I've been reading a book by Uwen Akpan, 'Say You're One of Them', a hit with the world since it was featured on Oprah's book club. I am always skeptical of reading mass bestsellers because I tend to be attracted to books that are less known, more complex in narrative and characterization. Essentially, I am a literary snob. Once in a while, I am humbled by something the public has chosen well.
I read on the train, in the midst of hustle and bustle, careening cars on rusty tracks, filled with people, often shoulder-to-shoulder with New York's 'finest', and trying to propel myself into a world that will take me away from the chaos of the city.
I find myself in a different chaos in this book. Every story is about tragedy, but there are seeds of triumph in most of them, a hope that lingers and allows the reader to want the best for that character, his or her world and the Africa that hosts them all. My favorite so far is Fattening for Gabon, a chilling tale of child slavery. What shakes me most is the betrayal that exists in this narrative, an uncle selling his niece and nephew, two children who were already victim to another tragedy; their parents' AIDS, and the continual redemption, remorse, and complexity that remains even after I read its last sentence.
Every night, I find myself climbing the subway steps to the street, making my way from one maze to another, and my hearts aches for these stories, these children who are now heard through the pages that leap into my heart.