The Official Website of author Uwem Akpan

New York, My Village

"A dizzying and fearless tour of New York's street culture, coffee, food, apartment life and publishing world, interleaved with memorials of war crimes and tense depictions of the human cost of trauma. Uwem Akpan has mastered the art of laugh-out-loud satire, but he leaves room for tears." - Louise Erdrich, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Night Watchman

"A searing sendup of publishing, racial biases, and humanity's near-infinite capability to look away from the most troubling parts of ourselves, New York, My Village is that rare thing: a funhouse mirror that reflects back the truth. Uwem Akpan's debut novel maps the constantly shifting ground of grappling with prejudice and guilt - and how we might find connections, and compassion, nevertheless." - Celeste Ng, New York Times-bestselling author of Little Fires Everywhere

"I am in awe. I'm still trying to figure out how Uwem Akpan did it. He has transformed the isolating and exhausting intricacies of war trauma into a compulsively readable novel, at once hilarious, utterly harrowing, profoundly optimistic, and horrifically informative. Unforgettable characters, deeply realistic and "relatable" interpersonal conflicts, a contagious love of life, fresh insights into the crazy-making properties of racist ideology: New York, My Village has it all. And it's the great bedbug novel of New York City we have all been waiting for, some of us without knowing it! I adored this book." - Elif Batuman, Pulitzer Prize finalist and author of The Idiot

"A superb story from a superb writer. The most compelling part of this debut novel of a Nigerian writer's immersion in American culture and the publishing world is the narrator's voice, utterly alive, frighteningly observant, deeply compassionate. Once that captivating voice grabs you, from the very first page, you never want to stop listening." - Father James Martin, SJ, bestselling author of Jesus: A Pilgrimage and Learning to Pray

"New York, My Village gives us an intricate braid of the terrors and legacy of war, the inimitable voice of a writer collecting stories of violence and tribalism while negotiating a different tribalism in New York, and the way one man wields the force of love and generosity." - Susan Straight, author of In the Country of Women

"[A] layered novel.... well worth listening to." - Publishers Weekly

"In this much-anticipated debut novel, Nigerian editor Ekong Udousoro is assembling a collection of stories about the Biafran War that brutally rocked his country when he wins a publishing fellowship to continue his work in New York. He learns plenty, good and bad, about publishing (often heartlessly commercial) and about America's inherent racism. From the author of the Commonwealth Prize and PEN Open Book Award winner Say You're One of Them, an Oprah Winfrey Book Club pick." - Library Journal

"A propulsive and sophisticated contemporary take on the New York City publishing industry follows the immigrant winner of a prestigious fellowship into what he thinks will be the role of a lifetime. What unfolds is anything but, plus a bedbug infestation. This ambitious novel deals profoundly with the fundamental questions about diversity, tribalism and reckoning with history." - Juliana Rose Pignataro, Newsweek

"Throughout the book, Akpan (Say You're One of Them, 2008) balances serious themes of racism, tribalism, and generational trauma with dark humor and absurd situations, satirizing American culture and attitudes toward those perceived as outsiders. This challenging, fulfilling read will fit nicely alongside the works of other gimlet-eyed observers of American society, such as Colson Whitehead and James McBride" - Nanette Donohue, Booklist

"Literature and myth are full of tales of the naif who finds himself embroiled in circumstances so off-the-wall that only his innocent and good nature save him. Uwem Akpan's first novel, New York, My Village, is almost one of these tales. But Ekong Udousoroh [Akpan's protagonist] is no Candide, nor is he Xi from The Gods Must Be Crazy. Intelligent and sophisticated, he's capable of a rage that would never occur to these characters... Akpan allows Ekong's astonished anger, acerbic humor and, despite everything, love of New York and its people to anchor him." - Arlene McKanic,

Say You're One of Them

"All the promise and heartbreak of Africa today are brilliantly illuminated in this debut collection." — John Marshall, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

"Awe is the only appropriate response to Uwem Akpan’s stunning debut, a collection of five stories so ravishing and sad that I regret ever wasting superlatives on fiction that was merely very good... Akpan’s characters are ordinary, flawed, sometimes funny kids who happen to be caught in a nightmare... The book should be depressing, but the blazing humanity of the characters and the brilliance of Akpan’s artistry make this one of the year’s most exhilarating reads." — Jennifer Reese, Entertainment Weekly

