The Death of Vivek Oji by Awaeke Emezi (2020)

A mother opens her front door to find her adult son dead, carefully wrapped in colorful fabric. But why? Thus unravels the story of her son Vivek, a son that the parents hardly knew, a son who was not the traditional Nigerian male, a son who had to hide his gender and sexuality. This is a sort-of mystery/crime thriller, sort-of coming-of-age story that pulls together a cast of different characters from different circles who know “their” version of Vivek. I appreciate this sentence from NPR’s review: “Emezi deftly tucks doomed romance and family drama into mystery, then, slowly but surely, reveals their true aim: to construct a portrait of love triumphant over death.” 

I have been thoroughly enjoying many Nigerian American writers this summer, and Emezi (they/them) of one of them. Their prose writing feels poetic and powerful. I’m not familiar with their debut book, Freshwater, but I’m putting that one on my list. I just joined Book of the Month Club, and this was my first selection. I chose well.

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