Tribal spiritual beliefs meet contemporary literary acclaim in a powerful memoir.



A unique, visceral memoir from the author of The Death of Vivek Oji (2020).

How does a spirit child drawn from Nigerian tribal cosmology negotiate modern life? That's the metaphysical conundrum at the heart of this highly personal and unusual memoir. Emezi grew up in Aba, Nigeria, and identifies as ogbanje, an “Igbo spirit that’s born to a human mother, a kind of trickster that dies unexpectedly only to return in the next child and do it all over again.” In order to ameliorate their feelings of “flesh dysphoria” or “metaphysical dysphoria,” the author underwent multiple surgeries, including breast reduction and a “hysterectomy with a bilateral salpingectomy.” As Emezi writes, they chose “to mutate my body into something that would fit my spiritself.” Structured as a series of far-ranging letters written to friends, lovers, exes, family members, and others, the narrative raises questions about the author’s "embodied nonhuman" existence and Igbo conceptions of reality. While Emezi’s personal and professional travels have taken them around the world—Trinidad, Berlin, Johannesburg, Vietnam, Tanzania, and homes in Brooklyn and New Orleans—this book is not a travelogue. Although conventional elements of memoir reoccur—a painful breakup, estrangement from family members, career ups and downs—the author presents them as manifestations of a deity's "deeply traumatic" embodiment as a human being. Emezi attributes much of their meteoric rise—multiple literary award wins and nominations, National Book Foundation’s “5 Under 35” honoree, etc.—to the casting of the right spell. The author is crystal-clear in their focus on "writing for people like me, not for a white gaze,” and seen through the prism of Igbo ontology, this adventurous life story is undoubtedly compelling. For some readers, getting past Emezi’s "outrageously arrogant" demand "for attention, for glory, for worship" as a self-described "bratty deity" may require a leap of faith and a modicum of empathy, a merely human trait.

Tribal spiritual beliefs meet contemporary literary acclaim in a powerful memoir.

Pub Date: June 8, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-32919-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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