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On Black Sisters Street

3.68  ·  Rating Details ·  791 Ratings  ·  139 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
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Hardcover, 258 pages
Published April 26th 2011 by Random House (first published 2007)
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(showing 1-30 of 2,797)
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Nicholas Ochiel

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 f
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Adam
Nov 15, 2013 Adam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: africa
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
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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
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Abeer Hoque
Dec 15, 2015 Abeer Hoque rated it it was amazing
“That first experience [of sex] was so painful in its ordinariness that she had spent days wanting to cry.”

On Black Sisters Street by Chika Unigwe is a novel about four African sex workers who by distinct and tragic means travel from their home countries to work in the red light district of Antwerp, Belgium. The story begins with Sisi, perhaps the most complicated character, who turns to prostitution because of a failure of all the options in her life, perhaps most stunningly, education - the ho
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Jennifer D.
Feb 28, 2015 Jennifer D. rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2015-books
2.5-stars, really.
"There were worse things to become, she reminded herself. She was not a robber, not a cheat, not a 419er sending deceitful e-mails to gullible Westerners. She would make her money honestly. Every cent of it would be earned by her sweat. She did not need to enjoy her job, but she would do it well."

i am having trouble rating this novel. the issues unigwe highlights are very important, and telling these stories is important. we are given four women who have been trafficked from
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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 really liked it
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
Apr 18, 2011 Minakshi rated it really liked it
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
Jul 02, 2011 Carolyn Moncel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 16, 2011 Bernadette rated it really liked it
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
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Elisha
Sep 15, 2016 Elisha rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars.

First things first with this book: Trigger warning. There are multiple detailed scenes of sexual assault and it also contains other distressing and violent scenes. If you're going to read this book, be aware of that.

I think it's pretty clear that this is not a pleasant read. However, good books don't always have to be good fun. This is a very important book about issues which I would say are under-represented in literature. It follows 4 African (mostly Nigerian) women who have each esc
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Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
This is one of those books that hides lazy writing and cardboard characters behind a topic you can’t criticize: in this case, it’s sex trafficking. Now, if you love every book you read with tragic subject matter you should probably skip my review, but if you are looking for literary merit, then read on.

On Black Sisters Street features four women – three from Nigeria and one from Sudan – working as prostitutes in Belgium. At the beginning of the book we learn that one of them, Sisi, will be murde
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Lade Tawak
Parameters of happiness change

The first 40 or so pages of this book bored me to death. Reading was a drag. I wasn't into the story and it was all floating about my head. I decided to press on and not give up on it so early (mostly because I bought it myself and my friends said it was actually an enjoyable book).

I think that the transitions from past to present to past ... could have been done better. The flow wasn't very good and sometimes you're stuck wondering what is happening. Also, in some
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Babydoll
Jun 05, 2011 Babydoll rated it really liked it
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
Jul 11, 2011 Andre rated it did not like it
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
Apr 09, 2013 Angela rated it really liked it
Shelves: belgium
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
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Sara
Apr 18, 2011 Sara rated it it was ok
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
Simon
Jan 07, 2016 Simon rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
An involving and moving story of four women who come from Nigeria to Antwerp (not Brussels, as mistakenly mentioned on the back cover blurb of my edition) to work in the sex trade, with one of them not making it out alive. All are strong, well drawn characters with tragic backstories, although one in particular is given a little more depth than the others.
Unigwe has a habit of dropping spoilers into the middle of her own novel, telling you in the middle of the book what happens to certain charac
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Lulu
Jul 28, 2016 Lulu rated it liked it
Shelves: local-library
I'm rating this as 3.5. This book started off so slow for me. I honestly felt like giving up, but I'm glad I didn't. This was a read that I won't soon forget. 4 African women who become sex workers in Belgium (3 because they feel like there is no other way out and 1 who simply did not know). We didn't really get to know the person who the book was really about, Sisi. Another 60 or so pages about Sisi and this book probably would have been 5 stars for me.
OMITIRAN ADEBAYO
Oct 17, 2015 OMITIRAN ADEBAYO rated it it was amazing
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 e
...more
Imade (Bridge Four)
Sep 07, 2015 Imade (Bridge Four) rated it really liked it
Very well-written book. I felt immersed in the story, and very involved in the lives of these four women, who life has crushed at every turn. The story portrays the hard & cruel realities created by gender, race and class and its victims therein. The point where Joyce/Alek narrates her rape experience, I couldn't take it anymore I was just literally screaming & tearing up. Not a happy ending, but a not a sad one either. It's just as messy as real life is.
Carolyne
Jun 24, 2012 Carolyne rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 11, 2014 Winnie M rated it liked it
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
Jan 16, 2015 Sonja rated it it was ok
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.
Mel
Dec 06, 2014 Mel rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Shahidah Siraaj
Jun 10, 2011 Shahidah Siraaj rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 10, 2013 Emi rated it liked it
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.

Beth
This is the story of four African women(one Sudanese refugee and three Nigerians) who have ended up working in the red light district in Antwerp. It's a well-told tale of dreams betrayed and of resilience and friendship. It is a huge argument for improving the conditions for women in third world nations.
Nina Chachu
Jul 04, 2010 Nina Chachu rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: yes, especially if interested in contemporary African fiction
Recommended to Nina by: heard about it on BBC
I probably would have given this book 3.5 stars, but will just leave it as it is. Although it is about four prostitutes in Antwerp, the death of one of them causes the others to tell their stories: how they came from Nigeria to Belgium, but more importantly what drove them to Europe.
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Chika Unigwe was born in Enugu, Nigeria, and now lives in Turnhout, Belgium, with her husband and four children. She writes in English and Dutch.

In April 2014 she was selected for the Hay Festival's Africa39 list of 39 Sub-Saharan African writers aged under 40 with potential and talent to define future trends in African literature.
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Unigwe holds a BA in English Language and Literature from the Uni
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