Customer Reviews for

Say You're One of Them

Average Rating 3
( 185 )
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(38)

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

39 out of 40 people found this review helpful.

A worthy Oprah's book club selection

I read this book last week and wasn't surprised to see it selected to Oprah's book club, simply because it's a wonderful and unusual book that is deeply touching.

SAY YOU'RE ONE OF THEM is a book of five short stories written by Uwem Akpan. All of the stories are set...
I read this book last week and wasn't surprised to see it selected to Oprah's book club, simply because it's a wonderful and unusual book that is deeply touching.

SAY YOU'RE ONE OF THEM is a book of five short stories written by Uwem Akpan. All of the stories are set in Africa and are told from a child's perspective. They deal with such topics as slavery, religious conflict, genocide and poverty. These are stories of love and sacrifice. They are stories of compassion and confusion. They make you wonder how children can grow up and survive under such circumstances. Some of the stories will leave you feeling numb.

The story that had the biggest impact on me was My Parent's Bedroom. It's the story of Monique, a young girl living in Rwanda with her Tutsi mother and her Hutu father. There is conflict between the two tribes, which Monique and her brother Jean don't understand. It all comes to a horrifying ending for their family when their mother makes the ultimate sacrifice. I can't describe the horror I felt at the end of this story.

I enjoyed SAY YOU'RE ONE OF THEM and think it's a significant book, but I found some of the dialogue very difficult to read. I think it would have been even harder if I didn't know some French. There were times when I had to read sentences several times to extract their meaning. Here's an example of dialogue, chosen at random:

"My mama no be like dat," Jubril argued. "I say I dey come. I go join una now now. Ah ah, no vex now. Come, pollow me go fark dis cows, and I go join."

This book isn't a fast read, but I think it's an important one. The title of the book comes from the fact that children in Africa sometimes have to deny their identity and say they're one of "them" (another tribe or religion) in order to survive. You will be a different person after you've read this book.

This week I'm reading EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE 2.0, which is also an incredible book that is having a HUGE impact upon me personally. If you have any interest in personal development, I recommend buying both books. Now I just need to figure out what I'm going to read next week!

posted by Cheryl_Foster on September 18, 2009

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Most Helpful Critical Review

3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

Not for the faint of heart

A great piece of literature, but it is not for the faint of heart. The stories are well written, and gives us just a glimpse of the travesties that children in Africa have had to face due to poverty & war from the perspective of a child.

In all honestly, I just wante...
A great piece of literature, but it is not for the faint of heart. The stories are well written, and gives us just a glimpse of the travesties that children in Africa have had to face due to poverty & war from the perspective of a child.

In all honestly, I just wanted to finish the book because it was too sad, and with each story, I kept anticipating that something bad was going to happen. My stomach was in knots.

If you want an honest read, this is for you. If you're looking for a good piece of fiction to escape, I would suggest you look for something else.

posted by momoftwinsMM on February 9, 2010

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  • Posted September 18, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    A worthy Oprah's book club selection

    I read this book last week and wasn't surprised to see it selected to Oprah's book club, simply because it's a wonderful and unusual book that is deeply touching.

    SAY YOU'RE ONE OF THEM is a book of five short stories written by Uwem Akpan. All of the stories are set in Africa and are told from a child's perspective. They deal with such topics as slavery, religious conflict, genocide and poverty. These are stories of love and sacrifice. They are stories of compassion and confusion. They make you wonder how children can grow up and survive under such circumstances. Some of the stories will leave you feeling numb.

    The story that had the biggest impact on me was My Parent's Bedroom. It's the story of Monique, a young girl living in Rwanda with her Tutsi mother and her Hutu father. There is conflict between the two tribes, which Monique and her brother Jean don't understand. It all comes to a horrifying ending for their family when their mother makes the ultimate sacrifice. I can't describe the horror I felt at the end of this story.

    I enjoyed SAY YOU'RE ONE OF THEM and think it's a significant book, but I found some of the dialogue very difficult to read. I think it would have been even harder if I didn't know some French. There were times when I had to read sentences several times to extract their meaning. Here's an example of dialogue, chosen at random:

    "My mama no be like dat," Jubril argued. "I say I dey come. I go join una now now. Ah ah, no vex now. Come, pollow me go fark dis cows, and I go join."

    This book isn't a fast read, but I think it's an important one. The title of the book comes from the fact that children in Africa sometimes have to deny their identity and say they're one of "them" (another tribe or religion) in order to survive. You will be a different person after you've read this book.

