Dear Senthuran: A Black Spirit Memoir

Riverhead. Jun. 2021. 240p. ISBN 9780593329191. $27. MEMOIR
With this first work of nonfiction, best-selling novelist Emezi writes an expressive memoir in letters, with an overlapping focus on spirit, divinity, and humanity. For Emezi, these epistolary essays—addressed to friends, family, and lovers, some close, some estranged—are an exercise in memory and a warning not to forget the past. Aspiring writers will appreciate the candid letters that document the writing process behind Emezi’s Freshwater and The Death of Vivek Oji, which make clear that the author’s success was far from guaranteed. Poignant letters also recount Emezi’s dysphoria and efforts to reshape their body to reflect their spirit. The author is at their best when delineating the difficulties of hypervisibility; of being at once seen and unseen as a queer disabled Black writer. The body, in all its forms, is a recurring subject here, and Emezi movingly contemplates a body’s mental and physical limitations. What sets the book apart is that its letters span time and place, from the author’s native Nigeria, to Malaysia, Brooklyn, New Orleans, and beyond, reflecting their life and search for freedom—including the moments when Emezi doesn’t know what their freedom might look like.
VERDICT A must for fans of Freshwater; readers new to Emezi’s writing will find themselves drawn in by their way with words.
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