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New York, My Village: Book summary and reviews of New York, My Village by Uwem Akpan

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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About this book

Book Summary

A daring first novel in the great picaresque tradition―both buoyant comedy and devastating satire―by the author of the best-selling story collection Say You're One of Them.

Ekong Udousoro is a Nigerian editor undertaking a reckoning with the brutal recent history of his homeland by curating a collection of stories about the Biafran War. He is thrilled when a publishing fellowship gives him the opportunity to continue his work in Manhattan while learning the ins and outs of publishing.

But while his sophisticated colleagues meet him with kindness and hospitality, he is soon exposed to the industry's colder, ruthlessly commercial underbelly, boorish and hostile neighbors, and―beneath a superficial cosmopolitanism―a bedrock of white cultural superiority and racist assumptions about Africa, its peoples, and worst of all, its food. Haunted by the devastating darkness of civil war and searingly observant about the myriad ways that tribalism defines life everywhere from the villages of Africa to the villages within New York City, New York, My Village is nevertheless full of heart, hilarity, and hope.

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Media Reviews

"Akpan writes as much to educate as to entertain, adding lengthy and lucid historical passages with footnotes to source material along with excerpts from the book Ekong is editing. This layered novel tells more than it shows, but it's well worth listening to." - Publishers Weekly

"A rollicking picaresque at times hindered by stilted dialogue and bulky scenes." - Kirkus Reviews

"Of all the characters in New York, My Village, Ekong knows who he is. We are privileged to get to know him, too." - BookPage

"A searing sendup of publishing, racial biases, and humanity's near-infinite capability to look away from the most troubling parts of ourselves, New York, My Village is that rare thing: a funhouse mirror that reflects back the truth. Uwem Akpan's debut novel maps the constantly shifting ground of grappling with prejudice and guilt--and how we might find connections, and compassion, nevertheless." ― Celeste Ng, New York Times-bestselling author of Little Fires Everywhere

"I am in awe. I'm still trying to figure out how Uwem Akpan did it. He has transformed the isolating and exhausting intricacies of war trauma into a compulsively readable novel, at once hilarious, utterly harrowing, profoundly optimistic, and horrifically informative. Unforgettable characters, deeply realistic and "relatable" interpersonal conflicts, a contagious love of life, fresh insights into the crazy-making properties of racist ideology: New York, My Village has it all. And it's the great bedbug novel of New York City we have all been waiting for, some of us without knowing it! I adored this book." ― Elif Batuman, Pulitzer Prize finalist and author of The Idiot

"A superb story from a superb writer. The most compelling part of this debut novel of a Nigerian writer's immersion in American culture and the publishing world is the narrator's voice, utterly alive, frighteningly observant, deeply compassionate.  Once that captivating voice grabs you, from the very first page, you never want to stop listening." ― Father James Martin, SJ, bestselling author of Jesus: A Pilgrimage and Learning to Pray

This information about New York, My Village was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

Write your own reviewwrite your own review

Ora J. (Anacortes, WA)

New York, My Village
In the novel New York, My Village the author, Uwem Akpan, follows the experiences of a young Black African adult adjusting to life and work in New York City. Ekong Otis Udousoro, a citizen of Nigeria, had been a university lecturer of literature and managing editor of a book company in his home country before receiving a scholarship to study publishing in NYC.
Ekong's journey begins with the challenge of satisfying the unending demands of red tape needed to get out of Nigeria and into the US. Redundant documents, unreliable references and demeaning interviews question his worthiness, diminishing his desire to accept the scholarship.
The author's creative use of first-person narrative transforms each detail of Ekong's life into a conflict. The bedbug infested apartment, his need to share food, the loneliness of working in a white-world and the wall of hate between Black Africans and American Blacks; each encounter reveals Ekong's real world experience.

Cassandra W. (Alameda, CA)

Simply the best!
Written with beautiful prose, we follow Ekong Udousro from Nigeria to New York City where he has been given a fellowship in a small publishing house where he can continue working on a collection of stories of the Biafran War. He is both thrilled at the opportunity to learn the business of publishing and yet overwhelmed by the organization politics and the undercurrent of racism and white privilege. He must grapple with conflicting emotions of joy and home sickness as he struggles to fit in to an alien culture. While Akpan deals with serious themes of oppression and war, his writing is never depressing. I enjoyed "New York, My Village" and would highly recommend this book. Akpan is a gifted writer and a fresh voice to be read.

