W.W.B Book Club (Women Write Books): A reading group that celebrates women authors in both classic and contemporary works.
This month's book club pick is Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi.
A National Book Foundation “5 Under 35” Honoree
Finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award for a Debut Novel
Finalist for the NYPL Young Lions Award
Shortlisted for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize
A New York Times Notable Book
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 "with one foot on the other side." Unsettling, heartwrenching, dark, and powerful, Freshwateris 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. A traumatic assault leads to a crystallization of her alternate selves: Asụghara and Saint Vincent. As Ada fades into the background of her own mind and these selves―now protective, now hedonistic―move into control, Ada's life spirals in a dark and dangerous direction.
Freshwater is a mesmerizing and poetic novel that cracks open notions of self-control, mental illness, and love. With every passing page, I felt myself submerge into the complex depths of Ada’s identity letting the waves of Igbo lore infiltrate my understanding of the world and completely change my perception of a person’s agency. The novel is narrated by the ogbange, “godly parasites with many heads,” that reside within “the marble room” of Ada, a Nigerian woman who has moved to North Carolina to attend college. As she enters adulthood, the gods take over and she is powerless to their demands. Though they have protected and comforted her, they also make her rage, inflict violence and destroy relationships with the ones she loves. It’s a devastatingly clear yet spiritual portrait of a life guided by a fractured self and what happens when your body is merely a vessel to the nefarious demons inside. A startling, beautifully written debut. --Al Woodworth
Akwaeke Emezi is an Igbo and Tamil writer and artist based in liminal spaces. Born and raised in Nigeria, they received their MPA from New York University and was awarded a 2015 Miles Morland Writing Scholarship. They won the 2017 Commonwealth Short Story Prize for Africa. Their work has been published in various literary magazines, including Granta. Freshwater is their debut novel.
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