Friday, January 15, 2010

Say You're One of Them: Review

BB1, knowing the shortest distance to his mom's ♥, gave me the one and only book I received this Christmas, a collection of (not that) short stories about childhood in modern urban Central Africa.

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Say You're One of Them by Uwem Akepi, true to its subject, is sordid, and beautiful, and gut-wrenching, and dusty, and compelling, and unignorable. The child protagonists are instant adults - 11-year old prostitutes, 16-year old Sharia amputees, 9 year old refugees - and the adults are lost souls. Hutu wives and their Tutsi husbands in Rwanda as it implodes, and uncles raising nieces and nephews and wondering what to do with them for love and profit. The stories, like the characters, are full of love and humour and desperation and super-human will.

First-time author Uwem Akepi manages to be true to the faith and hope one expects of a Jesuit priest (he serves at a church in Lagos, Nigeria), and to his Nigerian home. And, being true to himself, his people, and his environment, he includes an amazing array of langauges and dialects from standard English to regional French, to the made-up pidgen and patois of children living in multi-cultured lands. 

Somehow, the stories always rise above the horrific and provide a sense of peace. Akepi suitably was awarded the Commonwealth Prize for best first book, Africa Region. I hope it won't be long until his second book.

1 comment:

  1. You published this at 11:11..I hope you made a wish when you did it. Your last few posts were beautiful. I especially love the one from Jan 11


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