African author Uwem Akpan says humbled by Oprah pick

Mon Sep 21, 2009 12:56am EDT
 
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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Nigerian author Uwem Akpan, who is a Jesuit priest, said he was "humbled" that his debut collection of short stories was chosen by influential U.S. talk show host Oprah Winfrey for her book club.

Oprah picked "Say You're One Of Them" as her 63rd book club selection, the first time she has chosen a book of short stories, saying these stories "left me stunned and profoundly moved."

The collection, published in 2008, includes five separate stories from the perspective of an African child that were described as capturing the resilience of children growing up in the face of unimaginable devastation.

Uwem Akpan, who runs a parish in Lagos, told Entertainment Weekly that he was "very, very humbled" to be chosen by Oprah.

He said he was not currently working on another book as his parish had been so busy but the church supports his writing with no conflict of interest between writing and being a priest.

"I have permission to write, but I do not need an imprimatur from the church -- that is more for people who are writing about theology and philosophy. They see that I am writing fiction and assume it is made up," he said.

"Don't forget that Jesus was a priest and a poet."

Oprah's book club is the biggest in the world with almost two million online members and books chosen for Oprah's book club invariably skyrocket to the top of the U.S. bestseller lists.

Akpan studied philosophy and English at Creighton and Gonzaga universities then studied theology for three years at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa.   Continued...