Friday, January 01, 2010

Uwem Akpan's Say You're One of Them

"Say You're One of Them" is Uwem Akpan's first collection of five short stories. He wrote in a simple style, from the perspectives of children in an Africa split by poverty, religion and politic.

I first glanced through a few pages of its shortest story, "What Language Is That?", at Kinokuniya bookstore, and was easily entranced. Perhaps, because it was only natural to sympathise with those children bearing the brunt of our world's atrocity, as friendships, families were pulled apart by riot or war, where more precious things were lost or abandoned in the short-sightedness of man. Yet, something was gained, for me, in the knowledge of those dark places, the resilience of children, and their incredible desire to survive.

In my personal favourite, "An Ex-mas Feast", about a family living in the slum, the father is a thief, his teenage daughter a street walker earning from white tourists, all determined to send the protagonist, a street urchin, to school. The story follows his thoughts, as the family struggles with poverty and he, with his pain for them and their sacrifices.

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