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New York, My Village

A Novel

by Uwem Akpan

New York, My Village by Uwem Akpan X
New York, My Village by Uwem Akpan
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  • Published Nov 2021
    400 pages
    Genre: Literary Fiction

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There are currently 21 member reviews
for New York, My Village
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  • Rosemary C. (Golden, CO)
    Very Readable but Perplexing
    I'm left with mixed feelings about Uwem Akpan's book. On one hand, I found it culturally interesting and clever at times. On the other hand, the writing is somewhat jerky and the storyline could give the reader whiplash. Perhaps that's the writer's point, mirroring the mercuric emotions of the protagonist and the plot twists both in New York and in Nigeria. There are plenty of tongue in cheek points made and imagery and metaphors abound. It might make a good book group read so folks can discuss their impressions and interpretation of the writer's intent.
  • Vicki R. (York, PA)
    New York, My Village
    "New York, My Village" by Uwem Akpan is a novel about a Nigerian editor that receives a fellowship to understudy at a New York publishing house. After twice being refused a visa at the American embassy in Nigeria, the publishing house in New York intervenes on his behalf. This is just the beginning of Ekong's taste of American racial biases. At his apartment building, his workplace, and even at a Catholic church he experiences racism of many kinds. As he navigates this America, he is drawn back to confront the tribal differences and biases in his own village. It is hard to read about the atrocities that the Nigerian people suffered during the Biafran Civil War and Akpan does a good job of adding humor and sarcasm to the novel to make it a little easier to take. I felt the book started to get a little tedious towards the second half, but it was ultimately an informative and rewarding read about New York and a little village in Nigeria.
  • Kathryn B. (Dripping Springs, TX)
    Two books in one
    While there are challenging aspects to reading this book, such as the heavy use of foreign words—particularly for foods that rendered the sentences unknowable—parts of it are a delightful and sneaky appeal to liberal white Americans' perhaps unconscious prejudices and inherent racism. I did not enjoy the documentary parts of the novel, which covered the Biafran wars and tribalism in Nigeria. This is a nonfiction topic of great importance, but I did not choose to be educated on it by reading a novel, which I do for pleasure and escapism. The fictional parts led by Ekong deserve 5 stars. Very subtle and humorous, but still exposing prejudice on all sides. I did regret that Ekong kept apologizing and his mood swings were quite a challenge to keep up with. I assume Africans are more casual in their use of body parts/functions in conversation, but it still was shocking to me. The bed bugs of New York were just a silly bonus!

    Book clubs would do well to pick this book, given the long list of topics it introduces.
  • Joan P. (Owego, NY)
    New York, My Village
    New York, My Village shows the many subtleties of racial bias framed by the experiences of a young Nigerian writer who comes to America to learn the publishing business at a small American firm. The Biafrin fight for independence is the subject of a book of remembrances he is compiling and editing. It provides a disturbing background that affects his life even in New York. His interactions with work colleagues, building residents, his own relatives and old friends, and the Catholic Church show the influence of racism and tribalism in every part of his life. This is a dense, complicated book, educational and disturbing. I was overwhelmed by the many problems it exposed, both historic and current. This is not the book for the casual reader and I will be thinking about it for a long time.
  • Jill S. (Durham, NC)
    Bed bugs as a metaphor for prevalent racism
    There are several key strands to explore in this ambitious, shattering, unforgettable, sprawling and ultimately uneven novel. Two of the most prominent are the prevalence of racism in an educated publishing house and in New York in general and racist assumptions about Africa. Juxtaposed is a story of Ekong's Hell's Kitchen apartment, which is rife with bedbugs and turns his days into agony. It does not take look to recognize that the two stands have something in common: racism and a bed bug invasion are both infestations that need massive effort to stamp out—and even then, they reappear over and over again.

