LITERATURE

I’m Telling the Truth, but I’m Lying: Essays

Harper Perennial. Aug. 2019. 272p. ISBN 9780062698346. pap. $15.99ebk. ISBN 9780062698353. LIT
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Nigerian American writer and mental health advocate Ikpi (HBO’s Def Poetry Jam, editor, Catapult; founder, the Siwe Project) debuts an essay collection that takes readers on a journey from Nigeria to Stillwater, OK, to Brooklyn; from childhood to adulthood; from the depression and mania of bipolar II disorder and mental breakdown to the beginning of stability. The writings are intimate, intense, and sometimes harrowing and claustrophobic. Ikpi struggles to be “normal” and prove to herself and everyone else she’s just fine. But she isn’t. The author goes days without eating or sleeping, and when she finally does sleep, she’s disappointed to wake up. When at last Ikpi gets help, finding the right medication combination is not easy. She stops taking her meds and ends up in the hospital for a week. The loneliness of knowing something is wrong but not being able to fix it is terrifying, the despair suffocating. Ikpi’s writing is poetic. It skips, batters, sinks, soars, and flows according to events and the state of her mental health.
VERDICT Visceral and unsettling, these essays will not easily be forgotten. A must-read.

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