Oprah Winfrey has blessed the book world's eternal underdog: the short story. Publishing's surest hitmaker yesterday picked Uwem Akpan's debut collection, Say You're One Of Them, guaranteeing sales generally unthinkable for short stories beyond works by Ernest Hemingway, John Cheever and other giants of the art form. Akpan, 38, is a native of Nigeria and an ordained Jesuit priest whose work is set in Nigeria, Rwanda, and other African countries and often centers on children in distress.
In making her 63rd book selection, Winfrey said she never before had given a book of short stories the nod because "usually short stories leave you wanting something and you're like, Huh, what happened?" Akpan's book was an exception: "This is a first for me because each one of these five stories really just left me gasping. Just an incredible book." Each of the stories in Say You're One Of Them is told from the perspective of an African child.