Say You’re One of Them by Uwem Akpan is a profoundly disturbing book…but also one that is well worth reading. It’s possible to read the stories of life in some of Africa’s poorest countries and yet not be moved by them. Not so with this book.
These short stories tell of life from children’s perspectives. There is horror and yet there is hope. There are almost unthinkable situations that the children find themselves in…and yet some of them find ways of surviving.
In life situations that I cannot even imagine, parents and children try to find some semblance of normality. Sometimes they succeed…but at horrific cost. Sometimes one child finds a way of surviving…but only by leaving a sibling behind. Sometimes a parent sacrifices self in order to save the children.
As I read these stories in the comfort of my own home, I shuddered at what children like these must endure–and how much their plight is ignored by many of us. And I am also reminded of something the leader of my faith denomination has shared with us:
“…open your ears to hear the pleading of mothers and fathers in all nations who desperately seek a future of hope for their children. Do not turn away from them. For in their welfare resides your welfare.”
This is not a book that you can read quickly, nor is it one that you can read and put aside, going on to something else. Akpan, a Jesuit priest, challenges us to remember that we are all interconnected.