On Black Sisters Street: A Novel
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On Black Sisters Street: A Novel

3.56 of 5 stars 3.56  ·  rating details  ·  397 ratings  ·  96 reviews
On Black Sisters Street tells the haunting story of four very different women who have left their African homeland for the riches of Europe—and who are thrown together by bad luck and big dreams into a sisterhood that will change their lives.

Each night, Sisi, Ama, Efe, and Joyce stand in the windows of Antwerp’s red-light district, promising to make men’s desires come tru...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published April 26th 2011 by Random House (first published 2007)
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Nicholas

Writing On Black Sisters' Street has been a learning experience for me. I am, in the first place, grateful to those whose story it is: the nameless Nigerian sex workers who allowed me into their lives, answering my questions and laughing at my ignorance. (p.297, Acknowledgements)


Unigwe tells the stories of girls who have undergone extreme abuse. These stories are necessary but it is disappointing that the author is unable to critically engage with the ways in which her usage of these stories fro...more
Adam
This is the story of 4 black African girls living together in Antwerp (Belgium). Each of them owe an enormous amount of money to Dele, a Nigerian in Lagos, who has facilitated their arrival in Europe. To pay him off they must sell their bodies to the sex-starved men of Antwerp.

When I began reading the book I was a little confused, but after re-reading the first few pages a couple of times, I was rapidly sucked into this charming novel. Gradually, we learn about the lives and ambitions of the 4 w...more
Cheryl
I've wanted to read this book since Chika Unigwe won the coveted $100k Nigerian literature prize. This book is entertaining indeed, in some places unfolding just like the popular and highly entertaining Nigerian dramas. One thing that Unigwe did well here was the rich dialogue: you could envision yourself in the middle of the conversation. And the strategic sprinkle of dialect: just enough to be authentic, not too much to overwhelm.

The story is about African women with traumatic childhoods who...more
Wanda
Wow. I don't even know how to begin describing how amazing this book was. I'm a person who is very interested in other's backgrounds and Chika Unigwe gave me a enlightening glimpse into the past of 4 Nigerian prostitutes and what brought them all together in one of Belgium's red light districts. Their stories broke my heart, and even though this book is fiction, their's are the stories of not just African women, but stories all women can relate to regardless of our differences. Not only that, bu...more
Yasmin
Jun 27, 2011 Yasmin rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Literary Enthusiasts who enjoy reading books with black female protagonists
Recommended to Yasmin by: Phyllis Rhodes, Beverly Jackson
On Black Sisters Street is the story of four African females, who for various reasons, end up prostitutes in Belgiums red light district. All are chasing the dream of a better life outside their native countries in Africa. For one of them the dream will end tragically. On Black Sisters Street is a raw, provocative and riveting novel from debut author Chika Unigwe. The beginning was a little juxtaposed for me, but once I got past the first couple of chapters and began to hear the voices of Ama, J...more
Minakshi
Black Sisters Street is Zwartezusterstraat, in the middle of Belgium's red-light district, home to four African women who have left their homeland in the naïve hope of betterment. The story begins when one of the women, Sisi, is found murdered. As her remaining co-workers and house mates, Ama, Efe and Joyce come to terms with her death, each relives their painful journey from Nigeria to Belgium to become sex workers, and how they have been brought together by Dele, a Nigerian pimp, and by "the t...more
Carolyn Moncel
Living in Switzerland, stopping human trafficking is a goal for many Int'l agencies here. It's a very interesting book because the topic, though fictional, is very real. It's not just a problem in Belgium, as depicted in the story, but all across Europe, Asia, and yes, North America. The stories and circumstances for which the women find themselves are believable and very sad. The author does a good job in providing some insights into the backgrounds of these characters. If I have any criticism,...more
Bernadette
I really like this book and I'm really torn between whether to give this a 4 or 5 star rating...It may be a cliche but really, I could not put this book down. Unigwe is a very talented the writer and I'm looking forward to more from her. This book made me sad and mad (sex trafficking will do that) but Unigwe has a gift in her ability to infuse some humor into the horrific story.

