Reviews tagging Transphobia

Freshwater, by Akwaeke Emezi

23 reviews

lilymurph's review

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dark emotional reflective medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? No
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.0


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miles's review against another edition

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challenging dark emotional reflective tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.0


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merin_aran's review against another edition

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challenging dark emotional reflective slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.0

I came to this book after reading The Death of Vivek Oji, and Emezi did not disappoint. 
Emezi's writing, as always, is stunning and so poetic. The plot and characters were complex, interesting, and deeply thought-provoking. I loved seeing mental health through the lens of African spirituality rather than the traditional western trope and enjoyed the queer representation. 
Having not much understanding of Igbo spirituality and beliefs, I did have to stop after 40 or so pages to research ogbanje and figure out what was going on. This was totally on me though, and I don't think the author had any obligation to make the book more accessible to a western audience by explaining a more about ogbanje. 
I highly recommend this book and can't wait to read the rest of Emezi's work. 

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woolgatherer's review against another edition

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challenging dark emotional tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

5.0

Freshwater is a relatively short book, but it was absolutely (and perhaps deliberately) challenging to read. It has its own pulse, breathing in an unsettling and yet entrancing manner that pulls you into liminal spaces rooted in Igbo beliefs.

Emezi challenges the reader and takes them out of their comfort zone. Their book sheds Western beliefs like python skin. Freshwater is brilliantly and cleverly written, deconstructing ideas of “mental illness” and gender/sexuality. It’s a critical examination of the influences of colonialism and the pervasiveness of Western understandings of the world. This is all done through one character, Ada, and the pushes and pulls she faces with the ọgbanje that live inside her. Her multiple selves tell the story in a unique fashion, though I was most taken to the moments we get Ada’s perspective (which doesn’t happen too often).

The thing about the ọgbanje is that they’re there to challenge you, the reader, just as much as they push Ada to a particular extreme that will be disorienting and uncomfortable. Furthermore, it’s traumatic and difficult to get through, as Emezi brings in content including but not limited to self-harm, attempted suicide, and sexual assault. Again, this is a challenging book to read and not meant to be consumed in one sitting.

Which leads me to my next point about Freshwater. I believe those who have tried to diagnose/label Ada and/or treated this book as magic realism read an entirely different book and, in my opinion, missed the point. This book will deconstruct what you know and understand in an unnerving way; it pushes you to come to terms with being utterly disoriented and take the position of rethinking how you look at things. Of course, Emezi isn’t throwing the reader into the deep end and expecting them to figure things out on their own. They write vivid descriptions and, at least to me, a followable storyline (in a way, I guess you could call this a Bildungsroman). I realize it’s a bit paradoxical to say that this book is disorienting and followable, but I think it makes sense once you get into the swing of things while reading this book.

Frankly, I can’t write anything that will do justice to Freshwater. All I can say is to read this book with a very open mind. Try not to get frustrated that you’re going to be shifting between liminal spaces that isn’t magic realism; these are very real spaces of an ọgbanje. And while this book will be challenging, Emezi’s incredible storytelling and lyrical writing will make it a worthwhile read.

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penofpossibilities's review

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4.75


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miri_png's review

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dark emotional
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated

5.0


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kelseyland's review

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challenging dark mysterious slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

5.0

A stunning book about spirituality and survival

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ceallaighsbooks's review

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challenging dark emotional hopeful inspiring reflective sad tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

5.0

“…because this was my life, you understand? No matter how mad it sounded, the things that were happening in my head were real and had been happening for a very long time. After all the doctors and the diagnoses and the hospitals, this thing of being an ogbanje, a child of Ala—that was the only path that brought me any peace.” 
 
TITLE—Freshwater 
AUTHOR—Akwaeke Emezi 
PUBLISHED—2018 
 
GENRE—literary fiction (reads somewhat like a memoir) 
SETTING—Nigeria; America; liminal spaces 
MAIN THEMES/SUBJECTS—trauma, grief, neurodivergency, DID, “madness”, identity, sex, nonbinary & trans identity, religion, mythology 
 
WRITING STYLE—⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 
CHARACTERS—⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 
PLOT—⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 
BONUS ELEMENT/S—I mean just the incredible parallels between the MC/author?’s experience of their neurodivergency and a DID-like “condition”? and my own is just… I’m speechless. 
PHILOSOPHY—⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 
 
“They sent a psychiatrist to come and evaluate her, but he didn’t like our attitude and I could tell that he wanted to lock us up. That sobered me up faster than anything else would have. There was no way I was ever letting someone commit us…” 
 
[Note: please pay special attention to the TWs for this book before going in—it’s very intense in that area.] 
 
