From a suspiciously cheap Hell’s Kitchen walk-up, Nigerian editor and winner of a Toni Morrison Publishing Fellowship Ekong Udousoro is about to begin the opportunity of a lifetime: to learn the ins and outs of the publishing industry from its incandescent epicenter.
Akpan is precise in balancing his main character’s (at times) naïve optimism with his reader’s knowledge of class and race-based homogeneity in Western publishing ... But to summarize the book as a satire on New York’s publishing industry belittles its aims ... Akpan’s examination of the publishing industry serves less to mock and more to chart the ways in which narrative is essential in the forming of cultural groups ... There are some technical faults in the novel. Moments of wit are often lost to poorly structured sentences, an abundance of too-apt proverbs and monologued exposition. A better edit might have highlighted Akpan’s obvious gift for characterization and arresting images...It is a shame such formal potential is not more carefully honed ... Still, New York, My Village succeeds in making the too-rare observation that identity exists not as a fixed, individual thing, but in relation to others, and thus is constantly shifting. To those who forget this, Akpan extends a depth of kindness and forgiveness that gives this sometimes frustrating, but ultimately illuminating, book its sense of hope.
Akpan allows Ekong’s astonished anger, acerbic humor and, despite everything, love of New York and its people to anchor him. Of all the characters in New York, My Village, Ekong knows who he is. We are privileged to get to know him, too.
Akpan packs a lot of plot into his debut novel but handles the assorted threads of the story quite well — the narrative moves quickly and is never overcrowded ... Akpan does a wonderful job explaining the history of the war to readers who might be unfamiliar with it; the background information he provides is integrated into the novel seamlessly ... The novel deals with a host of sensitive themes, which Akpan writes about beautifully and without didacticism. His observations about racism are excellent ... a wonderful novel, keenly observed and written with true compassion.