Say you’re one of them

5 11 2009

“Say you’re one of them” by Uwem Akpan of Nigeria is the latest pick of Oprah book club. In this début fiction, the author has depicted the disturbing political and/or cultural circumstances prevailing in different countries of Africa. It is a set of five stories and all of them have children as protagonists. Basically the stories portray the children’s view of the events and what they go through.

I haven’t tried any of the Oprah’s book club selections before and have been eager to read one for quite a while. While this fact definitely contributed to my decision to read it, there is one more important reason and that’s the ‘children’ element. I’ve always been drawn towards pieces of literature that feature children and/or childhood and ‘Say you’re one of them’ is not going to be an exception. I might say that the Oprah brand is the entry point – it motivated me to take a look at what the book is actually about. And I must not forget to mention the nice book cover. It appealed to me very much.

Here are the titles and subjects of the five stories:

  1. X-Mas Feast – depicts street life in Nairobi, Kenya
  2. Fattening for Gabon – two kids are sold by their uncle to a pedophile couple in Gabon and this long short story describes what the three of them went through as the kids waited and prepared for their transport to Gabon.
  3. Which language is that? –In this story, two little girls from different families who are very best friends suddenly found themselves refrained from seeing or talking to each other. All this because of the outbreak of an ethnic war between two religions to which each of the families belonged. The girls invent a silent language to communicate with each other in those grave circumstances.
  4. Laughing Hereses – This is another story about ethnic wars between Christians and Muslims; North and South.
  5. My Parent’s Bedroom –The title of the book is derived from this story. “Say you’re one of them”, a mother advises her little daughter in case she finds herself confronted by a savage mob.

The last two stories have lot of violence in them: burning people alive, massacres etc. Though India is not a stranger to such ethnic wars and grotesque incidents, I was really shocked to know about the severity and scale of the happenings in Africa.

All the stories are really touching and invoke deep emotional response. I didn’t know before anything about life and wars in Africa and this book is a real eye-opener for me.

One thing I was not comfortable while reading the book was lot of local language and slangs. Some characters’ dialogue is really hard to understand as the sentences seemed to have no proper structure. For me, they were just like a random jumble of words. Also, there were many words of local language. All these things really frustrated me. While I can guess that the author might have used that style to make the stories as close to reality as possible and to offer readers a taste of Africa, I felt that it came with a cost – readability.

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2 responses

5 11 2009
Sree

so, this one can wait for me… long list piling up. 😦

6 11 2009
sireeshaavvari

Ha ha! There are always too many good books to read!

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