The New York Times said it better than I can: "Despite the horrors it depicts, On Black Sisters' Street is also boilin...more
Babydoll
On Black Sisters Street is an eloquently written novel, that provides a vivid account of the global sex trade industry. Author Chika Unigwe depicts the numerous elements of the trade, by profiling four young African women, who each come from different backgrounds and circumstances, that bring them together in Antwerp Belgium to serve as night women. A tragic loss will transform the women as fellow work and housemates to a permanent bond of sisterhood, which delivers encouragement and strength to...more
Andre
Ahhh, the Black boogie man is alive and well in this purported look into the sex industry. The government that allows for women to stand in windows and offer themselves to strangers, is never taken to task. The bad white men are nonexistent in this novel. But, there are black men of evil a plenty. If you are going to write from the ladies perspective, surely they have thought about ALL men involved in the industry; and a world that has taught people to value the pursuit of material over all else...more
Angela
I really don't know where to start with this book except to say the stories of these women saddens me. Their lives would unfortunately resonate with many women in the world today. Not so much the life of prostitution, but tales of last resorts.

The story brings together four women from Africa to the life of prostitution in the city of Antwerp. The story does not focus on the fact that the women are prostitutes but it gives insight into the circumstances that led them to this lifestyle. You have...more
Sara
2.5 stars. I won this book from GoodReads and thought it sounded promising - four Nigerian immigrants are thrown together in Belgium, where they've been imported to work as prostitutes, and the murder of one of them draws the other three closer together into a tight-knit sisterhood. Unfortunately, this book did not live up to its promise. I never felt as if the women were truly bonding or forming a sisterhood, and the story was so weak on the main plot that threaded everything together that it f...more
Catherine McNamara
Chika Unigwe's book is truly heartbreaking and full of strong authentic emotion. Skilfully, she portrays the lives of four exploited sex workers from Nigeria and the Sudan, without sinking into dogma or cliché. The continent the women leave behind is full of tragic lives riddled with loss, failure and financial burdens, and yet Unigwe also paints a portrait of loving families, cropped careers, diminished expectations - and hope. Her use of colloquial language makes the story authentic without be...more
Carolyne
Excellent read. Loved the way Unigwe managed to tell the stories of each woman so colourfully and so vividly. This book was difficult to put down, it flowed from one page to the next. I particularly loved her deliberate and eloquent use of pidgin throughout. Even though the book focuses on a very sensitive and unsettling theme, Unigwe is able to depict a highly nuanced narrative of each character. A must-read for all lovers of contemporary African writing.
Winnie M
Narrates the lives of women struggling to survive in Europe and forced to sell themselves in order to pay off their debt. a story of friendship and sisterhood, hope and aspiration for a better life.
Sonja
Unfortunate. Poorly written, flat. This reminded me of another unfortunate book, Avigail something by Chris Abani. The reason that I regarded these two identically unfortunate books is probably due to their remote, superficial look at the life of prostitutes. After all, they are 'the others' to these authors' eyes. Therefore, the undertone of these stories were identical: victimology.
Shahidah Siraaj
This book started off slowly but I stuck with it and was pleasantly surprised by how engaging it would eventually become. One of the marks of a good writer is her ability to create characters that the reader feels as if they know or can identify with. Chika Uniqwe did exactly that in Black Sisters Street. It was a great book even as the story itself is tragic.
Emi
Did not warm to the book, I didn't connect with any character. It really annoyed me that Sisi had to die. However, my tears came at the end, when they thought about how their lives could have been. Like when one of the girls went to find a childhood book and locked herself up reading it, that moved me beyond words.

Kelly
Another good FirstReads! Very strong story about the lives of four women who have, for various reasons, entered the world of prostitution. At times heartbreaking, it is very well-written and tells a much needed tale of working women's lives.
J
(FROM JACKET)"On Black Sisters Street" tells the haunting story of four very different women who have left their African homeland for the riches of Europe-and who are thrown together by bad luck and big dreams into a sisterhood that will change their lives.