"It is not merely the subject that makes Akpan’s writing so astonishing, translucent, and horrifying all at once; it is his talent with metaphor and imagery, his immersion into character and place... Uwem Akpan has given these children their voices, and for the compassion and art in his stories I am grateful and changed." — Susan Straight, Washington Post Book World

"From the bowels of the most impoverished, war-ravaged continent comes this strong, brave offering from Uwem Akpan, a Jesuit priest. What better lens to view this landscape than through the eyes of children— siblings about to be sold into slavery by their uncle, a Muslim boy trying to pass as a Christian on a bus traversing a religious war. No news report or documentary evokes the desperate straits of the African people so keenly. Like Isaac Babel’s Red Calvary stories and Michael Herr’s Dispatches, Say You’re One of Them has invented a new language— both for horror and for the relentless persistence of light in war-torn countries. I can’t shake this book, and shouldn’t." — Mary Karr, author of The Liars’ Club 

"Stories that are as shocking as they are delicate." — Cynthia Crossen, Wall Street Journal

"Amazing and moving, and imbued with a powerful moral courage... Akpan wants you to see and feel Africa, its glory and its pain. And you do, which makes this an extraordinary book." — Vince Passaro, O magazine

"Although they often deal with horrific material, these stories retain an astringent clarity... This time the ballyhoo is real: Akpan is an important writer." — David Grylls, Sunday Times

"Amazing... A book so overwhelming that when you put it down— if you can— it takes a minute to adjust to the world around you... It takes a great writer to face the extremes of human depravity without either sensationalizing them or trivializing them with easy judgments. Akpan doesn't blink, yet these stories have none of the moral queasiness of voyeurism. And somehow the author manages to love his characters— even the killers... Akpan has the largeness of soul to make his vision of the terrible transcendent. Beside these stories, other fiction seems to dry up and blow away like dust." — Craig Seligman, Bloomberg News

"Uwem Akpan writes with a political fierceness and a humanity so full of compassion it might just change the world. His is a burning talent." — Chris Abani, author of GraceLand and The Virgin of Flames

"Say You’re One of Them is a tour de force that takes readers into the lives glimpsed in passing on the evening news... These are stories that could have been mired in sentimentality. But the spare, straightforward language— there are few overtly expressed emotions, few adjectives— keeps the narratives moving, unencumbered, and the pages turning to the end." — Associated Press

"Akpan combines the strengths of both fiction and journalism— the dramatic potential of the one and the urgency of the other— to create a work of immense power... He is a gifted storyteller capable of bringing to life myriad characters and points of view... The result is admirable, artistically as well as morally." — Adelle Waldman, Christian Science Monitor

"Uwem Akpan, a Nigerian Jesuit priest, has said he was inspired to write by the ‘humor and endurance of the poor,’ and his debut story collection about the gritty lives of African children speaks to the fearsome, illuminating truth of that impulse." — Lisa Shea, Elle

"A beautiful, bitter, compelling read. The savagely strange juxtapositions in these stories are grounded by the loving relationships between brothers and sisters forced to survive in a world of dreamlike horror. Open the book at any page, as in divination, and a stunning sentence will leap out. Newspaper facts are molded by Akpan’s sure touch into fictional works of great power." — Louise Erdrich, author of Love Medicine and The Plague of Doves

"A startling debut collection... Akpan is not striving for surreal effects. He is summoning miseries that are real... He fuses a knowledge of African poverty and strife with a conspicuously literary approach to storytelling, filtering tales of horror through the wide eyes of the young." — Janet Maslin, New York Times

"Uwem Akpan depicts the plight of African children with the kind of restraint only possible when an author fully inhabits his characters— he manages to be empathetic without being condescending." — Village Voice

"Here is a truly unforgettable book. Say You’re One of Them is an important, well-crafted, and ultimately devastating collection, and Akpan is a writer of rare gifts and deeply humane vision. I can’t recommend these stories more highly." — Peter Orner, author of The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo   

"An important literary debut... Juxtaposed against the clarity and revelation in Akpan’s prose— as translucent a style as I’ve read in a long while— we find subjects that nearly render the mind helpless and throw the heart into a hopeless erratic rhythm out of fear, out of pity, out of the shame of being only a few degrees of separation removed from these monstrous modern circumstances... The reader discovers that no hiding place is good enough with these stories battering at your mind and heart." — Alan Cheuse, Chicago Tribune

