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Dear Senthuran: A Black Spirit Memoir

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A full-throated and provocative memoir in letters from the New York Times-bestselling author, "a dazzling literary talent whose works cut to the quick of the spiritual self." --Esquire In three critically acclaimed novels, Akwaeke Emezi has introduced readers to a landscape marked by familial tensions, Igbo belief systems, and a boundless search for what it means to be free A full-throated and provocative memoir in letters from the New York Times-bestselling author, "a dazzling literary talent whose works cut to the quick of the spiritual self." --Esquire In three critically acclaimed novels, Akwaeke Emezi has introduced readers to a landscape marked by familial tensions, Igbo belief systems, and a boundless search for what it means to be free. Now, in this extraordinary memoir, the bestselling author of The Death of Vivek Oji reveals the harrowing yet resolute truths of their own life. Through candid, intimate correspondence with friends, lovers, and family, Emezi traces the unfolding of a self and the unforgettable journey of a creative spirit stepping into power in the human world. Their story weaves through transformative decisions about their gender and body, their precipitous path to success as a writer, and the turmoil of relationships on an emotional, romantic, and spiritual plane, culminating in a book that is as tender as it is brutal. Electrifying and inspiring, animated by the same voracious intelligence that distinguishes their fiction, Dear Senthuran is a revelatory account of storytelling, self, and survival.


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A full-throated and provocative memoir in letters from the New York Times-bestselling author, "a dazzling literary talent whose works cut to the quick of the spiritual self." --Esquire In three critically acclaimed novels, Akwaeke Emezi has introduced readers to a landscape marked by familial tensions, Igbo belief systems, and a boundless search for what it means to be free A full-throated and provocative memoir in letters from the New York Times-bestselling author, "a dazzling literary talent whose works cut to the quick of the spiritual self." --Esquire In three critically acclaimed novels, Akwaeke Emezi has introduced readers to a landscape marked by familial tensions, Igbo belief systems, and a boundless search for what it means to be free. Now, in this extraordinary memoir, the bestselling author of The Death of Vivek Oji reveals the harrowing yet resolute truths of their own life. Through candid, intimate correspondence with friends, lovers, and family, Emezi traces the unfolding of a self and the unforgettable journey of a creative spirit stepping into power in the human world. Their story weaves through transformative decisions about their gender and body, their precipitous path to success as a writer, and the turmoil of relationships on an emotional, romantic, and spiritual plane, culminating in a book that is as tender as it is brutal. Electrifying and inspiring, animated by the same voracious intelligence that distinguishes their fiction, Dear Senthuran is a revelatory account of storytelling, self, and survival.

30 review for Dear Senthuran: A Black Spirit Memoir

  1. 5 out of 5

    Roxane

    Dear Senthuran is a memoir in letters from Akwaeke Emezi that is unlike anything I’ve read. There are many magnificent parts where the language, the insight, the writing are simply unparalleled. They also are fearlessly open about identity, success, human frailty, mental health, destructive decisions that are sometimes necessary to achieve a greater goal. They are an ogbanje and one of the most successful parts of this memoir is how they convey how it is to live in their body, and experience thi Dear Senthuran is a memoir in letters from Akwaeke Emezi that is unlike anything I’ve read. There are many magnificent parts where the language, the insight, the writing are simply unparalleled. They also are fearlessly open about identity, success, human frailty, mental health, destructive decisions that are sometimes necessary to achieve a greater goal. They are an ogbanje and one of the most successful parts of this memoir is how they convey how it is to live in their body, and experience this world. There is a deliberate self-interest that is uncommon. Instead of dismissing their work and experiences, they are remarkably clear eyed about the best and worst parts of themselves. There are parts that feel like a manifesto, like a guide to choosing the life you want and abandoning things that don’t serve you and nurturing unabashed ambitions. This book is incredibly intimate. It does not care what the reader thinks which makes for a rather freeing reader experience. At times, there is repetition that doesn’t always serve the overall narrative well. But whatever. This is a remarkable memoir and really expands possibilities for the genre. Anyway. I’ll be thinking about this one for a while.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kai

    "I think a lot of what love is, is just telling the truth." Akwaeke Emezi's memoir offers so much food for thought. They talk the convergence of gender & spiritual identity, the hunger for success and the manifestation thereof, the worth of certain relationships, the cost of being a Black & trans writer in the publishing industry, and last of all death. The writing is STUNNING, visceral, poetic, even addictive and at times brutal. There’s a lot of wisdom, pain, power in these lines and I know I w "I think a lot of what love is, is just telling the truth." Akwaeke Emezi's memoir offers so much food for thought. They talk the convergence of gender & spiritual identity, the hunger for success and the manifestation thereof, the worth of certain relationships, the cost of being a Black & trans writer in the publishing industry, and last of all death. The writing is STUNNING, visceral, poetic, even addictive and at times brutal. There’s a lot of wisdom, pain, power in these lines and I know I will often return to Akwaeke’s memoirs to hungrily soak the words from their fingers. I cannot wait to see all the things they’re going to create. The good thing is, I don’t have to wait for long because they’re a gift that keeps on giving and Dear Senthuran is no exception Find more of my books on Instagram

