you're one of them...

First, I apologize for the silence...schedule a bit crowded these days. A belated Happy New Year to all.
I tend to find it most difficult to fall asleep when I am busiest for some reason, and have taken to sneaking in a few pages of fiction as a new nighttime/early morning ritual. For the longest time I have been meaning to read Uwem Akpan's collection of short stories, "Say You're One of Them."
As a matter of personal principle, I try to stay away from reviews, particularly critical ones, until after I finish reading a novel. However, after delving into the first few pages I had to confirm my suspicion that I was in possession of 300plus pages of unadulterated poverty p*rn (sorry for the asterisk, trying to avoid the onslaught of strange comments I receive when I use such terms...such as in this post.) I was so naive....for only stories of child prostitutes and wonton African poverty would titillate the Oprah Book Club following.
While I have less patience for such genres, writer and blogger, Alligator Legs, takes a more balanced view (while confirming my initial gut reaction) and reviews his most recent contribution to the The New Yorker.


  1. KG said...:

    Hey Nneoma,
    What's up?? Happy New Year (I don't think I've said that yet).

    You've just downed this book for me oh. The shege has been sitting on my shelf since last summer and now I'm not even sure I want to read it...LOL. Anyway, I'll try sha since I paid for it abi?
    I had no idea the whole plot line was poverty p*rn but I can't say I'm surprised.

    I really liked Alligator Leg's point about continuing to refine one's craft (despite co-signers etc).
    I would even go further with the co-signer theory and say it behooves one to reflect because of who is giving the accolades. Wouldn't it be more of an honor to get accolades from Soyinka, Achebe et al. as opposed to Oprah?
    And I guess it also depends on what the person is seeking cos Oprah's endorsement will surely put cash in your pocket but true lit accolades might not.

  1. nneoma said...:

    @KG - aww thanks dear. happy new year to you too!
    seriously, i can't knock the hustle...if i were a writer i wouldn't mind the publicity - actually I would welcome it. sorry for spoiling the book for you. i probably will finish it...before 2011. but like AL said, this is his first book and if he plans on writing another, i will take a peek for the sake of watching the evolution of his craft.

  1. On principle, I stay away from books endorsed by Oprah's Book Club. Honestly.

  1. thank you, nneoma, for also validating my point of view. glad that i ignored my first inclination not to speak my mind about the book, esp when so many have been fawning over it. i am not sure i have heard the phrase "poverty p*rn" before, but it's fabulous!

  1. KG said...:

    @Nneoma - I can't knock the hustle either! People gotta get paid right? And def, publicity is good for a writer. Ideally, there should be a happy medium between publicity (& hence cash) and true literary quality. But we all know that more often than not, it's an inverse relationship and few achieve such balance especially since more people crave the publicity/cash to the detriment of true quality writing.
    James Patterson still being in business is a case in point. And I will shamelessly admit that I was into his Alex Cross series at one stage in my life...*sigh*...the mistakes of my

    Lol @ finishing the book before 2011. You know it took me a second to realize that oh we're in 2010 so you just meant next year. This 2010 thing is screwing with my brain.
    But I get your point. I hope it doesn't take me that long.

    @The Original Wombman - not all of Oprah's endorsements have issues with them. I think staying away due to principle might cause you to miss out on a few books.

  1. KG . . . too many that I've read have been misses.

  1. Sugabelly said...:

    So, I'll provide some background information. Uwem Akpan was my teacher. He's also a Jesuit priest. He's been posted to some of the poorest places on the continent consistently and in fact the only real break he got from all the poverty was when he was posted to teach us at Loyola. Half the stories in that book we already heard during class in one form or the other. And he was only there for about a year before he was posted to work in slums in Nairobi.

    Most of his stories in that book are about or based on real children that he met so I can completely understand WHY he would write about them.

    However, you do have a valid point about western media only praising books that depict African suffering.

    The attitudes of the west aside, his book is still pretty good. I've read it, and even though I will never forgive him for killing Jibril, it's a great book.

  1. Sugabelly said...:

    Also, since he is a Jesuit priest and bound to a vow of poverty, cash was DEFINITELY NOT his motivation for writing. The book has made a lot of money, but he doesn't get to keep it.

  1. AlooFar said...:

    Unfortunately, I've read too many reviews of Uwam's book that I'm no longer interested in reading it. Most of them seem to point out how heavy the book supports Western perceptions of Africa.

  1. Happy belated New Year.

  1. Artsville said...:

    OH LOOK whaT you people have done? I was going to grab a copy this month now I won't bother. Someone even suggested I adapt one of the stories for Nolly(wink wink) but why would I want to tell such a sad story? In fairness to Uwem though, you do have to write on the dark side of Africa if you are to get published by the West, and if the West don't publish you, who will? Farafina?

    How have you been?