I've decided that the only way I'm going to be really consistent about blogging is by developing some tags for myself. "What I'm Reading Wednesday" is a good start.
Last week, I read Uwem Akpan's debut collection of short stories, Say You're One of Them. This is not an easy book to read; in fact, I would call this one of the hardest books through which I've ever marched. These are stories about modern-day Africa as seen through the eyes of children and teenagers facing horrific life situations. One reads with a sense of dread and impending disaster. Most of the stories quote people speaking in an odd musical patois that would be hard to understand unless you have been around people speaking English in a variety of accents. I found myself just pulled in to the river of words and drifting along until fresh horrors occurred. The book is very well written, with fully realized characters in utterly believable circumstances. The device of seeing the stories through the eyes of the most vulnerable and least worldly characters works very well.
If you are sensitive and prone to nightmares, please do not read this book. If you cried after seeing Bambi, do not read this book. If, on the other hand, you cried after seeing the movie, Romero, read this book. If the phrase "Triangle Shirtwaist Fire" makes you cry out with indignation, read this book. The biggest problem I had with the book (besides the intense feelings of sadness it raised) was that I got to the end and wanted to know what I could do to fix some of the problems I saw. I wanted to move into action, and no action was obvious.
I had the privilege of becoming acquainted with Uwem a few years ago. He is a Jesuit priest and lived with the other Jesuits in Ann Arbor while getting his Master's degree in English. Naturally, he hung out at my parish, and I invited him to speak to the faculty-staff discussion group about Nigeria. He was rather surprised that we asked him, and he was pleasantly surprised that our group had some knowledge of his country. It took me a couple of years to work up the courage to read his book, and now, I am filled with a great many questions I want to ask him.
Within minutes of finishing this book, I rummaged through a pile of unread books and pulled out Anthony Trollope's Barchester Towers - tales of small-town middle class people in Victorian England - I am such a wimp!