  3. 5 out of 5

    — Massiel

    EDIT: 02/22/21 Y'ALL Y'ALL AKWAEKE LIKED MY REVIEW AND I'M SO DAMN HAPPY OJHKJHKAKHK -- Y'ALL OMG I CAN'T BELIEVE THIS IS ACTUALLY HAPPENING OMGGGG!! 😍😍 I said I'll sell my kidney and all my organs if Akwaeke write a memoir book and LOOK!!!! (proof) I already know this book will break my heart and I CAN'T WAITTTT!!!!💗💗💗✨✨💖💖💖🥰🥰😍 P.S. About the part of selling my organs... well... um... let's wait until I read this 🥺🥺 EDIT: 02/22/21 Y'ALL Y'ALL AKWAEKE LIKED MY REVIEW AND I'M SO DAMN HAPPY OJHKJHKAKHK -- Y'ALL OMG I CAN'T BELIEVE THIS IS ACTUALLY HAPPENING OMGGGG!! 😍😍 I said I'll sell my kidney and all my organs if Akwaeke write a memoir book and LOOK!!!! (proof) I already know this book will break my heart and I CAN'T WAITTTT!!!!💗💗💗✨✨💖💖💖🥰🥰😍 P.S. About the part of selling my organs... well... um... let's wait until I read this 🥺🥺

  4. 5 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    Just before I was about to send in a review I lost it all…. Not fun…. So I am now just speaking into the phone.., This memoir is absolutely extraordinary. Having read three novels by Akwaeke— listening to her speak - about her life —added elevated appreciation- richness to those books I’ve read. Akwaeke is a master at emotional precision. She writes with a vulnerability that is free of fear. It’s poetic and powerful, sensual and angry, passionate and gentle. She speaks about being Trans. Two surger Just before I was about to send in a review I lost it all…. Not fun…. So I am now just speaking into the phone.., This memoir is absolutely extraordinary. Having read three novels by Akwaeke— listening to her speak - about her life —added elevated appreciation- richness to those books I’ve read. Akwaeke is a master at emotional precision. She writes with a vulnerability that is free of fear. It’s poetic and powerful, sensual and angry, passionate and gentle. She speaks about being Trans. Two surgeries. Her childhood… the home (itself) she hates. It was dirty, filthy, with cockroaches and blackflies. There were good moments in her childhood and there were horrible ones. She writes of and to her family, to her friends, to those who trained her, She writes about writing- achieving her dreams and goals— One must put in the work! She shares about depression, humiliation, travel, publishers, book tours, her family, The people who are important to her - There’s so much overflowing richness — filled with anguish- sadness- But vitality and strength as well. If you’re a person who likes listening to audiobooks I can’t imagine anyone not being in ‘awe’ of this memoir… The personal take-a-ways will be plenty. Akwaeke just might be the most fully embodied person/ author… whom I’ve had the pleasure to read.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Paris (parisperusing)

    “Standing in my truth means it all has to die. So I am dying.” Akwaeke Emezi is a big, fearless god. I sensed it after The Death of Vivek Oji, but the evolution is utterly apparent in their latest creation, Dear Senthuran, a Black spirit memoir that wreaks beauty, mercy, and terror in its wake. A big god. Above the surface, Dear Senthuran masks as a dispatch of letters: to the tendrils of trauma; to the body's "unimportant" pieces; to human mothers, dead and alive; to money and its shiny freedoms “Standing in my truth means it all has to die. So I am dying.” Akwaeke Emezi is a big, fearless god. I sensed it after The Death of Vivek Oji, but the evolution is utterly apparent in their latest creation, Dear Senthuran, a Black spirit memoir that wreaks beauty, mercy, and terror in its wake. A big god. Above the surface, Dear Senthuran masks as a dispatch of letters: to the tendrils of trauma; to the body's "unimportant" pieces; to human mothers, dead and alive; to money and its shiny freedoms; and most hauntingly, to the specters of suicide. Or perhaps, to strange friendships after whom one may name a book. At its center, Emezi breaks empty their beating, crimson heart; and my god, what a timid and lonely organ it is. But fear, Emezi so harrowingly informs us, can also be a lifeline to happiness; it compels us to hold firm and claim space until the gravity of our being has its pull on the world. An intimate, disarming diary of transcendence, of wielding magic hidden deep within the marrow of our bones, and the spells we cast when we obey the work of honoring the unpretty truths of one's beginnings, Dear Senthuran is a swan song of survival written for survivors who refuse to die. Thank you, Riverhead Books, for bringing this magical, galvanizing book to life. And thank you, Akwaeke, for baring your heart and heartache with our little lonely world.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Oyinda

    Book 117 of 2021 Will Emezi ever fail to do the damn thing? They won't, and that's on period. This is a riveting, spell-binding, and poignant body of work. Reading this book is like taking a deep dive into Amezi's soul. It is raw and open and unfiltered about everything and I love that so much. I learnt so much about them from this book and I am so glad for that honor! This book is a memoir and an epistolary, written in the form of letters to different people in Akwaeke's life. There is no straight Book 117 of 2021 Will Emezi ever fail to do the damn thing? They won't, and that's on period. This is a riveting, spell-binding, and poignant body of work. Reading this book is like taking a deep dive into Amezi's soul. It is raw and open and unfiltered about everything and I love that so much. I learnt so much about them from this book and I am so glad for that honor! This book is a memoir and an epistolary, written in the form of letters to different people in Akwaeke's life. There is no straight timeline the letters follow, instead they are pieces of a puzzle that come together as you read. Akwaeke's is a master storyteller. Their use of words is hypnotic and the words just come together in a way that leaves the reader (aka me) breathless. The writing was powerful and I found myself in tears a lot. I already knew that Freshwater was heavily autobiographical, but I was shocked to discover that the author basically slapped every detail of their life onto Ada's character. I'm glad I reread Freshwater immediately before picking this up. There are people who still misgender Emezi. It breaks my heart, especially after reading some passages in this book. They're not a woman. They're not even human. Imagine knowing you're not human. Knowing so many boundaries of this world as humans know it hardly apply to you but still having to conform and bend and fold to the politics and labels of a world that seeks to harm you. They have been through a lot and so many letters were hard to read because of graphic descriptions (TW for) rape, suicide attempts, panic attacks, stalking, and child sexual abuse. I highlighted so many passages in this book. So so many. Like I said, their mastery of language is out of this world. I enjoyed Dear Senthuran a lot, and I can't wait for everyone to get their hands on a copy of this book when it's out!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Woodbury

