Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Say You're One of Them

The rays of sun fall upon Adelle as she swings in her baby chair at the park. I took this picture a couple months back, midsummer moment captured by my phone, a glimpse into daylight and beginnings.

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.

2 comments: said...

Hi there, It's late and I should be sleeping, but stumbled across your blog and had to say that I really like the spirit of it. Plus synchronicity... love Madeleine, was on the Ile St. Louis for my honeymoon, and then again with kids to visit Berthillon. My wife is almost done with "Year of Magical Thinking" and was just extolling its virtues this very morning... so I had to say, good work all around and good luck... for all our collective children.

Jo Park said...

Thanks for the comment. Sorry it took so long for me to respond. You know how it is....parenthood makes the time go....where?

It really touched me to know that someone out there (you in this case) could understand where I was coming from. Often, it just feels like I write into a void, hoping that somehow I am making sense to someone.

It's been a couple years since I've been to Paris. I used to go every year. Maybe when Adele reaches two!

I am actually almost done with my first novel, trying to find an agent (which feels impossible in this publishing climate) and trying to keep up with this blog. So yes, thanks for the luck because I do need it!

I've been a huge fan of Didion for a very long time, but I read 'Magical Thinking' because my book is based on my mother's life and her death. I wonder what your wife thought of the end. Good tidings to you...