Akwaeke Emezi

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Akwaeke Emezi (born 1987, Umuahia, Nigeria) is an lgbo and Tamil writer and video artist, best known for their debut novel Freshwater.[1][2]

Personal life[edit]

Emezi is a non-binary trans person.[3]


Freshwater tells the story of a protagonist named Ada who has been occupied by multiple ogbanje spirits, as a way of exploring the spirit/body binary.[1][4] Freshwater is one chapter of Unblinding, of a series of self-portraits which includes paintings and video art.[5]


The New Yorker called it "a startling début novel",[6] The Guardian called it "a remarkable debut",[7] and the LA Times called it "dazzling".[8] Freshwater was longlisted for numerous significant awards.[9] Freshwater was a New York Times Notable Book,[10] and named a Best Book of the Year by the New Yorker,[11] and NPR.[12] Their debut novel Freshwater was a New York Times Notable Book [10]and they are a 2018 National Book Foundation "5 Under 35" honoree.[13]

In 2019, Freshwater was nominated for the Women's Prize for Fiction — the first time a non-binary transgender author has been nominated for the prize.[14]




  • 2019 Women's Prize for Fiction[14]
  • Aspen Words Literary Prize[16]
  • PEN/Hemingway Award[17]
  • Center for Fiction's First Novel Prize[18]
  • Carnegie Medal of Excellence[19]
  • The Brooklyn Public Library Literary Prize.[9]
  • Young Lions Fiction Award Finalists [20]
  • 2019 Nommo Awards Shortlist [21]


  1. ^ a b Mzezewa, Tariro (2018-02-26). "In This Debut Novel, a College Student Hears Voices". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-03-02.
  2. ^ "CV". Akwaeke Emezi. Retrieved 2019-03-02.
  3. ^ Emezi, Akwaeke (2018-01-19). "Transition". The Cut. Retrieved 2019-03-02.
  4. ^ "In 'Freshwater,' A College Student Learns To Live With Separate Selves". NPR.org. Retrieved 2019-03-02.
  5. ^ a b "Akwaeke Emezi Bio: Akwaeke Emezi is an Igbo/Tamil... - globalartsfund". Global Arts Fund 2017. Retrieved 2019-03-02.
  6. ^ Waldman, Katy (2018-02-26). "A Startling Début Novel Explores the Freedom of Being Multiple". ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved 2019-03-02.
  7. ^ Adébáyò, Ayòbámi (2018-11-15). "Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi review – a remarkable debut". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2019-03-02.
  8. ^ Straight, Susan. "A dazzling, devastating novel: 'Freshwater' by Akwaeke Emezi". latimes.com. Retrieved 2019-03-02.
  9. ^ a b "The Brooklyn Public Library Literary Prize". www.bklynlibrary.org. 2017-03-20. Retrieved 2019-03-02.
  10. ^ a b Times, The New York (2018-11-19). "100 Notable Books of 2018". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-03-02.
  11. ^ Waldman, Katy (2018-12-04). "The Best Books of 2018". ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved 2019-03-02.
  12. ^ "NPR's Book Concierge Our Guide To 2018's Great Reads". apps.npr.org. Retrieved 2019-03-02.
  13. ^ Schaub, Michael. "National Book Foundation unveils this year's '5 Under 35' picks". latimes.com. Retrieved 2019-03-02.
  14. ^ a b Cain, Sian (2019-03-04). "Non-binary trans author nominated for Women's prize for fiction". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2019-03-27.
  15. ^ "Who Is Like God". Granta Magazine. 2017-06-13. Retrieved 2019-03-02.
  16. ^ "AKWAEKE EMEZI". Aspen Words. Retrieved 2019-03-02.
  17. ^ "2019 PEN/Hemingway Award Finalists Announced | The Hemingway Society". www.hemingwaysociety.org. Retrieved 2019-03-02.
  18. ^ "The Center for Fiction". www.centerforfiction.org. Retrieved 2019-03-02.
  19. ^ "Andrew Carnegie Medals Longlist | Awards & Grants". www.ala.org. Retrieved 2019-03-02.
  20. ^ "Young Lions Fiction Award Finalists". locusmag.com. Retrieved 2019-06-01.
  21. ^ "2019 Nommo Awards Shortlist". locusmag.com. Retrieved 2019-06-01.