    If there is anything this book will do, it will cement Emezi as an utterly distinctive writer and figure in writing. Even more than their previous works, this book is absolutely unapologetic, it claims space, it claims identity. It is not a book that wants you to like it, this book looks at you the way a god looks at mortals because, ultimately, that is Emezi's identity. For readers of FRESHWATER this won't be a surprise, though many read it as magical realism rather than actual realism. Here Eme If there is anything this book will do, it will cement Emezi as an utterly distinctive writer and figure in writing. Even more than their previous works, this book is absolutely unapologetic, it claims space, it claims identity. It is not a book that wants you to like it, this book looks at you the way a god looks at mortals because, ultimately, that is Emezi's identity. For readers of FRESHWATER this won't be a surprise, though many read it as magical realism rather than actual realism. Here Emezi allows no room for misinterpretation. This is memoir, not fiction, and they tell you exactly how they see themselves, how they are still learning to see themselves, and come to grips with human life as a non-human. (I would definitely recommend reading FRESHWATER first, Emezi alludes to it often, and makes it clear that it is almost entirely autobiographical. It is ground they will not re-tread so it will also give you a clearer idea of Emezi's earlier life that isn't documented here.) It is a book about growth and flourishing, about the ways we become who we are, but it also feels rather silly to make such general statements because it is so uniquely about Emezi and so intwined with their distinctive identity and view of the world that even if I can see ways readers may be able to imprint their own experiences onto Emezi's, I don't think we are really meant to. As a reader, you will either embrace Emezi's identity or you will view them with suspicion and disbelief. Ultimately it does not really matter if you truly believe Emezi is a small god, because you are reading this book to see how Emezi sees themself and how they experience the world. They believe as deeply in their identity as non-human as you do in your identity as human. If you can't extend your own empathy to give yourself over to it, then this book is not for you. It is unsurprising that this is a book full of gorgeous writing. It is unsurprising that it does not follow a traditional structure. It is written in letters, sort of, but not letters that will look at all familiar to you. I spread it out over a few weeks, reading a few letters at a time, letting the lush prose wash over me in small, perfect doses. It is mostly about the time from when Emezi wrote FRESHWATER to the present. There is a lot about writing and publishing that may be valuable for aspiring writers, though Emezi's story is singular. There are not many people who can approach their writing with the boldness they do because there are not many people who can so effectively back up their confidence with incredible writing. That boldness does not always serve Emezi well, and there is much about how they were alienated in their MFA and other writing groups before finally selling their first book. There are rules about how you are supposed to act and what you are supposed to do as a writer. Emezi has little patience for these, but still struggles because they are a god and they feel a kind of need to be understood for what they are. And even a need for a kind of worship. Sometimes memoir can help us see how similar we are to others. But sometimes it opens up a set of experiences so different from your own that it helps you see the world in a new way. This is the latter and I expected nothing less. Content warnings for gender dysmorphia, gender affirming surgery, transphobia particularly with access to medical care, sexual assault (off page), attempted suicide (on page).

