Happy Birthday, Akwaeke Emezi, born 6 June 1987
- I exist separate from the inaccurate concept of gender as a binary; without the stricture of those categories, I don’t even have to think about my gender. Alone, there’s just me, and I see myself clearly.
- My childhood can be measured easily, in pools of light spilling onto pages and books blanketing the surfaces of our house in Aba, Nigeria. When the electricity died, as it often did, I read by candlelight or with a flashlight balanced against my body.
- I’ve been a reader all my life; I know books can be many things. Some are manuals, some are informational pamphlets, some are reportage. Some are portals into other constructed worlds, a favourite from my childhood and the root of my deep love for speculative fiction. Some are windows into another’s experiences, or even into our own — our raging desires to be seen and to see ourselves show in this. I wonder if it is enough, this reflection of known things.
- It allows me a wary hope that space will be made for writers of colour working in the experimental, that we’ll get to see more and more of our own books, showing us we can tell all kinds of stories and write whatever reflections we want. We don’t have to swallow our work or be afraid that it’s too deviant to do well; there is, in fact, no canon we cannot touch.
- Even when seized by a thousand fears, we can make strange and wonderful things simply for the sake of the strange and the wonderful, we can create without permission, we can write into the unknown.
Akwaeke Emezi is a Nigerian writer. They received their MPA from New York University and were 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. It is a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award and long-listed for the 2019 Women’s Prize for Fiction.
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