Akwaeke Emezi publishes their memoir, ‘Dear Senthuran: A Black Spirit Memoir’

"I want to write as if I am free"

Releasing their debut novel, Freshwater in 2018, the feats Akwaeke Emezi has accomplished in these three years are remarkable. Named a National Book Foundation “5 Under 35” honouree that same year, their follow-up novels, the Young Adult debut PET and the instant New York Times bestseller, The Death of Vivek Oji, received similar critical acclaim, the first winning them the Stonewall Book Award, and the latter longlisted for multiple literary prizes this year.

Through what has been a highly prolific career so far, however, Akwaeke Emezi still had their fair share of battles to overcome. “[W]hile my career looks lovely and shiny on the surface, [sic] these were the things I was dealing with behind the scenes,” Emezi explains of their driving motivation to release, Dear Senthuran: A Black Spirit Memoir. Chronicling their own expertise on how to finish a book – not in terms of structure but the emotional and psychological preparations authors must have – Dear Senthuran sheds the veil of the glamorous perceptions of unending success and happiness we have of their career, and points to the “brutal” consequences “being visible and being shiny and being prolific” had on their personal life.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by akwaeke emezi (@azemezi)

With each chapter written to loved ones in Emezi’s life, Dear Senthuran, released on June 8, is a bare and vulnerable autobiographical text that reveals the numerous journeys Emezi has traversed throughout their life. From escaping the 1993 civil unrest through the fantastical worlds created by their’s and their sister’s imaginations to the road of acceptance they are still charting as a non-binary, trans ogbanje, where 2018’s autobiographical novel Freshwater cloaked their lived experiences under the armour of fiction, this second memoir is open and proud to share their story as an authentic, unapologetic real-life narrative.

As the Next Generation Leader tells TIME, this Black Spirit Memoir isn’t written to conform to white spaces as most successfully published books are encouraged to do, “speaking in the most intimate language [they] have,” even from the book’s title, Akwaeke Emezi is honouring their roots and writing to a world where these stories are not minimised, marginalised or manipulated to fit into the white gaze. Pronounced like this, Senthuran is a Tamil name, representative of their mother’s South Indian origin. In an audio extract released through Penguin Random House, Akwaeke Emezi speaks with their Eastern Nigerian Igbo inflection, despite having spent many years abroad. This is Akwaeke Emezi’s most personal literary feat yet, and given the politics inherent in one’s personal identity, this book comes as a political statement too. Akwaeke Emezi writes to and for the people that they call their own; as an extract from the book’s blurb reads:

“I want to write as if I am free; as if my people are the only readers as if we are the ones who hold structural power, the ones for whom the markets bend, the ones with resources from generational wealth, the target demographic.”


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by akwaeke emezi (@azemezi)

Doling out four books in the space of three years, Akwaeke Emezi already has a couple more works in the pipeline for next year. According to their website, they are set to debut in two genres: romance and poetry. Their first ever romance novel, titled You Made a Fool of Death With Your Beauty, has already sold its screen rights to Amazon Studios, with Emezi set to executively produce. Their debut collection of poems is titled Content Warning: Everything and also slated for a 2022 release.

It’ll be a busy year for fans and followers of our “favourite spirit”, but to start with, read more about Dear Senthuran: A Black Spirit Memoir via their website, where you can also find links to purchase the book.

Featured Image Credits: NATIVE