I won a copy of Uwem Akpan’s fantastic short story collection Say You’re One of Them some months ago on Zimbabwean writer Petina Gappah’s web site. We had to give a caption to a photo she had there. I was chuffed I was among the winners as I’m a greedy book hog and I loved Akpan’s My Parent’s Bedroom which was short-listed for the Caine the year before last. It is the most tragic story I’ve ever read about the Rwandan genocide. It’s one of those stories you never forget.
When I got the book, I was even more excited to see the two quotes on the book jacket came from writers I love- Louise Erdrich and Peter Orner, who has another fantastic short story collection. If you haven’t read Esther Stories, stop what you are doing and go out and find it. You will love it. I love Peter Orner’s writing. His novel the Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo is one of my favourite books and not just because it is set in Namibia.
In Akpan’s collection there is a story entitled Fattening for Gabon. It is very long, probably at almost novella length. It starts slowly. He is expert at giving the reader time to develop a strong bond with the children and their uncle; a bond that makes the story all the more devastating. He drops tiny pieces and you almost want to give up at his stinginess. Don’t. The story is another that you will never forget. It is about child trafficking and it will break your heart. The ending, especially the last line, is almost impossible to read it is so sad. Wonderful. Wonderful.
This week’s Voice newspaper had an article that made me think again about Fattening for Gabon. It was a tiny article, a bit sparse with details. Apparently two children where trying to be taken through the border travelling on Botswana passports, but the immigration officers became suspicious when neither child could speak Setswana. The article said that Botswana is becoming a transit place for child traffickers and these children may have been part of that.
Then this morning front page in The Sunday Standard, is a big article about how Al Qaeda is apparently trying to set up a cell in Botswana for a planned attack during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Apparently, Botswana is a soft target for this type of international crime. Scary.
Some days ago I mentioned the DIS, our new spy unit in Botswana. I guess there is some work for them here if they decide to lay off Batswana and focus on these dangerous international criminals.