This was an INCREDIBLY personal book for me and I wrote a whole long personal review of it and then decided that I just am not ready to share all of that with um well I guess anyone? yet so 😅 I’m so amazed Emezi was able to write their story like this. I’m just, totally speechless with what they’ve done and Idk if they realize what they’ve done for others like (and of course, not like, but very similar to anyway) them because wow. This is the most important book of my entire life and I can’t believe that it exists and I’m obviously about to go read everything else they’ve ever written and I just, I can’t even talk about this book? like in terms of it being a *book* and I’m going to write a *review* of it so, sorry about that but, yeah. I’m still stunned. I’ve actually already reread it too like. I may be just constantly reading and rereading this book forever, so. Check out the favorite quotes I’ve listed below because that will start to give you a sense of what about this book was so important to me and what its main themes are. 🥰 
 
“It was very hard letting go of being human. I felt as if I had been taken away from the world I knew, like there was now thick glass between me and the people I loved. If I told them the truth, they would think I was mad.” 
 
(FUCK. This book was so good. 😭😭😭) 
 
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 
 
TW // desc. of a child being hit by a car, abandonment, self harm—cutting, sexual assault, rape, trauma, grief, eating disorders, suicide attempt 
 
Further Reading— 
  • everything else by Akwaeke Emezi especially their newest book Dear Senthuran
  • The Icarus Girl, by Helen Oyeyemi 
  • White is for Witching, by Helen Oyeyemi 
  • The Bird’s Nest, by Shirley Jackson—TBR
  • The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson
  • also The Bone People, by Keri Hulme! It seems like a subtle connection but I think it’s actually really there in like a big way…


Favorite Quotes...
 
“Humans often pray and forget what their mouths can do, forget that every ear is listening, that when you direct your longing to the gods, they can take that personally.” 
 
“This is all, ultimately, a litany of madness—the colors of it, the sounds it makes in heavy nights, the chirping of it across the shoulder of the morning. Think of brief insanities that are in you, not just the ones that blossomed as you grew into taller, more sinful versions of yourself, but the ones you were born with, tucked behind your liver.” 
 
“Reality was a difficult space for her to inhabit, unsurprisingly, what with one foot on the other side and gates in between.” 
 
“…bodies are not meant to remember things from the other side. There are rules. But these are gods and they move like heated water, so the rules are softened and stretched. The gods do not care. It is not them, after all, that will pay the cost.” 
 
“We think about this because there has to be a point, a purpose to this, a reason for why we were thrust across the river, screeching and fighting. There must be a thought behind this entrapment, our having to endure this glut of humanity.” 
 
“Earlier, when we said she went mad, we lied. She has always been sane. It’s just that she was contaminated with us, a godly parasite with many heads, roaring inside the marble room of her mind.” 
 
“…but he would never get her again. I had arrived, flesh from flesh, true blood from true blood. I was the wildness under the skin, the skin into a weapon, the weapon over the flesh. I was here. No one would ever touch her again.” 
 
“…but I had promised to let her hold her lies if they would keep her sane.” 
 
“I hope it scrapes your mouth bloody to say it. When you name something, it comes into existence—did you know that?” 
 
“I don’t even have the mouth to tell this story. I’m so tired most of the time. Besides, whatever they will say will be the truest version of it, since they are the truest version of me.” 
 
“But I am not entirely opposed to madness, not when it comes with this kind of clarity.” 
 
“…they talked as if things weren’t impossible, as if choices hadn’t already been made.” 
 
“after all, Ada loved him too now. She and the girl were basically on the same side.” 
 
“They were balanced now—the Ada, her little beast, and her saint—the three of them locked in marbled flesh, burning through the world.” 
 
“She wasn’t sure if we were real, but nothing about us felt false… They would’ve told Ada that she was crazy or that we weren’t real, and I couldn’t allow those lies… like she thought we were abnormal. How can, when we were her and she was us?” 
 
“We’re the buffer between you and madness, we’re not the madness.” 
 
“They sent a psychiatrist to come and evaluate her, but he didn’t like our attitude and I could tell that he wanted to lock us up. That sobered me up faster than anything else would have. There was no way I was ever letting someone commit us…” 
 
“…because this was my life, you understand? No matter how mad it sounded, the things that were happening in my head were real and had been happening for a very long time. After all the doctors and the diagnoses and the hospitals, this thing of being an ogbanje, a child of Ala—that was the only path that brought me any peace.” 
 
“Sometimes, you recognize truth because it destroys you for a bit.” 
 
“It was very hard letting go of being human. I felt as if I had been taken away from the world I knew, like there was now thick glass between me and the people I loved. If I told them the truth, they would think I was mad.” 

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aquamarine18's review against another edition

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challenging dark emotional hopeful reflective medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

5.0

<i>Freshwater</i> is a novel that I didn't read when it first came out mostly due to the content warnings, and they are warranted - this is a difficult read.  However, I'm so glad that I did read it -- it is incredibly well written, deeply affecting, innovative, and captivating -- magical realism at its absolute best.  Beyond being an incredible story, <i>Freshwater</i> is a reflection on identity, selfhood, and spirit that is unlike anything I've ever read before.  Incredible debut -- I very much look forward to reading Emezi's work.

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tina94's review against another edition

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adventurous challenging dark emotional mysterious sad medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

3.5


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