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Say You're One of Them

3.48  ·  Rating Details ·  11,945 Ratings  ·  2,111 Reviews
Each story in this jubilantly acclaimed collection pays testament to the wisdom and resilience of children, even in the face of the most agonizing circumstances.

A family living in a makeshift shanty in urban Kenya scurries to find gifts of any kind for the impending Christmas holiday. A Rwandan girl relates her family's struggles to maintain a facade of normalcy amid unspe
Hardcover, 358 pages
Published September 18th 2009 by Little, Brown and Company (first published January 1st 2008)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Petra X
Mar 29, 2016 Petra X rated it it was amazing
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
Jennifer (aka EM)
Sep 03, 2013 Jennifer (aka EM) rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cftc
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 since...ever.
Glad is not the right word; not at all the right word. All those other words are right.
1=did not like it?
Yes. Both.
You can't like this; how can anyone
Jul 05, 2008 Dave rated it it was amazing
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
This isn't a work to which I can assign stars- it would be like ranking tourist visits to concentration camps- this one was more interesting, that one was more intact, the other had the best museum shop, when in fact they are all horrific and unforgettable.

To further the analogy, reading Uwem Akpan was like reading Elie Wiesel- devastating and heartbreaking, with details as vivid and palpable as yesterday. The difference is that decades of history and a Western world romance with WWII have almo
Oct 27, 2008 Allison rated it liked it
I decided to read this book because of popular review. People loved it. Time loved it. Essence loved it. Entertainment Weekly loved it. Maybe I should have checked my sources--all owned by Time Inc. (duh)--but I figured that a book generating this much positive press would be worth reading.
I won't go back on this opinion--it was worth reading. It was as about worth reading as most other books I have read: nothing spectacular, but not a waste of my time, either. What seemed wasteful in Akpan's bo
Sep 22, 2009 Chuck rated it it was ok
Uwem Akpan graphically portrays horrendous conditions in several African countries -- child trafficking; prostitution; rape; murder, religious conflict; Sharia-mandated amputations; starvation; etc. These stories are no doubt grounded in fact, but two defects in the collection detract from its potential power. First, the various narrators describe terrible circumstances in such a detached reportorial, matter-of-fact way that the lack of emotional engagement has the unfortunate effect of disengag ...more
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
Shannon (Giraffe Days)
This cover has one of the most beautiful photos - I kept seeing it in the bookshop, picking it up and dithering but ultimately putting it down again. In the end, a few people on Goodreads got me interested in it - they were talking about how it was the latest book in Oprah's book club but that they'd read the sample story and it was so depressing and they didn't want to read something that upset them.

That actually made me want to read it. I want to be confronted, to be challenged, to be emotiona
Lindsay Barnes
Oct 18, 2012 Lindsay Barnes rated it did not like it
I think the point of the book was to leave you unsettled, to make you feel and empathize with characters in which our western culture individuals will probably never meet.

I absolutely love books that dive into other cultures, religions and social systems. I love Africa and used to believe my calling in life was to minister to HIV/AIDS orphans, so I greatly educated myself and began writing every paper and project I could on the injustices engulfing Africa. But this book to me, was a major disap
Jenny (Reading Envy)
This book brought me to tears, multiple times. I actually had to put a little bit of distance in between finishing it and reviewing it. The author, Uwem Akpan, wrote these stories to draw attention to the children of Africa and the struggles they face. It is tempting to dismiss it as merely fiction, to reassure myself that people surely do not live this way, but I know too much of the reality to be able to do so. The stories themselves are fiction of course, but pull from very real events. I wou ...more
Jan 03, 2009 Clare rated it it was amazing
What I learned from this book is that I need to know more about the history and political situation in Africa. Akpan has a gift for writing from the viewpoint of children who suffer due to poverty and violence. It is my fault, not his, that I didn't understand these stories better. I am somewhat familiar with the terrible violence that has occurred in Rwanda due to tribal conflict. Thus the story, "My Parent's Bedroom", was very clear to me. It was also terribly frightening.
The first story I re
Michele Torrey
Aug 07, 2010 Michele Torrey rated it it was amazing
Even as one who has spent considerable time in Africa, "in the trenches," so to speak, one who has many African friends, I cannot say that I truly understand Africans. Their different ways of thinking, their cultures, their perceptions, often leave me, a white Western woman, bewildered and exasperated. Should I spend the remainder of my life among them, I believe I would always be aware of the vast gulf of understanding that stands between us and my own ingrained and presumptive Western ideologi ...more
Jan 29, 2009 Maggie rated it really liked it
Say You’re One of Them is a heartbreaking collection of short stories (or, rather, two novellas and three short stories), each set in a different country in Africa. A champion of children, Uwem's collection shines a clear light on the harsh realities of life for many African kids.