Each night, Sisi, Ama, Efe, and Joyce stand in the windows of Antwerp's red-light district, promising to make men's desires come true-if only for half an hour. Pledged to the fierce Madam and a mysterious pimp named Dele, the girls share an ap...more
Linda
This book took me away from work I planned to do at home. Very vivid, I was right in Antwerp with the girls. Time well-spent.
Carrie
Mar 01, 2011 Carrie marked it as to-read
Yayy!! Another goodreads win!! This one looks really good, can't wait to get it and read it!
Joyce
Good book! I cared about the characters right from the start.
Language Infusions
In Spanish by Language Infusions

Los antagonistas de las autoridades inmigratorias suelen hacer caso omiso a las fuerzas trágicas que llevan a la gente hasta la muerte. Esto, porque al llegar a las tierras de la abundancia muchos suertudos ignoran los horrores que les espera una vez que desembarcan.
Imagina la estación de tren donde desembarcan miles de inmigrantes africanos donde el conductor los asalta y viola, mientras que el vigilante planea enclavarlos a una nueva forma de opresión. Este tip...more
Ian Russell
Uneasy going at first, and I nearly gave up, but by about chapter three it seemed to morph into another book altogether, a steady pace of storytelling, almost oral in style; measured and quite metronomic, rather too journalistic maybe.

It is the story, or stories, of four women contracted out of Nigeria to work as prostitutes in Antwerp. All are told in the third person. Three of the stories are stereotypical and related with just a modicum of emotion and sentimentality - impartial almost as a ne...more
Alexandra
Inhalt:
Sisi, Efe, Ama und Joyce - vier nigerianische junge Frauen - zusammengeführt durch das Schicksal des Lebens. Jede der vier Frauen leidet unter ihrer persönlichen, tragischen Lebenserfahrung und sie haben nur einen sehnlichsten Wunsch: Sie möchten ihrem Land den Rücken kehren und im Ausland eine Chance auf ein besseres Leben finden. Denn trotz größter Bemühungen sehen sie keine Zukunft in ihrem Land. Sie bekommen trotz sehr guter Schulausbildung keinen Job, sie werden missbraucht oder wer...more
Courtney
At first I really didn't get into this book. It was set in the gloomy red light district of Antwerp, a desolate place full of ruined women's lives. Then we meet four women all sharing the same house and madame. Their names are Sisi, Efe, Joyce and Ama. Their lives all converged in Lagos, a city in Nigeria, before they were shipped off to Belgium by a rich "export specialist" named Dele. The girls lives are all told in colorful flastbacks to Nigeria. Some of their childhoods were happy, some were...more
Andrew
This novel, by a black African writer about black Africans in the 2000s, deserves as wide a readership as the pitiful & pallid pseudo-porn of 'Fifty Shades Of Grey';it won't achieve that,of course, as this is a powerful & emotionally-charged story of real women in the contemporary African diaspora,which doesn't play to the slathering voyeuse in the gallery, but to our common & global humanity. It seethes with a strong dose of injustice & angry dismay; it burns my white skin,&...more
Sam
Black sisters' street refers to Zwartezusterstraat, a street in the red light district of Brussels famous for its African prostitutes. Unigwe's story starts with three young women learning the news that the fourth woman they share a house with, Sisi, has been brutally murdered. Although they have kept their distance from each other in the past, this news brings the three women together and they start to share their stories. Efe had an affair with a married man as she thought this would lead to...more
Andrew
I am going to find it very hard to review this book as a man ,I found it a very distressing read in parts but also very moving. It is the story of 4 women who for various reasons end going from Lagos to Nigeria as prostitutes, unable to escape from their lives there because a debt they then owe to the gang leader and fear of violence. After the death of one of them (revealed in blurb at back) the three remaining women tell their individual stories interspersed with chapters telling the story of...more
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Chika Unigwe is a Nigerian-born poet, novelist, short story and children's writer who makes her home in Belgium (she describes herself as "Afro Belgian") and writes in Dutch and in English. She holds a Ph.D in Literature from the University of Leiden in the Netherlands.

Chika Unigwe in the English Wikipedia


Chika Unigwe is een dichter en schrijfster, geboren in Nigeria en wonende in België (zij besc...more
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