Lucy S. (Ann Arbor, MI)

New York, My City drew me in from the very first page. Every facet of this humorous, smart, brilliantly satirical novel is so finely tuned that to read it is to experience New York City along with Ekong Udousoro; the smells, the tastes, the lights. This book is a well delivered indictment of the lack of diversity in the publishing industry, the racism in American, and the tribalism in Nigeria as the effect every aspect of Udousoro's daily life.

Uwem Akpan's sentences are so well crafted that they have the power to make you squirm in disgust, recoil in horror, and laugh with delight in equal measure.

I loved this book!

Terrie J. (Eagan, MN)

Excellent cultural read
Wow...what a story! I would highly recommend this book. It spanned cultures, cuisines, friendships and an intro to New York through new eyes. The story only spanned a few months, but was developed through current and previous times. This book was well written and should provide great discussion for book clubs. I don't think it's a book for young readers, but should interest the masses. I really enjoyed it and read it in a couple of days.

Sonia F. (Freehold, NJ)

Love New York, Hate New York.
This novel made me laugh, cry and laugh again. Starting from the Nigerian embassy, Ekong, a Nigerian editor has a fellowship to work in Manhattan, NY to curate his anthology of the Biafran war and at the same time learn the ins and outs of publishing.

I was drawn into this novel for many reasons; I love a good immigrant story. As far as I am concerned, you change the names and the stories are the same; I remember looking at the display of malnourished children on television as a result of the Biafra war; and, as a New Yorker, I couldn't wait to discover what the protagonist's take on the city is. Most of all, being a huge fan of historical fiction, I wanted to know more about the Biafran war.

The historical context was laid out from the first chapter when Ekong went to get a visa of which it took him several attempts. Ekong was aghast at the condescending clerk at the embassy who belittled him and his tribe.
Through Ekong's encounter with the clerk, I learnt that Biafra was a secessionist state in West Africa that existed from 1967-1970 when Ekong curated his story. I learnt that Biafra was formed as a result Of the nationalist aspirations of the Igbo people of Nigeria leading to the Nigerian civil war.

After Biafra declared its independence, war ensued, defeating Biafra and reuniting the two states. The historical context brought back memories of being told by my parents "don't waste the food, children in Biafra are starving." I thought of the Biafran flag which is half of a yellow sun and wondered about the significance.
Ekong had bouts of rude awakenings in NY; he lived in a small apartment which he thought did not look like those he saw on CNN, and to add salt to injury, the apartment was filled with bedbugs of which the poor man thought he had AIDS after been bitten all over his body. This entire bed bugs scene was totally hilarious.

The saddest discovery for Ekong was the different types of racism among blacks Americans, African Americans, blacks and Africans. For me as a black woman, it was an eye opener of the many ways prejudices can be felt.
Ekong was met with kindness by his colleagues at the publishing house, but underneath it all was stereotyping of him as an African, his foods, language and tribalism was all under attack. Underneath the publishing industry was a wall of white superiority and control. Ekong found that he could not escape the darkness of the Civil war and the ways in which tribalism defined him from his villages of Africa to the villages Within New York City.

A captivating read, filled with humor, sharp wit and brutal satire. Through it all, there is compassion
and human connectedness. Bravo Uwem Akpan! Your unique prose jumps off the pages.

Laurie S., Minneapolis, MN

Humor can reveal our deepest faults and greatest divides.
New York, My Village is not an easy read, and I can't say I enjoyed it; but, oh my, it made me think and feel deeply about our shared humanity. The story illustrates the dangerous parallels between American racism and Nigerian tribalism. Like the classic war novel Catch-22, Akpan makes great use of dark humor and chaotic situations to reveal the importance of bringing all voices to the table to share their stories. Storytelling is hard when it reveals trauma, guilt, and shame, but these same stories can build our relationships and rescue us from ourselves.

...15 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Uwem Akpan Author Biography

Uwem Akpan was born in Ikot Akpan Eda in southern Nigeria. After studying philosophy and English at Creighton and Gonzaga universities, he studied theology for three years at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa. He was ordained as a Jesuit priest in 2003 and received his MFA in creative writing from the University of Michigan in 2006. "My Parents' Bedroom," a story from his short story collection, Say You're One of Them, was one of five short stories by African writers chosen as finalists for The Caine Prize for African Writing 2007. Say You're One of Them won the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best First Book (Africa Region) 2009 and PEN/Beyond Margins Award 2009, and was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction. In 2007, Akpan taught at a Jesuit ...

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Name Pronunciation
Uwem Akpan: u-em ak-pan

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