New Books Report: Uwem Akpan, Mickey Z, Daniel Grandbois

Africa Fiction Postmodernism Reviews
Say You're One of Them by Uwem Akpan

This story collection by a Jesuit priest from Nigeria and Zimbabwe is as focused on a single purpose as any recent work of fiction I can think of. The stories are about endangered children in Africa, and needless to say each one packs a punch.

"My Parents Bedroom", as calmly violent as Yukio Mishima's "Patriotism", presents a Hutu husband forced by a neighborhood mob to kill his Tutsi wife with a machete as their young children watch in 1994 Rwanda. The story's narrator is one of the children. "An Ex-Mas Feast" gives the reader more room to breathe, but the story about several members of a Kenyan family who watch helplessly as their beloved sister or daughter leaves them for a life of prostitution is only barely less painful.

Uwem Akpan's work has a straight-arrow solidity, and some readers may wish for more artistic variation. What this book offers is compassion and awareness, a fitting result for a story collection by a Jesuit preist.

CPR For Dummies by Mickey Z

"While Janie committed a horrible blasphemy, I was marching at the protest. In the name of the Lord, I was demanding an end to the reckless waging of war and manufacturing of weapons for war.

I miss Janie sometimes but not as much as she must miss me. I'll bet her apartment is a terrible, terrible mess. She was not very experienced as a mistress but oh my, she had a wicked imagination and a creative mind. That, my friends, is a delicious combination in the world of dominance and submission.


Mickey Z, a good-natured satirist and political activist from Queens, New York who is one of our favorite Action Poets, has written a novel about the end of the world that reads like a Stanley Kubrick movie of a Kurt Vonnegut novel cut into little pieces and spliced back together. I'm not sure exactly what's happening in this chaotic and playfully self-referential text, but it seems that our sorry war-torn planet is about to get destroyed by a meteorite, and everybody's living it up in the final days. It's mainly a wild ride by a New York City personality who may or may not have a brother named Jay.


Unlucky Lucky Days by Daniel Grandbois

This postmodern offering opens with the image of a skein of yarn unraveling:

Frayed by so many grabbing hands (the rough textures it passed over), the aging yarn pulled itself along, searching for nothing in particular, as that is what yarns do, except the call of almost anyone at all.

Of course, this "yarn" is the "yarn" that unravels throughout this fragmentary book, made up of half-page nuggets and existential aphorisms that read like something somewhere between Richard Brautigan and Basho:

A man and a woman stepped into a tunnel. It was lighter inside than they had expected. In fact, the deeper they went, the lighter it became until the light was so bright that it blinded them both.

If you enjoy contemporary surrealism in expert hands, this book is for you.
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