Akwaeke Emezi is an Igbo and Tamil writer and video artist based in liminal spaces. They are a recipient of the National Book Foundation's '5 Under 35' award for 2018, selected by Carmen Maria Machado. Born in Umuahia and raised in Aba, Nigeria, Emezi holds two degrees, including an MPA from New York University. In 2017, Emezi was awarded a Global Arts Fund grant and a Sozopol Fellowship for Creative Nonfiction. They won the 2017 Commonwealth Short Story Prize for Africa, and their writing has been published by Dazed Magazine, The Cut, Buzzfeed, Granta Online, Vogue.com, and Commonwealth Writers, among others. Freshwater, which was longlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in fiction by the American Library Association, is their debut novel.
Photo credit Elizabeth Wirija
Brimming, barely contained, with bone-deep grief and all-consuming awakenings of the sexual and soulful kind, Akwaeke Emezi’s You Made a Fool of Death With Your Beauty is a uniquely compelling story about bravely risking setting lives aflame for love, for a chance to embrace a new, fulfilling life. Five years have passed since Feyi’s husband died in a car accident. Though still grieving, her life is beginning to shift. She’s getting herself together as an artist in Brooklyn and, with the encouragement of her straight-talking, loving best friend, she’s ready to have sex for the first time since her husband’s death — urgent sex with no strings: “Feyi didn’t think she could stand it, to be touched so tentatively. People had turned her into webbed glass after Jonah died; it made her feel like a relic, not a person.” Feyi’s first frantic carnal encounter spirals into her jetting to a Caribbean island with a guy whose well-connected art collector father, also a famous celebrity chef, has seen her art and offered to introduce her to a major curator who wants to show her work in a major exhibition of Black diaspora artists on the island. Seismic emotional shifts erupt the moment Feyi steps foot in the stylish, tropical mountain home, where she faces tremendous conflicts of loyalty and pulls between the past and her possible future. Messy, moving, heart in-your-mouth stuff, told in dazzling prose.
One of Stylist's Best Memoirs for Summer 2021 In letters addressed to their friends, to members of their family - both biological and chosen - and to fellow storytellers, Akwaeke describes the shape of a life lived in overlapping realities. Through heartbreak, chronic pain, intimacy with death, becoming a beast, this is embodiment as a nonhuman: outside the boundaries imposed by expectations and legibility. This book is an account of the grueling work of realignment and remaking necessary to carve out a future for oneself. The result is a Black spirit memoir: a powerful, raw unfolding of identity.
SHORTLISTED FOR THE DYLAN THOMAS PRIZE They burned down the market on the day Vivek Oji died. One afternoon, a mother opens her front door to find the length of her son's body stretched out on the veranda, swaddled in akwete material, his head on her welcome mat. The Death of Vivek Oji transports us to the day of Vivek's birth, the day his grandmother Ahunna died. It is the story of an over protective mother and a distant father, and the heart-wrenching tale of one family's struggle to understand their child, just as Vivek learns to recognize himself. Teeming with unforgettable characters whose lives have been shaped by Vivek's gentle and enigmatic spirit, it shares with us a Nigerian childhood that challenges expectations. This novel, and its celebration of the innocence and optimism of youth, will touch all those who embrace it.
In their riveting and timely young adult debut, acclaimed novelist Akwaeke Emezi asks difficult questions about what choices a young person can make when the adults around them are in denial.
'Completely blew me away.' Daisy Johnson, author of Everything Under 'One of the most dazzling debuts I've ever read.' Taiye Selasi, author of Ghana Must Go 'I'm urging everyone to read it.' Sophie Mackintosh, author of The Water Cure Ada has always been unusual. Her parents prayed her into existence, but something must have gone awry. Their troubled child begins to develop separate selves and is prone to fits of anger and grief.When Ada grows up and heads to college in America, a traumatic event crystallises the selves into something more powerful. As Ada fades into the background of her own mind, these 'alters' - now protective, now hedonistic - take control, shifting her life in a dangerous direction.
'Unlike anything I've read . . . Remarkable.' Roxane Gay 'An audacious sojourn through the terror and beauty of refusing to explain yourself. ' New York Times In letters addressed to their friends, to members of their family - both biological and chosen - and to fellow storytellers, Akwaeke describes the shape of a life lived in overlapping realities. Through heartbreak, chronic pain, intimacy with death, becoming a beast, this is embodiment as a nonhuman: outside the boundaries imposed by expectations and legibility. This book is an account of the grueling work of realignment and remaking necessary to carve out a future for oneself. The result is a Black spirit memoir: a powerful, raw unfolding of identity.
From the critically acclaimed author of Pet and The Death of Vivek Oji, Bitter, takes a timely and provocative look at the power of youth, protest and art. Bitter is thrilled to have been chosen to attend Eucalyptus, a special school where she can focus on her painting surrounded by other creative teens. But outside this haven, the streets are filled with protests against the deep injustices that grip the town of Lucille. Bitter's instinct is to stay safe within the walls of Eucalyptus . . . but her friends aren't willing to settle for a world that the adults say is 'just the way things are.' Pulled between old friendships, her creative passion, and a new romance, Bitter isn't sure where she belongs - in the art studio or in the streets. And if she does find a way to help the revolution while being true to who she is, she must also ask: at what cost?
An extraordinary debut novel, Freshwater explores the surreal experience of having a fractured self. It centers around a young Nigerian woman, Ada, who develops separate selves within her as a result of being born "e;with one foot on the other side."e; Unsettling, heartwrenching, dark, and powerful, Freshwater is a sharp evocation of a rare way of experiencing the world, one that illuminates how we all construct our identities. Ada begins her life in the south of Nigeria as a troubled baby and a source of deep concern to her family. Her parents, Saul and Saachi, successfully prayed her into existence, but as she grows into a volatile and splintered child, it becomes clear that something went terribly awry. When Ada comes of age and moves to America for college, the group of selves within her grows in power and agency. As Ada fades into the background of her own mind and these alters-now protective, now hedonistic-move into control, Ada's life spirals in a dark and dangerous direction. Narrated by the selves within Ada, and based in the author's realities, Freshwater explores the metaphysics of identity and mental health, plunging the reader into the mystery of being and self. Freshwater dazzles with ferocious energy and serpentine grace, heralding the arrival of a fierce new literary voice.