Akwaeke Emezi, born 6 June 1987 in Umuahia and raised in Aba, she is an Nigerian (Igbo) and Malaysian heritage writer and video artist based in liminal spaces. They are a recipient of the US National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 award for 2018, selected by Carmen Maria Machado.
In 2017, Akwaeke 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 is their debut novel. Emezi identifies as non-binary transgender.
Akwaeke Emezi Education
Emezi holds two degrees, including an MPA from New York University.
Akwaeke Emezi Books
The Death of Vivek Oji (Akwaeke Emezi)
Exploring familial tensions and the fears of an overprotective mother, The Death of Vivek Oji tells a captivating story of a Nigerian childhood and the struggle between freedom and love.
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.
Freshwater (Akwaeke Emezi)
Ada was born with one foot on the other side. Having prayed her into existence, her parents Saul and Saachi struggle to deal with the volatile and contradictory spirits peopling their troubled girl. When Ada comes of age and heads to college, the entities within her grow in power and agency. An assault leads to a crystallization of her selves: Asghara and Saint Vincent.
As Ada fades into the background of her own mind and these selves – now protective, now hedonistic – seize control of Ada, her life spirals in a dark and dangerous direction.
Narrated from the perspectives of the various selves within Ada, and based in the author’s realities, Freshwater explores the metaphysics of identity and being. Feeling explodes through the language of this scalding novel, heralding the arrival of a fierce new literary voice.
Pet (Akwaeke Emezi)
Deftly dramatising the conflicts and misunderstandings of the generational divide, Emezi’s remarkable YA debut fashions a clawed monster from paint and canvas, then lets it loose upon a community in denial of its existence. Dazzlingly written and genuinely affecting, Pet is a quiet triumph.
How do you save the world from monsters if no one will admit they exist?
She stumbled backwards, her eyes wide, as the figure started coming out of the canvas … She tried to be brave. Well, she said, her hands only a little shaky, at least tell me what I should call you. … Well, little girl, it replied, I suppose you can call me Pet.
There are no more monsters anymore, or so the children in the city of Lucille are taught. With doting parents and a best friend named Redemption, Jam has grown up with this lesson all her life.
But when she meets Pet, a creature made of horns and colours and claws, who emerges from one of her mother’s paintings and a drop of Jam’s blood, she must reconsider what she’s been told.
Pet has come to hunt a monster, and the shadow of something grim lurks in Redemption’s house. Jam must fight not only to protect her best friend, but also to uncover the truth.
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.
Akwaeke Emezi Awards
National Book Foundation “5 Under 35” Honoree (2018)
Won: The Otherwise Award (formerly the Tiptree Award)
• Ilube Nommo Award
• Commonwealth Short Story Prize for Africa
Honor: Stonewall Book Award
• Walter Award
• Otherwise Award
Finalist: National Book Award for Young People’s Literature
• PEN/Hemingway Award for a Debut Novel
• Center for Fiction First Novel Prize
• NYPL Young Lions Award
• Lambda Literary Award (Transgender Fiction)
• Edmund White Award for Debut Fiction
• Lambda Literary Award (LGBTQ Young Adult)
Longlisted: International Dublin Literary Award
• Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence
• Brooklyn Public Library Literary Prize
• Wellcome Prize
• Aspen Words Literary Prize
• Women’s Prize for Fiction
• VCU Cabell First Novelist Award
Akwaeke Emezi Fellowships & Grants
Astraea Foundation Global Arts Fund
• Sozopol Fellowship for Creative Nonfiction
• Miles Morland Writing Scholarship
Akwaeke Emezi Biography and Profile