    This week I'm reading EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE 2.0, which is also an incredible book that is having a HUGE impact upon me personally. If you have any interest in personal development, I recommend buying both books. Now I just need to figure out what I'm going to read next week!

    39 out of 40 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 13, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Eye opening read!

    This is a truly eye opening collection of stories, each from a child's perspective, about issues of survival in today's Africa.

    While the stories are set in a few countries, they don't try to single any one out in particular. Nor are the people all poor, uneducated and oppressed. The stories encompass a diverse Africa, more unique and real than I knew. I was drawn into many situations that I found myself overwhelmed at what was required just to survive, let alone triumph over the adversities.

    The writing is eloquent in giving a voice to an Africa unseen by most of the world outside her borders. It made each story live beyond just facts on a page. These things were happening to people I felt close to, and cared about.

    Take the plunge. Read this book. I'm sure you'll remember it long after you finish

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 20, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    ANOTHER STARTLING EYE-OPENER!

    A beautifully written, emotional account of long suffering lives from their vantage point. I came away feeling, acknowledging and aching for justice. Another book I read recently that affected me similarly and as deeply was EXPLOSION IN PARIS, by LINDA MASEMORE PIRRUNG. Only this book was more in the romantic suspense genre but also written beautifully and poetically. It left me feeling enlightened, but with a great sense of joy, satisfaction, well-being,compassion, and that we are all worth fighting for. JUSTICE SHOULD ALWAYS PREVAIL!!

    5 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 8, 2008

    A reviewer

    'Fiction that gives the children of Africa a voice' is what this book is called. These are voices that are difficult to listen to from our sheltered lives. This book is for anyone who ever said, 'Why didn't I ever hear about this?, when an injustice is publicized.

    5 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 3, 2010

    Scary, revealing, sad, not very hopeful

    Akpan reveals the atrocities that take place in Africa, mostly Nigeria, and the fate of children, the religious and tribal battles and bloodshed, the ignorance and corruption, and the negative effects perpetrated by big corporations on the people and how little the people matter to these big companies. It is almost unbelievable. In fact one story left me so distraught that I awoke two nights in a row with nightmares. Recently, the bloodshed in Jos, Nigeria, between two religious groups, mirrored a story in the book. Everyone loses, and the children lose the most.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 9, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Not for the faint of heart

    A great piece of literature, but it is not for the faint of heart. The stories are well written, and gives us just a glimpse of the travesties that children in Africa have had to face due to poverty & war from the perspective of a child.

    In all honestly, I just wanted to finish the book because it was too sad, and with each story, I kept anticipating that something bad was going to happen. My stomach was in knots.

    If you want an honest read, this is for you. If you're looking for a good piece of fiction to escape, I would suggest you look for something else.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 30, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Wonderful writing but you need a strong stomach.

    This isn't my usual choice of reading, but I'm glad Oprah suggested it. It certainly is an eye-opener, revealing the horrors of every day living other parts of the world must endure just to survive! We must count our blessings every day for all we have. This isn't one I will reread but I'm glad I read it. I have suggestions below on ones that I learned a lot from, are totally heartwarming and I will reread these because of the way they made me feel.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 30, 2009

    Original, fresh and soul stirring

    Uwem Akpan manages to make human, visual and real characters whose lives are sordid, awful, immoral etc., at least in our western, safe-at-home picture window way of thinking. The stories of child slavery, prostitution etc., are told in a voice that simply tells us what the people are doing and seeing, often leaving it to us to decide what they might be feeling. After all it is what the characters feel that matters as we are so often led by our own feelings of the circumstances presented in a story. Here, I can really see through the eyes of the children and can leave my own ego out of it. It is a beautiful way of writing, story-telling.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 9, 2009

    Cannot Read Again for a While

    Each story ended with no regards for the reader. The stories were so well written that the ending always caught you off guard that you had to read it over again to make sure you actually read it correctly. Great book, sad stories.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 22, 2010

    Suffer Little Children

    This is a collection of short stories (two of which are novella length) dealing with children caught in Africa's maelstroms. Individually the stories are incredibly powerful and no doubt reflect African reality. As a collection, however, I found it hard to read: the author is essentially writing the same story several times, but dressing it differently. The feeling throughout the stories is one of relentless misery and fear. There are no happy endings.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 14, 2010