  8. 4 out of 5

    ☘Misericordia☘ ⚡ϟ⚡⛈⚡☁ ❇️❤❣

    Q: I learned that humans are meat. ... I learned that we can bear much more than we predict. ... We can, I promise you, bear much more than we predict. (c) Q: Sometimes the fire is not fire. Sometimes it’s not everything that burns. (c) A tour de force of my new favourite author. What a find! Q: The magician who loves me? (c) Now, this one's really raw and incredible. The author's so very brutally honest about pretty much all the things we often hedge about: life, money, gender experiences, sex, passion, Q: I learned that humans are meat. ... I learned that we can bear much more than we predict. ... We can, I promise you, bear much more than we predict. (c) Q: Sometimes the fire is not fire. Sometimes it’s not everything that burns. (c) A tour de force of my new favourite author. What a find! Q: The magician who loves me? (c) Now, this one's really raw and incredible. The author's so very brutally honest about pretty much all the things we often hedge about: life, money, gender experiences, sex, passion, spirituality, home, aesthetics, being 'not of this world', the magical... the everything. She hedges nothing and is therefore one of the most powerful storytellers I've had the honor to meet across pages. Okay, I'm worried about the guy's sis: it looks like she got lots of painful accidents! Poor girl. So, the narrator considers the possibility of being sn ogbanje? A spirit who looks incredibly convincing as a human? Now, that's an engaging thought. Reading: Q: When my parents discovered I’d started reading the sex-advice columns in my mother’s magazines as a child because I had run out of material, they quickly bought me more books. (c) LOL! What a lifehack! Q: ... eleven-year-old me was in awe at finding a book that I’d first read about inside another book; worlds eating worlds, all made by words. (c) Q: I’d also read Cyprian Ekwensi, Ayi Kwei Armah, Buchi Emecheta, Chinua Achebe, the secret copy of The Joy of Sex hidden away in my parents’ room, every encyclopedia entry in my school library on Greek mythology, labels on shampoo bottles, the sides of cornflakes boxes and Bournvita tins during breakfast, countless contraband Harlequin and Mills & Boon romance novels bartered with secondary-school classmates, narrative interludes in my brother’s video games, and all the parts of the Bible that referenced sex. (c) Q: I tell Katherine about Alain Mabanckou’s Broken Glass, punctuated with commas alone, and Helen Oyeyemi’s Mr. Fox, storytelling within storytelling, blurred realities. I use my phone to pull up the ebook of Fran Ross’s 1974 novel, Oreo, and show her the first two pages, with the diagrams and the equations, the magnificent things Ross did with structure. “That’s an alive reflection,” I say. “It’s the kind of work you’d think only white writers get to make.” (c) Q: I’ve been a reader all my life; I know books can be many things. My favorites are the ones that function as portals into other constructed worlds. I’ve loved those since I was a child; it’s why I read so much speculative fiction. Some books are windows into another’s experiences, or even into our own—demonstrating our raging desires to be seen and to see ourselves—but I wonder if it is enough, this reflection of known things. (c) Lovely parts: Q: The truth felt like a story. I wanted to tell them how we never had running water, how cockroach eggs gelled into the egg grooves of the fridge door, how the concrete over the soakaway broke and stayed open, the rancid smell becoming part of our air. We longed after green apples that were too expensive, three for a hundred naira swinging in a plastic bag, and we knew the intimate taste of ketchup smearing red on white bread, the cheap oiliness of margarine mixed into boiled rice, the accompanying shame. I didn’t say any of this. (c) Q: I learned other things in Aba: that a mother you see once a year is a stranger, no matter how much you cry for her in the long months when she’s gone. (c) Q: After I wrote Freshwater, I had to reconcile with the fact that I’m not even human. What does that mean about how I see life, or, more important, death? I am thinking of the place I grew up in and the self that was formed there, the version of me who knows that a body is meat but also someone’s child. I am thinking of how the darkness can live inside your memories, even as a town goes aflame twenty years ago. (c) Q: This will make sense shortly. (c) Q: The robot was called a da Vinci. (c) Q: ... even when it means stepping out of one reality to be swallowed by another, I continue choosing to move toward myself. (c) Q: ... I’d stepped out into nothingness only to be caught by the grace of God. (c) Now, this is a wonderful recipe for a new writer! Q: The future fans out in brilliance, powered by imagination and ego and hope and a thousand other things, but all that glory can be condensed across time into the choice to sit and write words down. It doesn’t even have to be done well—that’s what revision is for. It just has to be completed. There is such a space, a stretch of desert, between imagining something, writing it, and then finishing it. Execution is a particular discipline, something built out of corded rigor, tight and greased with sacrificial blood. There are many components to this spell: how to make the task at hand the only one that is real; how to work when you don’t want to; how to summon your want and collar it for your purposes, setting it to work. I bribed myself with the future. I dangled the things I wanted in front of my greedy eyes, and in the flush of that desire I reminded myself that writing five hundred words right now would reel in the world I wanted. There is always something you can do right now; there is always a first step, no matter how small it is. Seeds are often tiny, and it means nothing about what they will grow up to be. You plant them anyway, and that’s what making the work is. I don’t think everyone believes that it can be that simple, but again, I’m not sure how making and fulfilling your own prophecies works for other people. If you say yes with enough force, your chi will say yes, too. My chi and I are hurtling forward at breakneck speed—faster than my body can handle; my flesh breaks down at this pace. I believed in the spell with everything I had, and maybe that is the generator powering it all—that utter belief. Not on its own, but the actions that are fueled by it. (c) Q: What happens after you make the work might be uncertain, but one thing is guaranteed: If you don’t make the work, nothing will happen. Discipline is just a series of choices. With the spell, we can understand that each choice is carving out a future, finding our way out of the desert. Trust me, it’s glorious on the other side. (c) Death and suicidal ideation: Q: Death has always been the thought that calms the hungry avalanche in my head. Just meditating on it lifts the weight of this world a little. I measure danger by proximity to an actual suicide attempt, how close did I flirt this time, that kind of thing. (c) Q: A few days later, I fly to San Francisco, and then to Seattle. Death flies with me. (c) Q: I talk to Alex, who has had to live with the possibility of losing me for almost a decade now, and they are terrified, but they tell me how they’re not the one who has to live with it, so they can’t say anything, they can’t really tell me to stay. I appreciate that, because so many people tell me to stay without knowing what they’re asking, the kind of pain they’re willing me to just continue being in, and they can’t imagine that this pain has been there since I was little, since before I can remember, always and constant, and my whole life is a calculated distraction to try and get away from it. I always knew writing my books couldn’t keep me alive forever, that they would run out and I’d need something else, a new treatment plan, because I’d developed a resistance to this one. ... You will always, at some point, want to die. (c) On embodied nonhumans: Q: For embodied nonhumans, existence is more difficult than I can ever put into words, no matter how many books I write. (c)

