A love affair with books.

Interesting, Oprah, very interesting.

I never thought I'd say this, but Oprah's latest book club choice, Uwem Akpan's short story collection Say You're One of Them, is actually an interesting one.


For some weird reason I was on the waiting list for this book before Oprah named it her choice (I used to like short stories, so maybe that's why?), so I was able to get it much more quickly than readers who just requested it. Akpan is an African author, and the stories are set in various African countries. I read the first story, "An Ex-Mas Feast," and parts of the other stories, and it was really very interesting.* Although I am usually distracted by settings that are so far from my experience, or stories written with traces of dialogue, I must say that neither of those things bothered me here:

"We heard two drunks stumbling toward our home. Mama hid the bottle. They stood outside announcing that they had come to wish us a merry Ex-mas. 'My husband is not here!' Mama lied. I recognized the voices. It was Bwana Marcos Wako and his wife, Cecilia. Baba had owed them money for four years. They came whenever they smelled money, then Baba had to take off for a few days. When Baby was born, we pawned three-quarters of his clothing to defray the debts. A week before Ex-mas, the couple had raided us, confiscating Baba's work clothes in the name of debt servicing." (p. 13.)

That's about as cheerful as the stories get. If I'm not able to read the whole thing (and I'm not), it's because I'm not going to be able to handle a whole book of short stories that make me so sad. But at least it's an interesting choice for Oprah, and something a bit different. I haven't liked an Oprah book since James Frey's A Million Little Pieces, and we all know how that turned out, so I'm hoping this book isn't discredited some time down the way.

*It's roughly a million times better than Lorrie Moore's A Gate at the Stairs, my last disastrous fiction pick.