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Nigerian priest shares stories of African village life, resilience of children facing tragedy

February 8, 2013

Inspired by life in the rural Nigerian village where he was born, the Rev. Uwem Akpan will share unique tales influenced by the humor and endurance of the African poor—even in the face of the agonizing tragedies plaguing the region—in a free public lecture Feb. 18 at Loyola University New Orleans. The Catholic priest will discuss the real-world accounts included in his award-winning collection of short stories, “Say You’re One of Them,” which was picked by the Oprah Winfrey Book Club.

The event will be held at 7 p.m. in the Louis J. Roussel Performance Hall, located on the second floor of the Communications/Music Complex on Loyola’s main campus. A reception with light refreshments will immediately follow the lecture in the foyer area of Roussel Hall. Akpan will be available to sign books after the event as well.

From the story of a family living in a makeshift shanty in urban Kenya to the story of young siblings who struggle with their uncle’s attempt to sell them into slavery, Akpan will share the tales of children to illustrate the biggest issues facing Africa during the lecture, “Writing about Human Tragedy from a Spiritual Space.” Those stories and others like them are included in “Say You’re One of Them.”

Akpan’s grandfather was one of the first to bring Catholicism to his African village—one of those places where everybody knows everybody. Akpan grew up there hearing folktales from his mother, who encouraged his love of reading and writing. He studied philosophy and English at Creighton and Gonzaga Universities and then studied theology for three years at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa. He received his master's in creative writing from the University of Michigan in 2006.

The event is sponsored by Loyola’s College of Humanities and Natural Sciences, the Department of English, African and African-American Studies, the Center for Intercultural Understanding, the Walker Percy Center for Writing and Publishing and the College of Law. Akpan will also visit several Loyola classes that week to speak with students, including a visit to the College of Law Wednesday, Feb. 20 from 4:30 to 6 p.m. in room 112 of the College of Law.

At this presentation, Akpan will shed light on the laws that allowed some of the tragic situations in his book to occur and will address opportunities for possible changes to those laws in the future.

For more information, please contact Diane Riehlmann at the College of Humanities and Natural Sciences or Arlene Wiltz at the College of Law.

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