Sacrificial Women: The Unlikely Heroes of Uwem Akpan's Stories

Mary L. Bauer, Sacred Heart University

Mary L. Bauer is an adjunct professor of English at Sacred Heart University.


This paper examines whether the female characters in Fr. Uwem Akpan’s short story collection Say You’re One of Them accurately portray the challenges that African women face in the post-colonial era, particularly when faced with challenges of poverty and violence that threaten the lives of their loved ones. It investigates how these women use the limited devices available to them -- including transactional sex, voluntary starvation, and giving their own lives to protect others – to carry out the traditional role of African women in caring for dependents, including younger siblings. It highlights the impact of societal norms, such as preferential treatment of male children and limited access to education for girls. The study finds that Akpan’s characters are accurate representations of their culture and reveals the silent, unsung heroism that African women practice as they sacrifice their own wellbeing to protect and provide for those they love.