal characters and set scenes The jargon, slang, and foreign phrases may be off putting to some readers, but little meaning is lost when the dialogue is read in full context Quite frankly, the only time many readers can bear to imagine events like those in the book is when they take place on foreign shores We can be sickened and outraged by horrors on another continent the same happenings across the street from where we live would paralyze us with fright Fortunately, Akpan s familiarity with African poetry infuses much of the writing, giving the book a lyrical tone that keeps theviolent passages from slipping into slasher movie territory As a person who has photographed and written about Africa extensively, I must confess I was not shocked by Akpan s stories Unfortunately, tales like them are all too familiar to me I was deeply moved by his dramatic intensity, however, and highly appreciative of his ability to put the reader inside the children s lives