I read this because of Amani’s review for the Africa Reading Challenge. She was right: it was wildly depressing, but not without good cause. There are some depressings we should read. My thoughts:
uneven but worthy voice to Africa’s children
Akpan seeks to give voice to Africa’s suffering children.* Each of his stories portrays children or adolescents caught in the midst of an African tragedy, whether it’s Rwanda’s genocide, child trafficking in West Africa, or the grinding poverty of street life in Kenya.
Each of the stories delves and yield insight into challenges that most Western readers can barely fathom. Akpan strives and often succeeds in capturing the confusion, uncertainty, and stress that life imposes on many of the world’s children. Not all the stories are equally captivating: Luxurious Hearses drags while My Parents’ Bedroom is excellent (while almost inconceivably tragic).
Here are the stories, from the strongest to the weakest. I highly recommend the top two and recommend the rest.
- My Parents’ Bedroom – Rwandan genocide
- An Ex-mas Feast – street family in Kenya
- Fattening for Gabon – child trafficking in West Africa
- What Language Is That? – religious strife in Ethiopia
- Luxurious Hearses – violence in Nigeria
I hope that Akpan keeps writing. I will read.
Links to other reviews:
- New York Times: Charles Taylor (from Liberian warlord to NYT book reviewer!), “Can I Get a Witness?” 27 July 2008
- Entertainment Weekly: Jennifer Reese, “Say…,” 6 June 2008
- PopMatters: Carolyn Fanelli, “Say You’re One of Them,” 29 August 2008
- Chicago Tribune: Alan Cheuse, “Say You’re One of Them,” 31 May 2008
- O, the Oprah Magazine: Vince Passaro, “Amazing Grace,” June 2008
- The Independent (UK): Alastair Niven, “Say…,” 11 July 2008
- Chris Blattman’s blog
- Amani’s blog