Do you ever have moments when you just have to laugh at yourself?!? I'm having one of those moments right now! On Sunday afternoon, I ran into Borders to pick up a magazine for my trip back from New York and on my way to the counter I passed by a rack full of this book. I saw the "Oprah" seal of approval and mostly thought "what a cool picture" and just went about my business without realizing that I was passing one of the biggest things in the literary world right now. First, an African (specifically Nigerian) writer is out and about causing a tidal wave. I'm talking top five on the New York Times bestseller list people! Just the thought of it makes me blurry-eyed with pride. Second, a book of short-stories is at the heart of this craze. Umm, do you know just how difficult that is?!?! My favorite genre is making it big!
Say You're One of Them by Uwen Akpan is a collection of 5 stories set in various African countries, all told through the eyes of children. In Luxurious Hearses, Jubril, a teenage Muslim, flees the violence in northern Nigeria. Attacked by his own Muslim neighbors, his only way out is on a bus transporting Christians to the south. In Fattening for Gabon, 10-year-old Kotchikpa and his younger sister are sent by their sick parents to live with their uncle, Fofo Kpee, who in turn explains to the children that they are going to live with their prosperous godparents, who, as Kotchikpa pieces together, are actually human traffickers.
In An Ex-mas Feast tells the heartbreaking story of eight-year-old Jigana, a Kenyan boy whose 12-year-old sister, Maisha, works as a prostitute to support her family. Jigana's mother quells the children's hunger by having them sniff glue while they wait for Maisha to earn enough to bring home a holiday meal. Having spent a little time in Nairobi, this story puts a face to all the street kids and malayas running around that city in a way that is nearly impossible to describe. After the first few paragraphs I literally found it difficult to continue because I know just how real it all is, but the story is just so worth it.
If you are anything like me and there is a big gulf between you and the nearest bookstore (i.e. it isn't in your actual building), don't fear because I will certainly not leave you hanging. You can click both of these two links - My Parents' Bedroom and An Ex-mas Feast - to read these stories that the gracious New Yorker has available until you can find your way to a store to get the rest of the book.
On a book-related note, I'd just like to guide you over to Tanafriti Book Blog which is all about African writers. This is a new blog that had me at Hadu and I'm definitely looking forward to all the literary treasures that Enisio has yet to reveal.