Akpan combines the strengths of both fiction and journalism - the dramatic potential of the one and the urgency of the other - to create a work of immense power...He is a gifted storyteller capable of bringing to life myriad characters and points of view...the result is admirable, artistically as well as morally.
Adelle Waldman, Christian Science Monitor
It is not merely the subject that makes Akpan's...writing so astonishing, translucent, and horrifying all at once; it is his talent with metaphor and imagery, his immersion into character and place....Uwem Akpan has given these children their voices, and for the compassion and art in his stories I am grateful and changed.
Susan Straight, Washington Post Book World (front page review)
Say You're One of Them is a book that belongs on every shelf.
Sherryl Connelly, New York Daily News
Searing...In the end, the most enduring image of these disturbing, beautiful and hopeful stories is that of slipping away. Children disappear into the anonymous blur of the big city or into the darkness of the all-encompassing bush. One can only hope that they survive to live another day and tell another tale.
June Sawyers, San Francisco Chronicle
These stories are complex, full of respect for the characters facing depravity, free of sensationalizing or glib judgments. They are dispatches from a journey, Akpan makes clear, which has only begun. It is to their credit that grim as they are-you cannot but hope these tales have a sequel.
John Freeman, Cleveland Plain-Dealer
An important literary debut.... Juxtaposed against the clarity and revelation in Akpan's prose-as translucent a style as I've read in a long while--we find subjects that nearly render the mind helpless and throw the heart into a hopeless erratic rhythm out of fear, out of pity, out of the shame of being only a few degrees of separation removed from these monstrous modern circumstances...The reader discovers that no hiding place is good enough with these stories battering at your mind and heart.
Alan Cheuse, Chicago Tribune
A stupefyingly talented young Nigerian priest. Akpan never flinches from his difficult subjects--poverty, slavery, mass murder--but he has the largeness of soul to make his vision of the terrible transcendent.
Jeffrey Burke and Craig Seligman, Bloomberg News
Any of the six stories in this collection set in Africa is enough to break a reader's heart. Two are novella length, including a tour de force, 'Luxurious Hearses,' which takes place on a crowded bus.
From citation by Larry Dark for SAY YOU'RE ONE OF THEM, a Notable Book finalist for The Story Prize.
Uwem Akpan's searing Say You're One of Them captures a ravaged Africa through the dry-eyed gaze of children trying to maintain a sense of normalcy amid chaos.
Megan O'Grady, Vogue
The humor, the endurance, the horrors and grace-Akpan has captured all of it.... The stories are not only amazing and moving, and imbued with a powerful moral courage-they are also surprisingly expert.... Beautifully constructed, stately in a way that offsets their impoverished scenarios. Akpan wants you to see and feel Africa, its glory and its pain. And you do, which makes this an extraordinary book.
Vince Passaro, O Magazine
Uwem Akpan, a Nigerian Jesuit priest, has said he was inspired to write by the 'humor and endurance of the poor,' and his debut story collection...about the gritty lives of African children - speaks to the fearsome, illuminating truth of that impulse.
Lisa Shea, Elle
Haunting prose.... A must-read.
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Awe is the only appropriate response to Uwem Akpan's stunning debut, Say You're One of Them, a collection of five stories so ravishing and sad that I regret ever wasting superlatives on fiction that was merely very good. A.
Jennifer Reese, Entertainment Weekly (EW Pick / Grade A)
[A] startling debut collection... Akpan is not striving for surreal effects. He is summoning miseries that are real.... He fuses a knowledge of African poverty and strife with a conspicuously literary approach to storytelling filtering tales of horror through the wide eyes of the young.
Janet Maslin, The New York Times
...a tour de force that takes readers into the lives glimpsed in passing on the
evening news...These are stories that could have been mired in sentimentality. But
the spare, straightforward language - there are few overtly expressed emotions,
few adjectives--keeps the narratives moving, unencumbered and the pages turning
to the end.
brilliant...an extraordinary portrait of modern Africa... [Akpan]...
is an important and
gifted writer who should be read.
Deirdre Donahue, USA TODAY
This fierce story collection from a Nigerian-born Jesuit priest brings home Africa's most haunting tragedies in tales that take you from the streets of Nairobi to the Hutu-Tutsi genocide.
Margo Hammond & Ellen Heltzel, Minneapolis Star Tribune
Uwem Akpan's stunning short story collection, Say You're One of Them, offers a richer, more nuanced view of Africa than the one we often see on the news....Akpan never lets us forget that the resilient youngsters caught up in these extraordinary circumstances are filled with their own hopes and dreams, even as he assuredly illuminates the harsh realities.
Patrik Henry Bass, Essence
In the corrupt, war-ravaged Africa of this starkly beautiful debut collection, identity is shifting, never to be trusted...Akpan's people, and the dreamlike horror of the worlds they reveal, are impossible to forget.
Kim Hubbard, People
All the promise and heartbreak of Africa today are brilliantly illuminated in this debut collection...
John Marshall, Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Akpan's brilliance is to present a brutal subject through the bewildered, resolutely chipper voice of children...All five of these stories are electrifying.
Maureen Corrigan, NPR's "Fresh Air"
“Akpan wants you to see and feel Africa, its glory and its pain.”
O, The Oprah Magazine
“Drops the reader into the midst of wonderfully rendered worlds, and compellingly so. I hope it finds the wide readership it merits.”
Oscar Hijuelos, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love
“A startling debut…Akpan is not striving for surreal
effects. He is summoning miseries that are real…He fuses a knowledge of African
poverty and strife with a conspicuously literary approach to storytelling
filtering tales of horror through the wide eyes of the young.”
New York Times
is the only appropriate response to Uwem Akpan’s stunning debut…so ravishing
and sad that I regret ever wasting superlatives on fiction that was merely very
Akpan…captures a ravaged Africa through the dry-eyed gaze of children trying to
maintain a sense of normalcy amid chaos.”
Akpan, a Nigerian Jesuit priest, has said he was inspired to write by the
‘humor and endurance of the poor,’ and his debut story collection…about the
gritty lives of African children—speaks to the fearsome, illuminating truth of
“Nigerian-born Jesuit priest Akpan transports the reader into gritty scenes of chaos and fear in his rich debut collection of five long stories set in war-torn Africa. Akpan’s prose is beautiful and his stories are insightful and revealing, made even more harrowing because all the horror—and there is much—is seen through the eyes of children.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)