After being introduced to Akwaeke Emezi’s work through The Death of Vivek Oji I jumped on the chance to read and review Dear Senthuran, which opens thyself to the world through letters and correspondence with friends. Intimate, heartfelt and harrowingly raw, this memoir explores ideas of freedom whilst also being bound to systemic Igbo belief systems. Beautifully upsetting and deeply delicate, these pages will give you a sense of this writer’s spirit and transition.
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. 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.
Through their critically acclaimed novels, Akwaeke Emezi has introduced readers to a territory that prepares us for this memoir. The bestselling author of The Death of Vivek Oji reveals the resolute truths of their own life through these candid, openly intimate correspondence with friends, lovers, and family. Their story moves through transformative decisions about their gender and body, exploring their Gadarene path to success as a writer, and the tender yet dangerous effect of relationships on the self, and the toxic harm they can cause.
A beguiling and delicately honest read, Dear Senthuran is in equal parts unsettling and yet, life-affirming. The prose which addresses carving out one’s own future is ethereal and encompasses a spirit of magic that will pull you in until you finish this read. It’s powerfully raw unfolding of identity that will sit uncomfortable at times with you, but give you the privilege as a reader to have the emotional maturity to engage with these themes. Making you work, Emezi invites you into their world to gage a better understanding of the worlds that they are creating with their fiction, which I look to read more of.
Dear Senthuran is available now, published by Faber & Faber