Oprah’s Book Club picks Nigerian author’s short stories
Special to USAfricaonline.com, AchebeBooks.com and USAfricaBOOKS
In a live broadcast from Central Park on Friday September 25, 2009, Oprah Winfrey annnounced that Say You’re One of Them, a collection of stories from Nigerian author Uwem Akpan, is the latest Oprah’s Book Club pick. Each of the five stories in Say You’re One of Them is narrated by a child from a different country in Africa, and each, through the lense of a child, opens a door into the hard lives of these children and their families.
Uwem Akpan studied philosophy and English in the U.S. before returning to Africa to study theology. After becoming ordained as a Jesuit priest, he returned to the U.S. to study creative writing. Learn more from the Say You’re One of Them website or at Oprah’s Book Club. By Mark Flanagan. Photo by Comfort Ukpong.
A visit by USAfricaBOOKS to Uwem’s website showed these notes: “I was inspired to write by the people who sit around my village church to share palm wine after Sunday Mass, by the Bible, and by the humour and endurance of the poor.
Growing up, my mother told me folktales and got me and my three brothers to read a lot. I became a fiction writer during my seminary days. I wrote at night, when the community computers were free. Computer viruses ate much of my work.
Finally, my friend Wes Harris believed in me enough to get me a laptop. This saved me from the despair of losing my stories and made me begin to see God again in the seminary. The stories I saved on that first laptop are the core of Say You’re One of Them.”
Uwem’s official bio:
Uwem Akpan was born in Ikot Akpan Eda in southern Nigeria. After studying philosophy and English at Creighton and Gonzaga universities, he studied theology for three years at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa. He was ordained as a Jesuit priest in 2003 and received his MFA in creative writing from the University of Michigan in 2006. “My Parents’ Bedroom,” a story from his short story collection, Say You’re One of Them, was one of five short stories by African writers chosen as finalists for The Caine Prize for African Writing 2007.Say You’re One of Them won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book (Africa Region) 2009 and PEN/Beyond Margins Award 2009, and was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction. In 2007, Akpan taught at a Jesuit college in Harare, Zimbabwe. Now he serves at Christ the King Church, Ilasamaja-Lagos, Nigeria.