by Uwem Akpan
This first-time work of short stories was amazing. I was especially gripped by the story ” Fattening for Gabon of child-trafficking in Africa. The thing is..although this is fictional, it has all actually been happening. Reading about the ethnic strife and massacre in Rwanda between Tutsi and Hutu factions is almost surreal…just too bloody and unreal for words. People who were neighbors for years just started killing one another. I wish it were mere fiction. This is what actually happened in Rwanda:
On April 6, 1994, a plane carrying President Habyarimana, a Hutu, was shot down. Violence began almost immediately after that. Under the cover of war, Hutu extremists launched their plans to destroy the entire Tutsi civilian population. Political leaders who might have been able to take charge of the situation and other high profile opponents of the Hutu extremist plans were killed immediately. Tutsi and people suspected of being Tutsi were killed in their homes and as they tried to flee at roadblocks set up across the country during the genocide. Entire families were killed at a time. Women were systematically and brutally raped. It is estimated that some 200,000 people participated in the perpetration of the Rwandan genocide.
That said, Uwem Akpan is a powerful writer and skilled storyteller.Though I seldom read fiction these days, I would recommend this book. It gives us a vivid glimpse of the last decade in Africa.
The stories are set in various countries. A Muslim boy in Nigeria tries to stay alive by hiding his true identity among Christians in the south. A poor family scrapes together to give each other presents at Christmastime in Kenya. Sometimes moving, sometimes shocking, the stories tell about many of the conflicts and family relations of these countries today.