On the cover, a sunny day, a barefoot little girl in a pretty dress running down the road, a picture of joy and innocence. In this case you will find that the old saying, "you can't judge a book by it's cover" is proved between the covers, within the pages of this book.
"Say You're One Of Them" was written by Uwem Akpan and published in 2008 by Back Bay Books.
It has received several awards, Winner of the Commonwalth Winners prize for Best First Book(African Region) - Longlisted for the Story Prize and Finalist for the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction. There are pages of rave reviews of this work and from the first page of the five short stories to the last, you will find yourself in full agreement with them all.
I have not been one of those whose head has been in the sand when it comes to the condition of the world we live in today. I watch the news, the documentries and alot of the films that different benevolent and religious organizations produce for the public. Yes, they shine the light on the deplorable conditions, the violence, the desperation of the people and yes they do, at times, focus on the children. But Mr. Akpan shows us through the eyes of the children themselves, their hearts and their voices, the truth from their perspective and I will tell you, it is not an easy read.
A mere child of twelve selling herself to put food on her families table and monies into a fund so that her brother can go to school. Parents having their children sniffing glue, thinking it was a blessing to be able to provide that glue, just so they could hold off hunger pains.
A brother and sister living with an uncle whom they loved and adored, and all the while that uncle was plotting and planning, making sure they would have plenty of food and education so they would be more presentable to the slave traders when they came to look over the merchandise.
A story of two little girls who grew up together as best friends, seperated by the violent prejudice and hatred of the adult world, based on religious differences, not understanding any of it, because for them, as far as they were concerned, they were still friends, they still loved each other, they saw no differences.
A happy home, with a comfortable life, becoming a nightmare because of racial differences and in the end pitting the father(a Hutu) against the mother(a Tutsi) to the point of murder and leaving two children wandering the streets dazed, clutching a broken crucifix and covered in their mother's blood.
A young man on a crowded bus, trying to get back to his fathers home,running from violence, only to find more. Afraid those on the bus would find out who he really was, discover his religious convictions and punish him. The fear and the mounting tention as the story progressed was almost too much to take in. I had to stop several times during the reading of this story and take a time out before proceeding to the stunning conclusion.
What struck me about all of these children, from the toddler to the teenager was...they kept believing for a happy ending, like all children are prone to do. They just knew some adult was going to save them, to deliver them out of the nightmare in which they found themselves. But nobody did, nobody came to the rescue, there was nobody to wake them up, hug them and tell them it had all been just a horrible dream...no one.
Although from the very beginning we knew the characters were fictional, we have to admit, if we are honest, that they still represent real people in real situations, and they and the conditions, are not going to go away...just because we may look away. Dear Mr.Akpan has given them a voice. He has shone the light of truth for them. I heard a line in a movie not too long after I finished this book, and it came from a homeless man. Someone had murdered another homeless man, a friend of his and he told the police officers, "Just because we are invisible doesn't mean we don't count." We may not live in these faraway lands, we may turn off the tv or change the channel so we don't have to see these people...but they still count! I have a pastor friend who used to always say, "God will not hold you responsible if you did not know. But once you do ...you are." I believe this book, although a work of fiction, should be required reading for every member of the United Nations and every leader of every nation, great and small. May God have mercy on us if we allow this to continue.
The story portion of the book ends on page 354. After that, there are several aknowlegements, an "About The Author" and a Reading Group Guide/A Conversation with The Author.
For more information you may visit www.sayyoureoneofthem.com