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Review: Say You’re One of Them

September 18, 2009

Say You're One of Them

Say You’re One of Them is a book of five short stories written by Uwem Akpan.   All of the stories are set in Africa and are told from a child’s perspective.  They deal with such topics as slavery, religious conflict, genocide and poverty.  These are stories of love and sacrifice.  They are stories of compassion and confusion.  They make you wonder how children can grow up and survive under such circumstances.  Some of the stories will leave you feeling numb.

The story that had the biggest impact on me was My Parent’s Bedroom.  It’s the story of Monique, a young girl living in Rwanda with her Tutsi mother and her Hutu father.  There is conflict between the two tribes, which Monique and her brother Jean don’t understand.  It all comes to a horrifying ending for their family when their mother makes the ultimate sacrifice.  I can’t describe the horror I felt at the end of this story.

I enjoyed Say You’re One of Them and think it’s a significant book, but I found some of the dialogue very difficult to read.  I think it would have been even harder if I didn’t know some French.  There were times when I had to read sentences several times to extract their meaning.  Here’s an example of dialogue, chosen at random:

“My mama no be like dat,” Jubril argued. “I say I dey come.  I go join una now now.  Ah ah, no vex now.  Come, pollow me go fark dis cows, and I go join.”

This book isn’t a fast read, but I think it’s an important one.  The title of the book comes from the fact that children in Africa sometimes have to deny their identity and say they’re one of “them” (another tribe or religion) in order to survive.  You will be a different person after you’ve read this book.

Uwem Akpan was born in Nigeria and educated in the US.  He currently teaches at a seminary in Zimbabwe.  Say You’re One of Them won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book, African Region, and has been nominated for several other awards.

Review copy provided by Hachette Books.

33 Comments leave one →
  1. September 18, 2009 6:44 am

    I would love to read “Say Your One of Them.” I love the title. I can imagine the dialogue is difficult. I think, like you wrote, becoming familiar with such an important story would be well worth it.

  2. September 18, 2009 7:02 am

    This sounds really interesting. I’ve added it to my TBR pile.

  3. September 18, 2009 7:31 am

    I saw that you were reading this, and was anxious to see what you thought. I read it this summer, and really liked it, but it was a tough read. The horror that each of these kids endures weighs heavy on your heart. Yes, I am glad I read it. No I don’t think I would read it again.

  4. September 18, 2009 7:53 am

    You’re going to get a deluge of traffic on this post today if this really does turn out to be Oprah’s book club pick!

  5. Mariag permalink
    September 18, 2009 8:16 am

    Thanks for the insights. I plan to add it to my TBR pile.

  6. September 18, 2009 8:47 am

    I did not realize this book was STORIES?? It has been on my wish list, but I think it will be lower priority for me now.

    Thanks for the thoughful review kATHY.

  7. Julie H. permalink
    September 18, 2009 9:18 am

    So have you heard the rumor? Oprah may be picking it today…

  8. September 18, 2009 9:30 am

    Wow. Quite possibly the most timely book review ever posted. Well done! 🙂

  9. September 18, 2009 10:10 am

    Wow. That sounds powerful! I’m not sure I’d like to plow through the dialect though.

  10. September 18, 2009 10:27 am

    I struggled very hard with this book and am shamed to say I was unable to finish it. Numb is almost an understatement. And I had difficulty with deciphering the dialog, as well.

  11. September 18, 2009 10:27 am

    That dialogue does sound challenging! I still think I want to read it though!

  12. September 18, 2009 11:30 am

    This may already be on the list, thanks to Sandy, but I will make double-sure because of your review. Interesting and important. Thank you.

  13. September 18, 2009 11:39 am

    I have this book too, I read the first story and thought that this book requires much more concentration than I could give it at that point. But i’ll get back to it sometime.

  14. September 18, 2009 12:43 pm

    It was just leaked that Oprah picked this for her book club. Everyone’s going to be reading it! But it sounds like it’s amazing, so that can only be a good thing 🙂

  15. diana mack permalink
    September 18, 2009 3:07 pm

    normally not an oprah girl but you phrased it right..this one is important

  16. September 18, 2009 4:18 pm

    Looks like you beat Oprah to this one! Thanks for the informative review.

  17. September 18, 2009 4:55 pm

    Thanks for the great review. obviously this book will get a lot more attention now that Oprah has picked it.

  18. September 18, 2009 5:04 pm

    SAY YOUR ONE OF THEM is Oprah’s next book for her club. 🙂

  19. stacybuckeye permalink
    September 18, 2009 5:31 pm

    It looks good, but I’m not sure about the dialogue.

  20. September 18, 2009 9:48 pm

    Your timing on this is amazing. The dialogue would be difficult to overcome. I love how you beat Oprah to this! It just goes to show how powerful book bloggers are and what great taste we have!!

  21. September 18, 2009 11:33 pm

    I struggled with some of the dialect in My Eyes Were Watching God…not sure I can do it again, even though I’m intrigued by the fact it won a Commonwealth Prize.

  22. September 19, 2009 12:29 am

    I tried to read this book last fall. Never made it past the second story. The dialect wasn’t easy to read. I checked it out again two weeks ago knowing it would be Oprah’s most likely pick. Still not getting through it . . .

  23. September 19, 2009 7:57 am

    This book has been on my list for a while but I really want to read it. And then Oprah had to announce it as her next pick so it will be some time before I get it at the library!! Great review of this one:)

  24. September 19, 2009 8:21 am

    I know without a doubt I couldn’t read something like this. Stories like these usually depress me a bit… somehow I have a feeling it will be an Oprah pick one day though!

  25. September 19, 2009 9:01 am

    I can see where this book would leave you numb from all the sadness and anger you probably felt as you read it. But I tell myself it’s important to read this type of book so something will be done to stop what is happening to these children.

  26. September 19, 2009 11:27 am

    I want to read this. Thanks for the review!

  27. September 20, 2009 2:03 am

    Wow. Sounds like a powerful book. Great review!

  28. September 20, 2009 12:52 pm

    You are way ahead of the game! Oprah’s got nothing on you 🙂

  29. September 20, 2009 8:39 pm

    Of coure, this book is everywhere now that Oprah picked it…but you’re awesome, because you picked it first! I have to admit, I’m not sure I’m going to read this one. Your review has made me rethink that though!

  30. September 21, 2009 4:32 pm

    Great review! I think that although this book would be hard to decipher sometimes because of the dialect, it would probably make for a very though provoking read. I will be putting this one on my wish list. Thanks!

  31. September 25, 2009 7:58 pm

    I am really looking forward to reading this one. It’s been sitting on my shelf for awhile now–probably because it’s short stories I’ve hesitated longer in starting it. Not a good excuse, I know, but true. I am glad you found this to be such a worthwhile read, Kathy. Great review.

  32. justicejenniferreads permalink
    September 26, 2009 6:03 pm

    This book does sound like a really important read even if it isn’t easy to read all the time. Definitely on my TBR pile. Great review.

  33. paulina permalink
    September 30, 2009 1:59 pm

    have you read “What is the What”
    a magnificant story about Sudanese refugee boys.
    i have worked for refugee resettlement program for 10 years and worked with many Sudanese “lost Boys” as they are called in the US.
    realistic and a powerful insight into African culture and war.
    it is educational and i believe should be a required read for any teenager growing up in this country.

    Wonderful Wonderful book.

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