"A stunning short story collection... Say You’re One of Them offers a richer, more nuanced view of Africa than the one we often see on the news... Akpan never lets us forget that the resilient youngsters caught up in these extraordinary circumstances are filled with their own hopes and dreams, even as he assuredly illuminates the harsh realities." — Patrik Henry Bass, Essence

"Akpan transports the reader into gritty scenes of chaos and fear in his rich debut collection... His prose is beautiful and his stories are insightful and revealing, made even more harrowing because all the horror— and there is much— is seen through the eyes of children." — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Say You’re One of Them is one of those collections that drops the reader into the midst of wonderfully rendered worlds, and compellingly so. I hope it finds the wide readership it merits." — Oscar Hijuelos, author of The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love

"This fierce story collection from a Nigerian-born Jesuit priest brings home Africa's most haunting tragedies... Akpan seems inspired by the biblical prophecy ‘A little child will lead them.’" — Margo Hammond & Ellen Heltzel, Minneapolis Star Tribune

"With this heart-stopping collection Uwem Akpan relentlessly personalizes the unstable social conditions of sub-Saharan Africa... The stories are lifted above consciousness-raising shockers by Akpan’s sure characterizations, understated details, and culturally specific dialect." — Jennifer Mattson, Booklist (starred review)

"This astonishing first collection of short stories marks the arrival of a major writer... It is a long time since I have been so moved and so disturbed. Any notion that the short-story form is languishing irrelevantly is disavowed by this terrific, and sometimes terrifying, collection." — Alastair Niven, Independent

"Searing... In the end, the most enduring image of these disturbing, beautiful and hopeful stories is that of slipping away. Children disappear into the anonymous blur of the big city or into the darkness of the all-encompassing bush. One can only hope that they survive to live another day and tell another tale." — June Sawyers, San Francisco Chronicle

"Say You’re One of Them is a book that belongs on every shelf." — Sherryl Connelly, New York Daily News

"Like Flannery O’Connor’s best work, these stories absorb any light you project upon them; Akpan’s characters are wrapped in the hard-edge, inscrutable armor of people in situations so desperate that superhuman instincts take over... Akpan is such a clever, instinctual writer, that even when his characters are providing testimony, it can feel like art... These stories are complex, full of respect for the characters facing depravity, free of sensationalizing or glib judgments. They are dispatches from a journey, Akpan makes clear, which has only begun. It is to their credit that grim as they are— you cannot but hope these tales have a sequel." — John Freeman, Cleveland Plain Dealer

"Say You’re One of Them is not only good advice for surviving ethnic conflict; it’s also, in Uwem Akpan’s hands, an exercise in empathetic speculation— an exercise that, in this collection’s case, seems nearly sacramental in the sobriety and miraculousness of its reach.  Repeatedly these stories quietly enable us to imagine the unimaginable, and offer up to our view the unspeakable rendered with clarity and grace."  — Jim Shepard, author of Like You’d Understand, Anyway, 2007 National Book Award finalist

"Brilliant... Say You’re One of Them proves that great fiction often can reveal more truth than a whole shelf of memoirs and histories." — Deirdre Donahue, USA Today

"Say You’re One of Them gives voice to Africa’s children in beautifully crafted prose and stunning detail. Uwem Akpan is a major new literary talent." — Peter Godwin, author of When a Crocodile Eats the Sun

"Akpan has a real gift for bringing the day-to-day living of the downtrodden of Africa to life…. If he can sensitize a few of us toward keeping our humanitarian promises to Africa, this book will have achieved its purpose." — Vikram Johri, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

"There is an energy in Akpan’s characterization that makes his book compelling rather than downbeat... In the midst of his continent’s crises, he has given vital voice to its children, naming them with true compassion in an unflinching collection." — Isobel Dixon, Financial Times

"Say You’re One of Them is astonishing, triumphantly unique... Uwem Akpan has moral greatness— you can never again put out of your mind what he has taken you firmly by the hand to get a close look at. The startling newness of his language gives us no choice but to listen." — Franz Wright, winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry

"In the corrupt, war-ravaged Africa of this starkly beautiful debut collection, identity is shifting, never to be trusted... Akpan’s people, and the dreamlike horror of the worlds they reveal, are impossible to forget." — Kim Hubbard, People

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