Short Story #3: An Ex-mas Feast (Uwem Akpan)

Deal Me In Reading Challenge: I drew the four of diamonds.

Story: An Ex-mas Feast, by Uwem Akpan (from The Granta Book of the African Short Story)

Comments: This is a story about a fairly common situation: the eldest daughter and the eldest son move out of the family home to live elsewhere.  Except that in this case the daughter is 12, and she moves out to work full-time at prostitution (up to now she’s just been part-time), while the eldest son is 8, and he runs away because he believes that his wanting to go to school, his need to have the money to pay the school fees, is the root cause of his sister’s leaving home and thus the break-up of the family.  The family lives on the street in Nairobi, Kenya.

The author of the story, Uwem Akpan, says that when he moved from his native Nigeria to study in Nairobi, he was “taken by the phenomenon of street kids” there, and that this story is based on a real incident.  (Link to interview).  It is one of the stories in Akpan’s collection “Say You’re One of Them”.

The best comments that I’ve read on the story are here: http://earthgoat.blogspot.it/2005/06/ex-mas-feast-by-uwem-akpan.html , and I’m not going to try to improve on them.  I’ll just add that this story brought me into a world I’d rather not really know about (a 12-year-old girl counsels her 10-year-old sister on how she will need to use condoms as a sex-worker?  a mother routinely gets her children to sniff glue so that they will be less conscious of their hunger pangs?), yet without making me feel emotionally manipulated.

I’d be very interested to know more about the author’s view of religion (Akpan is a Jesuit priest) – here, for example, he tells us that the mother prays in thanksgiving to God that her daughter the prostitute has been given business by rich white men…

Much food for thought in this story.

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4 thoughts on “Short Story #3: An Ex-mas Feast (Uwem Akpan)

  1. I admire your choosing to read some African stories as part of the DMI2014 challenge. That continent has pretty much remained literary terra incognita for me. I should try to find an African story to use for one of my remaining wild cards this year.

    Last year I read an interesting book, The Queen of Katwe, about a girl from the slums of Kampala, Uganda who became a chess prodigy in spite of her circumstances. I guess I’ve read a couple other “Africa-related” books recently too, Ismael Beah’s child-soldier chronicle “A Long Way Gone” and Peter Godwin’s “The Fear” about Mugabe’s ‘reign of terror’ in Zimbabwe. Those were all non-fiction, though. 🙂

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this story.

    • Yes, I encourage you to take a dip into African fiction at some level – using one of your wild-cards is a great idea. I’m afraid I can’t point you to any online resources at the moment (I’m using the Granta Book of the African short story), but if I find any I’ll let you know.

  2. Pingback: Deal Me In 2014 – Week 3 Wrap-Up | Bibliophilopolis

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