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan

    As a white, cis man responding to a text like this, my role is primarily to listen and amplify. Thankfully, however, now that this incredible writer has graced the cover of Time magazine, much larger megaphones than mine are singing their praises. So there is little need for me to write anything more here than that you should read this, as you should read all of their work. They are undoubtedly a force whose future will be exceptional. Go buy their books. They are insanely talented - both on the As a white, cis man responding to a text like this, my role is primarily to listen and amplify. Thankfully, however, now that this incredible writer has graced the cover of Time magazine, much larger megaphones than mine are singing their praises. So there is little need for me to write anything more here than that you should read this, as you should read all of their work. They are undoubtedly a force whose future will be exceptional. Go buy their books. They are insanely talented - both on the macro and micro levels in the text (on the latter in particular - there are some bloody gorgeously crafted sentences in here). One thing I did want to say, for others of my ilk reading this, is that one of the key things about listening to this text is watching when it triggers our prejudices, our assumptions. In particular, for a life-long atheist like me, raised on the supremacy of the Enlightenment tradition, there is a strong instinct to reject, to explain away, the lived-experience being expressed here. To label with concepts which simply do not apply. To be arrogantly paternalistic and dismissive. Learning to listen means learning to hear, to hear what is being said on its own terms, and not on mine. To reject that assumption of distancing Otherness. To lean out from my centre into another. It is my job to make that effort, not the author's. There are as many centres as there are people, so to ask an artist to come to us, to be considerate of their audience, to write with us in mind, is so extraordinarily arrogant it would be laughable if it did not cause so much suffering. They stand where they are and we must come to them (though, of course, undemandingly, with no expectation - to receive and not to take. Not to come stomping in with big boots and loud voices, breaking and bruising and draining, as is often our way. In my mind I picture something more akin to gently leaning in to a circle of light. Quietly moving our ears closer to a distant voice). And in doing so, the circumference of our centre widens. From my position of privilege, it is so much easier for me to make that effort, and so much healthier for everyone if I do. Speaking for myself, without texts like this, the world I inhabit as a white, cis Englishman would be a very poor and narrow one. The more works like this are published and celebrated, and the more those in my position take the time to listen, the better the world will be. It really is that simple. That is the wonderful, magical power of books. Long may they keep writing them.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Chloe

    I'm just a human, and therefore pretty unqualified to rate the life of a small god on Goodreads. Bear that in mind with this review. I would definitely recommend reading this book as a companion to Emezi's debut novel, "Freshwater." "Dear Senthuran" peels back layers of Emezi's brain as they expose just how much of "Freshwater" was of their own reality, but also not. The writing is, as usual, flawless. I am continually awed by their raw literary talent. Not only that but they KNOW they are talent I'm just a human, and therefore pretty unqualified to rate the life of a small god on Goodreads. Bear that in mind with this review. I would definitely recommend reading this book as a companion to Emezi's debut novel, "Freshwater." "Dear Senthuran" peels back layers of Emezi's brain as they expose just how much of "Freshwater" was of their own reality, but also not. The writing is, as usual, flawless. I am continually awed by their raw literary talent. Not only that but they KNOW they are talented; in fact, they spend a great deal of the book unapologetically reveling in it. Refreshing at times, and a bit exasperating at others. However, this book also doesn't give a single fuck what you think about it, either. It's a personal set of letters that aren't meant to resonate with a larger audience. They simply ARE. Bold. Artistic. Deeply intimate. They give a new perspective on the traditional genre of "memoir." For all its literary strength, I had a hard time settling into "Dear Senthuran." The letters didn't feel cohesive, and my mortal brain struggled to jump from one metaphysical topic to another. Additionally, while Emezi is definitely deserving of the big ego they have, I couldn't help but find it slightly off-putting at times. It can be hard to sympathize with a god, especially one who so outwardly boasts about their godliness. Definitely a strong artistic work. Made me think a lot more about embodied Indigenous realities—something I'd be interested in exploring more through other books. Though it wasn't my particular favorite, I can still appreciate its existence on this mortal plane.

  11. 5 out of 5

    lilias

    What Akwaeke Emezi has accomplished in just a few years is practically miraculous. I hope their success encourages US publishing to change their way. Freshwater, Emezi’s first novel, was the first I read, and I immediately became a little obsessed. Freshwater was sold as a novel, but I could glean that it was intensely personal to Emezi, bordering on autobiographical. One of my dream superpowers is to be able to speak/read/understand any and every language. Reading Dear Senthuran, I realized Emezi What Akwaeke Emezi has accomplished in just a few years is practically miraculous. I hope their success encourages US publishing to change their way. Freshwater, Emezi’s first novel, was the first I read, and I immediately became a little obsessed. Freshwater was sold as a novel, but I could glean that it was intensely personal to Emezi, bordering on autobiographical. One of my dream superpowers is to be able to speak/read/understand any and every language. Reading Dear Senthuran, I realized Emezi’s writing can give me that feeling. Yes, it’s in English, but to this very white cis woman raised entirely in the West, Emezi’s way of storytelling is very different from most everything else I have read. And I hope that is taken as a positive thing, because Emezi talks about how their work is something new to the publishing world in the States. And yet, I am never thinking anything is strange or unaccessible to me as I read. There are many things that are so familiar, that I relate to and am so glad to have found them. And I think that’s one of my the main reasons why I’ve bought every Emezi book I can find. I am eager to follow them as they lay out their hurt and healing, their sense of self and selves. I believe we are very lucky to read Emezi’s work because it is some of the most deeply intimate we will find.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé

    Just wow.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jaclyn (sixminutesforme)

