SAY YOU'RE ONE OF THEM - UWEM AKPAN
Say You're One Of Them is a collection of five powerful short stories , written by Uwem Akpan , a Nigerian Jesuit priest and writing teacher living in Zimbabwe . The stories are all set in Africa and the collection is unique because it is told entirely from the perspective of children .
A wide range of themes/topics are covered in these stories , such as poverty ; religious conflict and ethnicity ; genocide ; slavery ; family and identity .The stories are all about love and sacrifice , compassion and confusion . Each story is a step-by-step revelation of unbelievable horrors for the child and the reader alike . They are at once both compelling and yet painful to read , leaving the reader wondering how children can grow up and survive under such circumstances . The stories are beautiful and devastating , filled with unspeakable evil .
~~ The first story , An Ex-Mas Feast , looks at a poverty-stricken family from Nairobi in Kenya , who rely on the income of their twelve year old daughter , to survive . She has to prostitute herself for food and money but she is trying to earn enough money so her younger brother can go to school .
~~ Two little girls in Ethiopia - one Muslim , one Christian - are best friends until religious tensions and riots in their city force them apart in the story , What Language Is That ?
~~ In Luxurious Hearses , a sixteen year old Nigerian boy from the north is trying to escape to relatives in the south - on a bus filled with the same religious animosity that he hopes to escape .
~~ A ten year old brother and his five year old sister slowly realize that their uncle is attempting to sell them into slavery in the story Fattening For Gabon .
~~ I think that the strongest story is In My Parent's Bedroom , written in first person from a nine year old Rwandan girl , who is the child of a Tutsi mother and a Hutu father . She is forced to watch as the horrors and injustices of contemporary Rwanda play out in her house , each of her parents having to take opposing sides .
The title of the book comes from the fact that children in Africa sometimes have to deny their identity and say that they're one of "them" (another tribe or religion) in order to survive . Some of these stories will leave you feeling numb and , unless a person has encountered circumstances similar to those outlined in the stories , it is very difficult to reconcile the fact that this is a daily occurrence for millions of children .
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