Book Club- Freshwater

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Our latest book club read was Freshwater Akwaeke Emezi. The author is non-binary and I could really see how that informed a lot of the choices in this novel. The story is about Ada who is an Ogbanje, a west African Igbo spirit that dies and comes back in multiple forms (sort of).  In Freshwater, spirits manifest in Ada and appear as multiple personalities. 

I enjoyed this book, but it was a little jarring to read.  The first few chapters were hard to get into, as there was a lot of confusion.  The point of view in the book changes frequently.  That is labeled as you move through the book by the chapter titles, but at the beginning it’s a bit confusing.  The writing also moves in and out of a lyrical style that can take some getting used to. 

After saying all that, I am glad I read this book.  I didn’t know much about Ogbanje, so it was interesting to learn more about them through a character’s eyes.  This book also helped me gain deeper empathy for trans and non-binary people and the inner turmoil they must go through. We are taught, unfortunately, at an early age that you are a boy or a girl and that those genders should dictate your behavior.  This is no room for other definitions, which is ridiculous and dated.  Not to go on too much of a tangent here, but this is the very reason I hate the idea of gender reveal parties.  Should whether the baby is a boy or a girl really dictate or change a parent’s behavior already from the very beginning?  Don’t we want to teach all of our children to be gentle, strong, caring, smart, and confident?  Why are those things so often gendered?

I will also give a trigger warning, as this book does have some sexual violence the reader should be ready for.  This book is not for the faint of heart. We all agreed in book club that this is by no means a “beach read.”  However, I would recommend it to anyone wanting to learn more about Igbo spirits or gain a better understanding about trans or non-binary people.  Emezi is an amazing author and they deserve to be supported if you’re looking to read something by a non-binary person of color. 

Our next book is Carnegie’s Maid: A Novel by Marie Benedict. As always, you can check out my Book Club board on Pinterest to see the full list of books we read.


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