The vanishing children of Nigeria

More than 300 young girls in Nigeria were allegedly kidnapped for sale by Boko Haram, a terrorist organization. First Lady Michelle Obama intervened requesting justice and the safe return of all females, particularly as this mother of two school-age daughters, carried the sign with the statement, “#Bring Back Our Girls.”

The Queens, New York based Laurelton Reading Society selected book, “Say You’re One of Them,” (Hackette Book Group, Inc.: $14.99) written by Nigerian Jesuit priest Uwen Akpan, deepens the wounds of child slavery and persistent bravery in war-ravished countries in the African continent.

With only five distinct stories – surpassing class, religion, and philosophical persuasion – Akpan, a Kenyan-educated writer spares no human emotions in characterizing mankind’s worse nightmare.

In the first story in the collection “An Ex-mas Feast,” a 12-year-old Maisha works as a prostitute to support her family. As the eldest sibling, she bears the responsibility of eliminating the family’s debt and financing her eldest brother’s formal education.

In a shabby, unstable tent, strewn with debris and children examining the possibilities of a meal in Nairobi, Maisha’s family live and prepare for their next work assignment.

This close-knit family of hope grasping for prosperity and a sound future for their children – patriarch’s trademark vocation is picking pockets. A younger daughter relies upon the occasional handout from a boyfriend. The baby of the family, a three-month-old, shortly removed from an incubator, is brought to a local tourist haven, by each sibling, to solicit money.

The demands for cash forces Maisha, the family’s primary breadwinner, to escape from home and work full time in a profession she describes to her sister with unseen subtle drawbacks.

A common occurrence in each story is children vanishing. Often from their families, to be sold by a family member to escape internal warfare, religious conflict and the viewing of door-to-door murders – including their parents.

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