    Uwem Akpan also weaves in scenes and back-history of the Biafran War, which are haunting and instructive. Thy deserve to see the light of day and provide insights into Nigeria and its heinous Biafran War in ways that the rest of the world needs to understand. As a human being, I applaud the effort. As a literary reader, I sensed the wizard behind the curtain – authorial intrusion – and felt that Uwem Akpan was trying to merge two essential stories into one novel with mixed results. I wish the author had written two distinct books. I'm glad he wrote one.
  • Dorothy M. (Maynard, MA)
    A intense look at the long term effects of war
    Ekong Udousoro is an editor and literary lecturer in Nigeria who is working on an anthology of stories about the Biafran War on the 50th anniversary of that conflict when he receives a Tony Morrison fellowship for black editors that will allow him to come to New York to learn about publishing in America. New York, My Village is the story of his trip without his wife who could not leave her job and is sure he is cheating with his new colleagues. Beginning with the issues involved in attempting to get an approved visa and moving through his attempts to try and juggle the tribal factions among former Nigerians now in NY and the racism he encounters in his job and his surroundings, the fellowship is far from the joyful learning experience he had been expecting. His host in NY has arranged for an apartment that turns out to be an illegal sublet and then there are the bedbugs. The author moves between horrifying descriptions from the Biafran war and beautifully written longings for all the things Ekong is missing, primary among them being his beloved food. This is a incredibly detailed description of the cultural clashes between racial and tribal groups and a look at how deeply hidden the racial issues are among those who are certain they are beyond racism. An impressive debut novel.
  • Juliana (Falls Church, VA)
    A tour de force
    From the moment we read the opening sentence of the book, in which our hero, Ekong Udousoro, expresses his enthusiasm at his seemingly impending visit to New York, we, the readers, know we have ahead a whole course of adventures and possibly, misadventures, and indeed the book does not disappoint.

    New York, My Village by Uwem Akpan is a tour de force which aims to give a clear if not comprehensive picture of the Biafran War in Nigeria through some individual stories. This happens to coincide with the purpose of Ekong's visit to America, that of editing a collection of stories about the war of 1967-1970. Ekong ends up telling us how many stories may remain untold, rather unwritten without being any less valuable or heart-breaking. A tour de force because it adds the dimension of the life of a small publishing company in the US and that of all the possible variants of discriminatory racial and cultural attitudes coming from the most unexpected places and people, many in the US, proving that our coworkers, relatives, old friends, neighbors or ourselves can harbor deep biases, guilt, shame or trauma which are difficult to acknowledge and handle day by day. A tour de force of soccer World Cups, too, the best way to untie tongues, find common ground and warm up an Italian landlord to you.

    What this novel excels in, besides the blunt truths many still tiptoe around, is describing with dignity and compassion horrific war scenes. This amid scenes of equal dignity and consideration for the others which muster a copiously hilarious tone, the bedbug war being the epitome of hilariousness in the book. It is this intriguing juxtaposition which is one of the strong points of the novel. Another is the constant comparison between aspects of everyday New York life to those in Ikot Ituno-Ekanem, the village in Nigeria which is the Catholic community that supports and filters all of Ekong's experiences. The novel abounds in these comparisons, often in the form of proverbs, only to learn to our delight that they may be Ekong's filtering of the ancestral wisdom rather that his mere reproduction of it. This enhances the tone of playfulness that the novel excels in and endears Ekong to us as he tries to adjust and make amends for the place he visits.

    The use of citations of factual information when the narrator speaks of actual historical events reminded me of the same device used by Ava Homa in Daughters of Smoke and Fire, a confirmation of the horrors described for those who do not know or need one.
    The use of Annang, Ekong's native language is a source of effect and some confusion, as the meaning is not always contextually evident beyond some forms of address, greetings and food names.

    The novel may become confusing at times but in its deep self-ironic stance it warns the reader about it too, when one character says: "Sorry, I'm mixing up stories!" (p. 260)
    A novel worth reading and pacing yourself when doing it.
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