    Children Suffering in Africa

    I got this book out of the library when I read on line that Oprah was scheduled to announce her next book club selection in a few weeks, and it looked like it was going to be this one, based on some clues that had been revealed. It was on the shelf in Hyde Park. When I tried to renew it after she announced it on her show, there were already several holds waiting, so I had to finish it in time to return.
    It consists of five short stories that take place in different countries in Africa. The are all focused on children and the effect that the dire circumstances of their life affect them. The first story, "An Ex-Mas Feast" takes place in Nairobi, Kenya. It is 32 pages long. The story revolves around a ten year old boy whose family is living in extreme poverty. His older sister is twelve and is earning money as a prostitute, selling herself to Western tourists. He parents encourage this.
    Next is "Fattening for Gabon," a 134 page story about two children who are going to be sold by their uncle and taken to Gabon. We see at the beginning of the story how the children are prepared for this in a way that convinces them that this is a good thing.
    "What Language is That?" is the shortest story at only 12 pages. It is about two girls in Ethiopia who are best friends until their religious differences make that impossible to continue.
    "Luxurious Hearses" is 134 pages. A teen-age boy who is from a mixed Christian-Muslim marriage has to flee from the mostly Muslim north of Nigeria to the mostly Christian south. He grew up in the north and was raised Muslim. But, he was facing attack from his former friends in the north because of his Christian heritage. He travels to the south, heading to his Christian father's village, on a bus filled with Christians who are also fleeing for their own protection, and he has to hide the fact that he is Muslim from them.
    "My Parents' Bedroom" is about a young girl in Rwanda, who is from a mixed Hutu-Tutsi marriage during the Hutu on Tutsi genocide that occurred there. It is another very short tale, only 30 pages.
    Of course, I was already aware of how desperate the situation is for so many in Africa, due to wars and other conflicts, poverty, disease, etc. The first story of the collection was so depressing, that I almost stopped reading the book. There is no hope in any of these stories, and you will feel greatly for the characters. Nothing much good happens in their lives. The stories will deeply affect you though.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 5, 2010

    I appreciate the author's point, but this book is unrelentingly sad

    Don't select this book based on the comments on the cover. It does portray the resiliency of youth and it is very worthwhile to be aware of the great troubles children face in various African countries, but each story ends with very little hope. The cover seems to suggest something uplifting. I did not find that to be the case at all. It certainly made me want to sponsor children in developing countries or send donations to groups working with underprivileged children, but so many stories with tragic endings felt like endless emotional punches.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2010

    Gave as gift

    I gave it to a book-loving friend, and she really enjoyed it.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 6, 2010

    Makes you want to stand up and fight

    I did not know this was a collection of 5 stories when I purchased the book, but I have been pleasantly surprised. I have visited some of the places mentioned in the stories and I remember the setting. But this opened my eyes as to what happens behind closed doors in some homes. The story is written from the perspecitve of children and their hope and innocence makes it eaier for you to absorb the stories of travesties committed against children.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 23, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Worth the read!

    Interesting story with a gripping plot. A little dry at times but definitely worth the read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 16, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    A valuable read

    These stories are an accurate portrayal of life in a third world country.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 9, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Great story, Great message

    This book can be taken as just a great story, as it is fictional. Or it can be taken as a message about many untold stories going on in Africa right now. The stories in this book are all told from a child's perspective, giving it an interesting and touching voice. Although the stories are fictional, they closely resemble problems and events in many countries in Africa. I would recommend this book for both people who are familiar with these problems and people that would be interested in learning through a well-written fiction. By the end of the story, your heart really goes out to these characters and everything they represent. The only thing that becomes difficult about this book is that occasionally words in the child's language are used in place of the English word without much explanation of what it means.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2009

    Important Subject

    While I found this book uncomfortable to read most of the time, it is very original in format and wonderfully written. The treatment of children in our world is often abhorent and though the subject matter is difficult, it is important for all of humanity to be reminded or informed of what is happening to our precious children and the forces creating these terrible circumstances.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 18, 2009

    Definitely Stimulating

    This book makes you think and react to incidents you probably are not accustomed to hearing, seeing or even knowing exist. It takes your emotions to the limits and shows the cruelty of mankind and the gentle retort of a child who is trying to make sense of some of the most tragic situations one can find themselves faced in life. It shows the willingness of children to forgive the worst of situations and their capacity to love beyond what adults can make them endure.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 11, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Bridget's Review

    I've never had to worry about not having food or shelter. I never had to wonder whether or not I would be able to attend school. These are some things that have always been an automatic in my life. I find that a lot of people take the most simple things for granted, me included. I don't know what I would do if I were to walk in someone else's shoes.

    One of the main reasons I love books is because it gives you a chance to be someone else. At least until you turn the last page. Part of the reason that I am as strong as I am, is because reading gives me strength. This book/audiobook, cannot be read/heard without feeling a sense of empowerment. As you've probably guessed, I really enjoyed this.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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