    This has been one of my favourite memoir reads, the use of structure particularly effective at drawing out so many conversations. My favourite of the entire book was that written to Toni Morrison and the way Morrison’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech spoke so much to Emezi - “I stood at the border, stood at the edge, and claimed it as central.” Some of my favourite quotes below really speak to what I took from some of these letters and what continues to echo in my thoughts after finishing this: “We This has been one of my favourite memoir reads, the use of structure particularly effective at drawing out so many conversations. My favourite of the entire book was that written to Toni Morrison and the way Morrison’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech spoke so much to Emezi - “I stood at the border, stood at the edge, and claimed it as central.” Some of my favourite quotes below really speak to what I took from some of these letters and what continues to echo in my thoughts after finishing this: “We may spend the rest of our lives finding out that we have no borders, no boundaries, pushing into greater sizes, being both terrified and delighted when we discover that there’s nothing there to stop us.” (Holy | Dear Eloghosa) “I’m constantly resetting, remembering what’s most important to me, remembering that sometimes success doesn’t look like what you’ve dreamed about—it looks like goals that didn’t even fit in your dreams.” (Glory | Dear Tamara) “I think of opulence as a flaunting. On social media, I tag my photos as #theopulentogbanje, because this flaunting shouts that I am alive, that I wasn’t cut into nonexistence. Something like me can exist in a contemporary context, loud and flashy.” (Opulence | Dear Kathleen) Many thanks to Riverhead for a netgalley ARC to read.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    CW: suicidal ideation, transphobia, racism, mental illness Emezi made news the frustrating way when an author whose name I will not speak doubled down on anti-trans sentiments specifically against Emezi, and right around when this book came out. I would have read it regardless, because I'm a completist so far when it comes to this fantastic author, but those actions moved it up in my reading. Emezi is not limited by this lifetime by their own telling, and that concept alone is fascinating to read CW: suicidal ideation, transphobia, racism, mental illness Emezi made news the frustrating way when an author whose name I will not speak doubled down on anti-trans sentiments specifically against Emezi, and right around when this book came out. I would have read it regardless, because I'm a completist so far when it comes to this fantastic author, but those actions moved it up in my reading. Emezi is not limited by this lifetime by their own telling, and that concept alone is fascinating to read about, and how that belief impacts relationships. They relate their journey as an author from gaslighting during their MFA program to trying to live off a poverty level advance to achieving a two book deal from Riverhead Books (good move!) - their belief that their path is as a writer dictates the decisions they make and I was impressed. It's told through letters but since I listened to the audio read by the author I'm not sure that structure worked as well in that format, but of course Emezi's voice was a bonus.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ayooluwa

    I've followed Akwaeke Emezi's social media for almost 5 years now, and I've read all of their published work so far. This memoir is a stunning body of work, especially for those who are familiar with Emezi's work or those who are interested in ogbanjes and other nonhuman identities. Actually, scratch that, this memoir should be essential reading for anyone really. Dear Senthuran is written in the form of letters, addressed to different people in Emezi's life. There were a lot of moments in the b I've followed Akwaeke Emezi's social media for almost 5 years now, and I've read all of their published work so far. This memoir is a stunning body of work, especially for those who are familiar with Emezi's work or those who are interested in ogbanjes and other nonhuman identities. Actually, scratch that, this memoir should be essential reading for anyone really. Dear Senthuran is written in the form of letters, addressed to different people in Emezi's life. There were a lot of moments in the book that I can't believe they actually published, just because of how raw/open they are. From the description of suicide attempts, to the exact monetary figures that Emezi received in their book deals. It almost felt like I was snooping (and I didn't mind because I'm nosy lol). There were some parts of the memoir that I didn't understand (certain chapters/letters where Emezi revelled in their nonhuman identity) but that's one of the things that I actually like about the memoir—that Emezi doesn't try to make their identity more palatable to the masses. They tell you who they are—a literal god—and leave it at that. Some parts of the memoir also scared me. The chapter that discussed cannibalism and one about violent fantasies. So this memoir is definitely not for the fainthearted. However, I did learn a few things about how to be a better human (which is ironic considering that Emezi is nonhuman). Here's my blog post about how Dear Senthuran taught me to be a better human. I'm really glad that I got to read this memoir, I think it will stay with me for quite some time. Thank you Riverhead Books for prioritising Black bookstagramers in the ARC rollout, and for sending me an advance copy of this book.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Toya (the reading chemist)

    Akwaeke’s writing is unmatched when it comes to storytelling. Now combine their powerful and masterful writing with an unflinching lens into the examination of themselves, and that’s what this memoir is. Absolutely incredible.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Cindy van Wyk

