How to pronounce Uwem Akpan: u-em ak-pan
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 college in Harare, Zimbabwe. Now he serves at Christ the King Church, Ilasamaja-Lagos, Nigeria.
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After publishing "An Ex-Mas Feast", one of the stories in his first collection Say You're One of Them (2008), in The New Yorkers Début Fiction issue, Akpan discussed his writing with Cressida Leyshon, deputy fiction editor
Your story, "An Ex-Mas Feast", is about a family living on the street in Nairobi, Kenya. When did you first start thinking about these characters and the world that they inhabit?
When I went to study theology in Nairobi, in 2000, I was taken by the phenomenon of street kids. Id never seen anything like it before . I started talking with the bunch of kids around Adams Arcade, which was near my school. These kids were not very wild, because they still went back to their homes in the slums in the evening. There was one kid, Richard, who was their leader. I started calling him Dick. He had some English, and was very respected by the others. If I wanted to give them money, the whole bunch would ask me to give it to Dick, because they knew he would not cheat them. He would talk with me and ask me about Nigeria. I dont know how he managed to be so nice, unlike his friends. After the Christmas holiday of 2000, he disappeared. I started asking questions. Some of his friends told me that ...
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