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3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (7,399 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Uwem Akpan Narrator: Robin Miles, Dion Graham Publisher: Hachette Book Group Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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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 loving and taking advantage of each other strikes a universal chord.

In the second of his stories published in a New Yorker special fiction issue, Akpan takes us far beyond what we thought we knew about the tribal conflict in Rwanda. The story is told by a young girl, who, with her little brother, witnesses the worst possible scenario between parents. They are asked to do the previously unimaginable in order to protect their children. This singular collection will also take the reader inside Nigeria, Benin, and Ethiopia, revealing in beautiful prose the harsh consequences for children of life in Africa.

Akpan’s voice is a literary miracle, rendering lives of almost unimaginable deprivation and terror into stories that are nothing short of transcendent.

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Quotes & Awards

  • 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)
  • 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"
  • ...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. Associated Press
  • 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
  • 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.
  • 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
  • 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)
  • 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"
  • ...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. Associated Press
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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.
  • Robin Miles adopts a lovely French-African accent, and if she allows Akpan's beautiful turns of phrase to shine, the underlying tension and fear are also never far from the surface. Miles also narrates "What Language Is That?" This story is partially unaccented, a choice that accentuates the second-person point of view...Dion Graham, in Kenyan-accented English, successfully embodies the family's mother and father, teenaged daughter, and young son AudioFile, Publishers Weekly
  • “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.”

    Entertainment Weekly

  • “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.”

    New York Times

  • “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.”

    Vogue

  • “Akpan wants you to see and feel Africa, its glory, and its pain. And you do, which makes this an extraordinary book.”

    O, The Oprah 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.”

    Elle

  • “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.”

    People

  • “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.”

    San Francisco Chronicle

  • “This brilliant collection of short stories by Nigerian-born Akpan invites listeners into a world of beauty and heartbreak where young people in the throes of adolescence struggle to survive harrowing violence and tragedy.”

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  • “With the intensity of Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, Say You’re One of Them tells of the horrors faced by young people throughout Africa. Akpan uses five short stories…to bring to light topics ranging from selling children in Gabon to the Muslim versus Christian battles in Ethiopia. The characters face choices that most American high school students will never have to…The selections are peppered with a mix of English, French, and a variety of African tongues, and some teens may find themselves reading at a slower pace than usual, but the impact of the stories is well worth the effort.”

    School Library Journal

  • “Haunting prose…A must-read.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • An Oprah’s Book Club Selection for 2009
  • Nominated for the Story Prize for Short Fiction
  • Winner of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book, African Region
  • Finalist for the 2008 Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Prize for First Fiction
  • Nominated for the 2008 Guardian First Book Award
  • A New York Times Bestseller
  • One of the Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2008

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Jayne | 2/20/2014

    " TOO bleak for me. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 by Michelle | 2/20/2014

    " The stories start alright but the endings are awful. Just leaves you hanging. The only stories I liked were the last couple. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Cyndee | 2/14/2014

    " wow - this is a tough one... don't know if i can get through it, it's so raw and real. a very rough look at poverty and survival in the third world. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by My Bookshelf | 2/3/2014

    " I borrowed a copy of this from my Mom, who read it at the behest of Oprah, and read it a few months after I moved back to NY from California. It's an incredibly sad book, but well-written. Luxurious Hearses is by far the best story in the collection. "

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