All I need to be entertained are cats within ear-scratching distance and a good book . . .OK, maybe that's not ALL I need, but it's a good start.

I love to read. And I love to get recommendations for books to read.

I started Cats and a Book to share the books I read with others. Some I love, some I don't, but you may love the ones I don't, so you're welcome to post your own comments and suggestions.

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Happy reading!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Say You're One of Them, by Uwem Akpan

Say You're One of Them by Uwem Akpan, was an Oprah's Book Club selection. For some, this would be enough indication whether this is a book you'd enjoy. Oprah's books often force the reader to turn a full face to the human condition. Well-written, raw, and tragic, Say You're One of Them meets the criteria well.

This is a collection of short stories, although one ("Fattening for Gabon") is long enough to be a novella, all set in Africa. In "An Ex-Mas Feast," a family receives a Christmas meal from their 12-year-old daughter, who prostitutes herself to raise money for her family to pay for her brother's schooling. "Luxurious Hearses" centers around a young man fleeing his hometown to find his mother's family, but he must hide his Muslim beliefs in a bus full of Christians in order to survive. The thread of identity runs through each of the five stories--often depicted in a frantic and life-threatening need to prove religious belief, ethnicity, or cultural belonging.

Graphic and brutal at times, the stories show us a world we know exists but few Westerners experience. Uwem Akpan, the author, was born and raised in Nigeria and is an ordained Catholic priest. Akpan wanted to publish this collection of stories to enlighten others about the common daily struggles for African children, whether it is to find food, make money, become part of the dominant religious group, hide or proudly display their ethnicity, or even to join in or declaim violence.

Say You're One of Them was originally published in 2008 by Little, Brown and Company. Akpan won the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best First Book (Africa Region) and has received several other recognitions for his work. He continues to work at Christ the King Church in Nigeria.

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