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Uwem Akpan: Oprah's next choice?

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If you haven't yet heard the name Uwem Akpan, brace yourself. You may find that he's become a household name (in your house as well as millions of others across the US) a little later this afternoon. Rumor has it that his short story collection, "Say You're One of Them," is the next pick for Oprah's book club.

Oprah will make her announcement on her show later this afternoon. For weeks now, there has been speculation as to her choice and many book bloggers (the Monitor's included) speculated that "Say You're One of Them" could be her book of choice.  Yesterday, however, the Washington Post said that the rumor had been confirmed by a tip from a book distribution company.

Akpan is a Nigerian Jesuit priest. His five short stories are each set in a different African country. Children play major roles in the stories, which tackle the toughest of topics –  child slavery, religious rioting, and genocide. When the book was published last year it was widely praised by book reviewers (including Monitor reviewer Adelle Waldman who called "Say You're One of Them" a "work of immense power" that "combines the strengths of both fiction and journalism"), some readers found the stories too heartbreaking to enjoy.

(One of the most wrenching pieces in the book is a novella-length story called “Fattening for Gabon,” in which the story’s narrator, a 10-year-old boy named Kotchikpa, and his younger sister live with their uncle in a seaside border town in Benin. It is clear to everyone but the children that their uncle, who appears to be treating them very kindly, is actually preparing to sell them into slavery.)


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