    Subtitled 'A Black Spirit Memoir', Akwaeke Emezi's Dear Senthuran makes clear from the jump who it's written for and about and it makes no excuses for that - nor should it. Written in the form of letters to friends, family and ex-lovers, it's an interesting take on a memoir and it goes without saying that Emezi is a force. The writing is, as ever, superb. There are passages that sing, that soar, that took my breath away, and I'll come back to them again and again, in particular 'Execution | Dear Subtitled 'A Black Spirit Memoir', Akwaeke Emezi's Dear Senthuran makes clear from the jump who it's written for and about and it makes no excuses for that - nor should it. Written in the form of letters to friends, family and ex-lovers, it's an interesting take on a memoir and it goes without saying that Emezi is a force. The writing is, as ever, superb. There are passages that sing, that soar, that took my breath away, and I'll come back to them again and again, in particular 'Execution | Dear Nonso' and 'Maps | Dear Toni'. For those of us who have followed them for a while, many of the letters in Dear Senthuran are familiar, and a part of me was disappointed that much of it was mined from older pieces. Dear Senthuran does, however, provide a sense of context to Emezi's journey so far, and that I enjoyed. It also shows how difficult Emezi's existence has been, despite their success, and many parts made me want to pull them into a big hug. "There’s no lonely like a god’s lonely. All my worshippers flee at some point." Revealing a lot about their body-affirming surgeries - first a breast reduction, then a double mastectomy, and a hysterectomy, their chronic illness, their relationship with their 'human mother' and heartbreak at the hands of a lover, the memoir remains scant on a lot of other things, so if you're planning to read it to get the "tea" about the situation with Chimamanda, you'll be sorely disappointed. Emezi makes a lot of reference to being a god, and given that the entire memoir is written from a spirit centre, there's a lot I just couldn't relate to. Parts of the memoir bordered on being self-indulgent and while I understand why they felt the need to write it the way they did, it wasn't my favourite from their body of work. A final note: Approach with caution, the triggers around suicide and death are plentiful and letters like 'Gore | Dear Senthuran' are... Difficult to get through.

  18. 5 out of 5

    janaynachel

    Amazing. Akwaeke’s confidence in who they are is so encouraging. And they sure can put a sentence together. Nearly highlighted the whole book!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Oscreads

    Wow! This is a gem of a book. Incredible in every way possible. Highly recommend.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Andy

    I have no words. I've had the pleasure of reading both Freshwater and The Death of Vivek Oji so I knew I would be inhaling Emezi's memoir as soon as I could. Dear Senthuran has solidified Emezi as one of my favorite authors of all time. Any time they come out with something new, I will be reading it immediately. This memoir is not an easy book to read. Emezi has chronic depression and has lived through several suicide attempts. Reading about their struggles and how being an author on tour only ex I have no words. I've had the pleasure of reading both Freshwater and The Death of Vivek Oji so I knew I would be inhaling Emezi's memoir as soon as I could. Dear Senthuran has solidified Emezi as one of my favorite authors of all time. Any time they come out with something new, I will be reading it immediately. This memoir is not an easy book to read. Emezi has chronic depression and has lived through several suicide attempts. Reading about their struggles and how being an author on tour only exacerbated their depression is something readers and fans almost never see. We see the shiny, polished author who puts their best face forward during the extent of the tour where as many cities as possible are crammed in. So much of this book is about pain. But it's also about becoming who you are. The thing I related to the most was Emezi's struggles with gender and defining exactly what their gender was. Plus dealing with dysphoria and taking steps to treat it. They also discuss how this impacted their relationship with their mother. This book took a knife to my soul and it felt like someone finally understood the thoughts in my head I haven't been able to verbalize. Read this book as soon as you can. CWs: Death, emotional abuse, homophobia, medical content (gender affirming surgeries), misogyny, racism, religious bigotry, sexism, self harm, sexual content, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts, toxic relationship, transphobia, body horror, mental illness (depression).

  21. 5 out of 5

    Priscila Patatas

    This ARC was offered in exchange of an honest and impartial review: • 3* Pros: Detailed autobiography. Trans non-binary author, who explores transitions and the spectrum of genders. Talks about war and the desensitisation to death and to other humans. Deals with body dysphoria and transphobia and the many hurdles the trans community have to deal with in society and the health system. A good spotlight on writing as a career. . Cons: Lacks overall cohesion. Too many topics broached with unsatisfactory This ARC was offered in exchange of an honest and impartial review: • 3* Pros: Detailed autobiography. Trans non-binary author, who explores transitions and the spectrum of genders. Talks about war and the desensitisation to death and to other humans. Deals with body dysphoria and transphobia and the many hurdles the trans community have to deal with in society and the health system. A good spotlight on writing as a career. . Cons: Lacks overall cohesion. Too many topics broached with unsatisfactory development.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Chelsea Bruning

    Enlightening and experimental, this memoir is *not* going to be for everyone. It wasn’t for me. But I can step back from it and appreciate the art of it.

  23. 4 out of 5

    chantel nouseforaname

    Fire. I cried. Didn’t want it to end. Powerful. Deep. Reflective. I quoted so many lines to so many folks even before I was done the book, which I finally gave in and finished this morning. That moment when the higher power said to them “Are You Done?” — and they reevaluated everything, that hit deep.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Chloe

    Akwaeke, you blew me away yet again. They poured their entire being into this memoir; their struggles, insecurities, fears, joys, hopes, everything. I’ve never read a more unapologetic and fearless memoir. It was intense, and I mean intense to the point where I had to put the book down at times, and that’s never happened to me. I don’t know what else to say but they said it best themself - they are a god. TW: suicidality, discussion on death, gender dysphoria, transphobia, abuse, racism, body ho Akwaeke, you blew me away yet again. They poured their entire being into this memoir; their struggles, insecurities, fears, joys, hopes, everything. I’ve never read a more unapologetic and fearless memoir. It was intense, and I mean intense to the point where I had to put the book down at times, and that’s never happened to me. I don’t know what else to say but they said it best themself - they are a god. TW: suicidality, discussion on death, gender dysphoria, transphobia, abuse, racism, body horror

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jackie Bromagin

    This memoir was brutal and honest and magical and mind opening and mind expanding and just fucking fire. Emezi is a master and they know it and it’s incredible reading their work.

