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Say You're One of Them
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Say You're One of Them

3.53  ·  Rating details ·  14,317 ratings  ·  2,367 reviews
Uwem Akpan's stunning stories humanize the perils of poverty and violence so piercingly that few readers will feel they've ever encountered Africa so immediately. The eight-year-old narrator of "An Ex-Mas Feast" needs only enough money to buy books and pay fees in order to attend school. Even when his twelve-year-old sister takes to the streets to raise these meager funds, ...more
Hardcover, 358 pages
Published September 18th 2009 by Little, Brown and Company (first published June 5th 2008)
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Average rating 3.53  · 
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 ·  14,317 ratings  ·  2,367 reviews

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Sep 25, 2010 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)
May 28, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 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
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
Julie Christine
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
Sep 22, 2009 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
Oct 19, 2008 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
Mariah Roze
Sep 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
"Uwem Akpan's stunning stories humanize the perils of poverty and violence so piercingly that few readers will feel they've ever encountered Africa so immediately. The eight-year-old narrator of "An Ex-Mas Feast" needs only enough money to buy books and pay fees in order to attend school. Even when his twelve-year-old sister takes to the streets to raise these meager funds, his dream can't be granted. Food comes first. His family lives in a street shanty in Nairobi, Kenya, but their way of both ...more
Lindsay Barnes
Oct 16, 2012 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
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
Oct 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
5 short stories of children caught in horrific battles for their life and liberty in Africa, Say You're One of Them is so heart-breaking, although it is wonderfully written and engaging, I would never want to read it again.
A collection of five stories by Uwem Akpan, a Nigerian pastor, Say You're One of Them is a hard-hitting social commentary on the plight of African children. The stories are set in different African countries, each one depicting its own problems. Akpan has lived in different African countries, so this was probably a good choice.

The Ex-Mas Feast - 3 stars

Maisha, a twelve year old kid from the slums of Nairobi, has already taken to street walking to provide for her family and to send her young brot
Jan 03, 2009 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
Apr 22, 2009 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
Jul 01, 2008 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
Michele Torrey
Mar 28, 2010 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
This is one of those books that sucker punch the reader, a blow for each of the five stories,all the more devastating because I really wanted to be friends.

UA is a very good,confident writer and his words carry some weight. He is not a tourist nor an academic,not a journalist,and certainly no thrill seeking adventurer. His empathy is boundless, and he has sharpened his perceptions to include the grubby details that bring the stories to vivid life. I was prepared for them to be somewhat bleak,gi
Heart-wrenching stories on Africa's issues of poverty, religious and sectarian conflicts among others told by children. Uwem Akpan wants the world to listen to these children, who are not only represent their countries and continent but to all children in the world who deserve sanctuary and safe haven. Depressive but necessary read. Highly recommended.


Ada lima cerita tentang beragam konflik dan masalah di Afrika yang disampaikan oleh anak-anak. Saat kebobrokan kemanusiaan diceritakan dengan n
Faith Reidenbach
Apr 28, 2012 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
Apr 06, 2011 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
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.
Jul 14, 2009 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.
Nabse Bamato
Jun 12, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 09, 2013 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
Jun 14, 2008 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.
Vicky Hunt
A complicated anthology of stories that illustrate life in Africa, Say You're One of Them is a brilliant bit of work. It is not a quick read for various reasons. It is written like many good novels with the dialect of the people, a broken English, which makes it difficult to follow sometimes. Also, for readers of Western background, the culture is quite different from their own, and that makes it a bit more complex. Overall, many readers will also find themselves disliking most all the character ...more
Bryan "They call me the Doge"
Uwem Akpan's five stories in this collection are well-written, fictionalized versions of the horrific problems of Africa as experienced by children: child-prostitution, child-slavery, child-soldiers, slaughtered for religious differences, poverty, hunger, and victims of genecide. Although powerful and affecting, they unfortunately leave me with a sense of frustration and powerlessness, because there isn't a thing I can do about any of these problems. These are the kind of stories that leave well ...more
Apr 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: short-stories
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
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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

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