Genre | Memoir
Page #s | 240
Publishing Date | June 2021
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.
I found Dear Senthuran to be a challenging, beautiful reading experience. Emezi is an astonishingly good writer; their prose is by turns beautiful, haunting, visceral, and unapologetic. Emezi’s book Pet quickly became one of my favorites, so I was eager to read this memoir that largely focuses on their literary career. It was a fascinating peek behind the publishing curtain, but it doesn’t stop there. We also get raw reflections on Emezi’s gender, relationships, and mental health. It is a powerhouse of a book; one I found genuinely difficult to read sometimes, but one that I can’t stop thinking about.
There are two themes that have stuck with me the most: Emezi’s conversation about their spirithood (as opposed to personhood) and their honest journey of ambition, loneliness, and confidence as a Black writer. I admit that I am still wrestling with Emezi’s identification as an ogbanje, “an Igbo spirit that’s born into a human body, a kind of malevolent trickster, whose goal is to torment the human mother by dying unexpectedly only to return in the next child and do it all over again. They come and go.” This identification reflects Emezi’s suicidality as well as their lack of identification with any human gender. My American brain constantly wants to interpret this as a metaphor, yet Emezi directly challenges that response by asking readers why Western thoughts should be valued more highly than Nigerian worldviews. Touché!
I also appreciated Emezi’s honesty about their authorial ambitions. Their confidence borders on arrogance, but in the best way possible. They are sure of their talent and refuse to ask for less than what they think they deserve. While this leads to financial success and recognition, it also isolates Emezi. I so admire them for sharing all sides of the situation; ambition is complicated, and it’s worth portraying the positive and negative consequences of its pursuit.
This is such a rich book, and I really want more people to read it and share their thoughts! It would be an excellent book club choice!
Who Do I Recommend This Book To?
Dear Senthuran is for the literary reader who appreciates Good Writing™ as well as for anyone who appreciates a raw memoir that holds nothing back.
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Wonderful review, I just finished reading this and really enjoyed it, especially after having read Freshwater. I agree, it’s so insightful coming from that perspective of being embodied and then trying to live to live the “human” life which comes with vast conditioning and often rigid expectations. I think it will be interesting to see how their writing evolves as they mature and gain more in wisdom and let go of resentments.