Archive for October, 2011
Say You’re One of Them by Uwem Akpan got acclaim from the New York Times and praise from Oprah and after reading the book, I believe it deserved the attention.
The book has five unique stories detailing various challenges including religious intolerance in Ethiopia and Nigeria, child trafficking in Gabon, ethnic conflict in Rwanda, and the life of street children in Nairobi.
The stories vary in length, but are all written from the perspective of the child involved. I have learned about all the conflicts and issues presented in the book from lectures or textbooks before, but to read a fictional account from the perspective of a child was absolutely eye-opening. Children, without the previous knowledge of the foundation of the conflicts or violence, or who are otherwise biased by their upbringing, slowly develop their understanding of the world around them. As the reader, I could follow their developing perspectives through the story, from childhood innocence to heart breaking realizations. Some are developed more in detail, others are presented as a snippet. Regardless, it was humbling to consider these events through the eyes of children.
The most profound theme that permeated every story was survival. Every character, from child to adult, was fighting for their lives in some way or another. It was a fascinating, but quick read, and after a few of the stories I was left shocked, saddened, or simply contemplative about what it means to be a human being in this world. Most of us are lucky enough never to experience these atrocities, but I recommend this book to shed light on these real life horrors rather than read history books or analyze statistics.