In each of these stories, innocence collides with corruption. Set in Benin, “Fattening for Gabon” depicts an uncle who, as the guardian of two AIDS orphans, plans to sell his young charges into slavery. In “An Ex-Mas Fe
Apr 22, 2009 Jean rated it did not like it
Again, I am cheating because I gave up on this book even though I marked it "read." These short stories are set somewhere in Africa, current time, and the horrors children face are depressing. The first story is about a family living under a tarp behind a store. One daughter is selling herself on the street to earn money to send her younger brother to school. He sniffs glue to keep from feeling hungry. The writing is difficult to read not only for content but structure. The second story is about ...more
Confession (i don't mean to use that term ironically at all--this book was written by a Jesuit priest!): i did not read the final story because i had read it when it was published in a literary magazine some years ago. And honestly i've had it with this book...his writing is almost too powerful and the stories were almost too stressful for me. I can't believe this is a debut collection. I fear his next book but will likely be one of the first to snatch it up.
Oct 25, 2014 Faith rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-fiction
Uwem Akpan is a man acquainted with grief. He is a Jesuit priest from Nigeria, and these stories, all beautifully written from the point of view of children, are intended to help people see that "the situation of Africa is very urgent."

That is putting it mildly. It took me months to finish this book; for long stretches of time I became reluctant to pick it up again. The violence in the stories is as or more brutal than any I've read. But it is very far from the gratuitous pap that is fed to us i
Jul 19, 2013 Amanda rated it liked it
Shelves: wait-what
And now I know a lot more about Africa... Possibly more than I wanted to, but certainly not more than I needed to. This book needed to be written, but I've never been so happy to reach the END of a book.
These stories are the epitome of tragic, and disturbing, yet I kept reading with one eye closed, knowing how they would end, because I felt like I owed it to them. This book makes you feel exposed and ashamed of the spoiled society we live in, and MISSION ACCOMPLISHED, sir, because it's clear thi
Doug Bradshaw
Jul 31, 2008 Doug Bradshaw rated it liked it
There are touching moments and very realistic moments in these stories. However, even though the subject of the horrors in the lives of children in Africa is good and topical, I found the stories hard to follow sometimes with broken English and actions that don't necessarily follow the dialogue. I also don't like tales without any kind of positives or potential redemption or solutions to problems. Please leave us with a tiny bit of hope.
Liz BooksandStuff
Jan 20, 2016 Liz BooksandStuff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Yes, everyone should read this book, but I do not want to make others suffer as I did while I read it, so I will not recommend it.
Akpan is a Nigerian-born Jesuit priest who got a MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Michigan. The book which includes 3 short stories and 2 novellas focuses on the plight of children in Africa. Ethnic and religious strife and ethnic cleansing are themes throughout. Poverty compels one teen into prostitution. The novella Fattening for Gabon addresses child slavery through the eyes of two children who have no idea that their "uncle's" plan is to sell them. They have been orphaned by AIDS ...more
Nabse Bamato
Jun 27, 2014 Nabse Bamato rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 16, 2010 Julia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: africa
Despite of the horrors happening to the children in the short stories of this book, I couldn't stop reading - Uwem Akpan marvelously depicts life in his homeland Nigeria and other African countries and for the first time I was exposed to such accurate descriptions of child prostitution, children being sold into slavery by their own relatives or tribal and religious violence dividing families, and all that told from the point of view of children who are so positive, strong and brave that one can' ...more
Mar 15, 2012 Judy rated it really liked it
Here I go again. Another book I want to turn away from but just can't. I bought the book in a hospital bookstore, because it looked interesting and because it had several stories in it so it would be a good "waiting room" book.

