Art of Darkness

Uwem Akpan is a Jesuit priest from Nigeria. His first book, a collection of longish short stories called SAY YOU'RE ONE OF THEM (Little, Brown; 358 pages), is one of the most highly praised literary debuts of the year. It is a stunning book by a writer of immense gifts, and I couldn't in good conscience recommend it to anybody.

The stories are set in sub-Saharan Africa--Rwanda, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Kenya. Akpan's method is to present scenes of extreme violence and degradation from a child's point of view. A young boy watches his sister practice prostitution; a man sells his niece and...