  26. 4 out of 5

    indy

    this moved me in the most profound way. emezi's raw honesty is a brutal pill to swallow at times. they're a force to be reckoned with, feared, and above all - praised and welcomed. this is one of my favourite books of 2021 and of all time. just. wow. WOW. this moved me in the most profound way. emezi's raw honesty is a brutal pill to swallow at times. they're a force to be reckoned with, feared, and above all - praised and welcomed. this is one of my favourite books of 2021 and of all time. just. wow. WOW.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jendella

    This is Akwaeke Emezi at the height of their powers. If you’ve read their other work, you will know they can write, but this memoir feels like another dimension: unfettered & sublime. Now onto the content: there is a lot to take away from the letters. I think each reader will hone in on a different element – Akwaeke is very generous with their telling – but there is a lot to unpack and imbibe from taking yourself seriously as an artist and storyteller, to dealing with rejection in many forms (th This is Akwaeke Emezi at the height of their powers. If you’ve read their other work, you will know they can write, but this memoir feels like another dimension: unfettered & sublime. Now onto the content: there is a lot to take away from the letters. I think each reader will hone in on a different element – Akwaeke is very generous with their telling – but there is a lot to unpack and imbibe from taking yourself seriously as an artist and storyteller, to dealing with rejection in many forms (the personal and professional) and carving a space for yourself in a world that is indifferent at best, actively hostile at worst. This memoir through letters is intimate but grand in its scope. It is something I have no doubt I’ll return to again and again.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    I am not African. I am not African-American. I am not Ogbanje. I am not a god. I am multiple. I found parts of myself in the author's first book, Freshwater. I was hoping to hear more of their story and am beyond thrilled to read this book. I hope for many more in the future. I highlighted so many sections of this book. I didn't find myself in this book the way I did in Freshwater, but I found much wisdom, and many reflections of pain that I did relate to. This is such a unique book by someone w I am not African. I am not African-American. I am not Ogbanje. I am not a god. I am multiple. I found parts of myself in the author's first book, Freshwater. I was hoping to hear more of their story and am beyond thrilled to read this book. I hope for many more in the future. I highlighted so many sections of this book. I didn't find myself in this book the way I did in Freshwater, but I found much wisdom, and many reflections of pain that I did relate to. This is such a unique book by someone with such a unique sense of identity. I want to learn and see as much as I can and I appreciate the opportunity to read this book. It's a memoir unlike any I have read before. Thank you to the author for sharing themselves with me. I do suggest reading this book along with Freshwater.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sacha

    4.5 stars Thanks to NetGalley and Riverhead Books for this arc, which I received in exchange for an honest review. Here is that review: Emezi only ever takes readers to places they have never been in ways they never expected were possible, and this memoir is no exception. Through a series of letters, readers experience deep insights into what feel like extremely personal explorations. At times, these articulations create kinship; more often, they reflect a sense of alienation between the gods (E 4.5 stars Thanks to NetGalley and Riverhead Books for this arc, which I received in exchange for an honest review. Here is that review: Emezi only ever takes readers to places they have never been in ways they never expected were possible, and this memoir is no exception. Through a series of letters, readers experience deep insights into what feel like extremely personal explorations. At times, these articulations create kinship; more often, they reflect a sense of alienation between the gods (Emezi) and typical folks. The way Emezi articulates the experience of being a god is aspirational; they're existing in the highest levels of self-awareness, and regardless of how readers identify, anyone can be inspired by the directness and the commitment to uncovering personal truths here. Emezi explains that "There are always costs when you choose a center," and this statement encompasses an essential point of the work: that Emezi has identified a central self and that this has come with very specific traumas and challenges. I particularly love how this process of growth and struggle is reflected in Emezi's physical body and their related descriptions. In the final quarter of the work, Emezi explains, "I'm constantly resetting, remembering what's most important to me, remembering that sometimes success doesn't look like what you've dreamed about - it looks like goals that didn't even fit in your dreams." Readers may not see themselves as gods, particularly enlightened beings, or especially skilled creators, but it is moments like this that make an exceptional and revolutionary structure, format, and message resonate much more broadly. I love that Emezi brings something I've never seen before to every work and keeps playing with aesthetics and structure in ways that challenge my expectations and experiences. They are a force and an innovator, and we are lucky to have access. Recommended: you know who you are.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Yordanos

    I had to sit with this book long after I finished reading it. Writing-wise, the first few chapters are my favorite -- Akwaeke comes out swinging hard, pulls no punches, and the power and depth of it all is arresting. I like the epistolary format of this memoir, and in some ways, found it to be more revelatory than a straightforward expose writing. In other ways, I found the writing to be not as strong as previous works I've read from the author, so I felt a bit let down. There are a few chapters I had to sit with this book long after I finished reading it. Writing-wise, the first few chapters are my favorite -- Akwaeke comes out swinging hard, pulls no punches, and the power and depth of it all is arresting. I like the epistolary format of this memoir, and in some ways, found it to be more revelatory than a straightforward expose writing. In other ways, I found the writing to be not as strong as previous works I've read from the author, so I felt a bit let down. There are a few chapters in this book that I had already previously read, but it was interesting to see them as part of a greater whole. The fullness of the humanity and truth expressed in this book is powerful, and intriguingly so, it's apparent that the author is mostly writing it for themselves instead of others. As such, both in the low and high moments, there's a sense of truth and grounding unencumbered by external forces. I found this to be aspirational.

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