I managed to finish the first story, An Exmas feast, before I was called in for my medical appointment. This story literally turned my stomach. By the time I was called in to my appointment I was so relieved that cancer was my biggest problem. I should recommend this book
Jan 27, 2013 Chinook rated it it was amazing
Shelves: africa
It wasn't until I read the afterward that I noticed that all of the stories in this book where written from the perspective of children. I'm not really sure how I missed that. And in each story, the ending is hard to take. Incredibly hard.

The first two stories surprised me with a new way of looking at a topic: I hadn't really though about a child choosing a brothel because she thinks it would be better than streetwalking or that children sold into slavery would spend so long being prepped for th
Dec 22, 2009 Alan rated it it was amazing
just picked up from the library.
Read the three short-ish ones and they, particularly 'My Parent's Bedroom' have knocked me down with their power...

later: still reeling from this one. He's not the greatest writer in the world - the three short pieces are superbly done, but the longer pieces - novellas really - are too long, repetitive, relying on exposition too much. But that doesn't seem to matter, you forget the difficulties of dealing with the odd dialects, French and 'African' English because
Nov 24, 2009 Tatiana rated it really liked it
I decided to try some of the Oprah Book club selections because I looked at the list and saw a number of books I really liked such as Anna Karenina, Faulkner's Light in August, Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Paton, etc. This is the current selection.

The stories in this book are really good, though heartrending. The author has told all of them through the eyes of children, giving an unsentimental, matter-of-fact realism to them that reminds me of "A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich". This has
Connie Todd-mandler
Sep 29, 2009 Connie Todd-mandler rated it it was amazing
I didn't mean to buy a book today, but picked up a copy of this stunner in Costco. Written by a Nigerian Jesuit priest, this book contains 5 stories. By chance, I opened the final story (My Parents' Bedroom: less than 30 pages)& began to skim a page. The narrator is a little girl. Within a couple of minutes, I cared about her & was worried. I wanted a couple more pages to find a good stopping point. After standing rooted for about 10 more minutes, I realized that I was holding this book ...more
Feb 25, 2011 Renee rated it really liked it
Nigerian author Akpan is a master of depicting gritty scenes of chaos and fear in this collection of five not so short stories set in war-torn Africa. Akpan deals with topics such as slavery, religious conflict, genocide and poverty, and if these topics weren't powerful enough, they are ten times more so as they are told through the eyes of children. In addition, I listened to this book on audio and the readers captured the authenticity of the various African languages and dialects. These storie ...more
Mar 26, 2014 Melani rated it it was amazing
After I finished reading this book I recommended it to my son,Tobin, who had just finished writing a report in French about Rwanda. So often we learn facts and figures about faceless conflicts on the continent of Africa or elsewhere in the world in a classroom or on the news, and we are able to tune out or dial back the horror. The events are in a faraway place... Or they happen to some one whose language and culture are unknown to us. So we can protect ourselves, in a way, from the full impact ...more
Feb 21, 2011 Nnedi rated it really liked it
Wonderfully written but...Hmm, how do I put it, well, I'll say this: I can stand the dark but I need light so that I can see where I need to go.
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Around the Year i...: Say You're One of Them, by Uwem Akpan 1 12 Dec 13, 2015 07:05PM  
Calumet City Publ...: Say You're One of Them 1 4 Apr 02, 2014 03:06PM  
Great African Reads: January: Short Story | "Say You're One of Them" 28 66 Jan 28, 2013 08:50AM  
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Uwem Akpan was born in Ikot Akpan Eda in southern Nigeria. After studying philosophy and English at Creighton and Gonzaga universities, he studied theology for three years at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa. He was ordained as a Jesuit priest in 2003 and received his MFA in creative writing from the University of Michigan in 2006. "My Parents' Bedroom," a story from his short story colle ...more
More about Uwem Akpan...

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“I think fiction allows us to sit for a while with people we would rather not meet.” 23 likes
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