The Death of Vivek Oji

Riverhead. Aug. 2020. 256p. ISBN 9780525541608. $27. F
As this novel opens, Kavita discovers the broken body of her only child, Vivek, on her doorstep. How her misunderstood son, whose birth on the day of his grandmother’s death was tainted by superstition, came to his untimely end is the focus of this haunting novel from Nigerian-born author Emezi. Through vivid flashbacks, friends and family paint a picture of a sensitive child prone to bouts of depression and angry outbursts. Vivek’s own musings reflect the worry that his true nature may always be invisible to the world. His parents dismiss warnings about Vivek’s growing isolation even as his loving friends create a safe space for him to indulge his penchant for bangles, lipstick, and dresses. But Vivek’s complicated relationship with his male cousin Osita rests at the heart of this searing examination of gender dissonance, sexual attraction, familial love, and loyalty.
VERDICT The plaudits for Emezi’s first novel, Freshwater (NYPL Young Lions, Lambda Literary, and Center for Fiction’s First Novel honors), did not overstate the case. Following Pet, a finalist for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, this achingly beautiful probe into the challenges of living fully as a nonbinary human being, is an illuminating read.

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing