... stunning ... brilliant ... Perhaps Emezi’s greatest achievement with this memoir is their insistence on centering Igbo ontology within their story rather than reaching for tired Western metaphors about psychiatric conditions like trauma, PTSD or disassociation. Emezi’s work reminds us that these diagnoses are limiting boxes, shaped by colonialist, racist and sexist assumptions. Dear Senthuran explodes these human limitations by insisting on the imagination’s power to create worlds ... Each letter in Dear Senthuran is hypnotic and poetic, but the letters to Nonso, which read like letters to a student or a 'baby writer,' are particularly powerful ... Emezi generously shares both their wounds and their wisdom, offering aspiring writers and artists fresh inspiration for creating new forms of making, loving and being.
What is revealed in these letters is both the immense strength Emezi has nurtured in order to sustain a belief in who they are despite the destructive noise of the world, as well as Emezi's own brave and poignant vulnerability in charting this journey ... Written in imagistic language that is both poetic and crystalline, Dear Senthuran is an honest and lyrical accounting of a boundless mind exploring the wide expanse of creativity and experience. Authentic and vulnerable, the writing winds through the depths of wrenching wounds, but also explores the beauty in not pretending to be less that one truly is.
In a world predisposed to queer villainy, Dear Senthuran claims monstrosity as a space of intentional rejection ... Incrementally, the chapters inch closer and closer to a frightening reality ... Identity is an undeniable part of Emezi’s project, but the memoir strays far from a traditional story of diaspora or gender ...It was not written for you or for me; Emezi is not concerned with such earthly things. This is a book about terms, and the agency we can afford ourselves by doing away with them altogether. It is also an audacious sojourn through the terror and beauty of refusing to explain yourself in the relentless pursuit of self-actualization ... Emezi has spent pages showing us the strain of living in a world where we’re forced to decide between two choices, and find that neither will suffice. Only an alternate path will do.
... expressive ... The author is at their best when delineating the difficulties of hypervisibility; of being at once seen and unseen as a queer disabled Black writer. The body, in all its forms, is a recurring subject here, and Emezi movingly contemplates a body’s mental and physical limitations. What sets the book apart is that its letters span time and place, from the author’s native Nigeria, to Malaysia, Brooklyn, New Orleans, and beyond, reflecting their life and search for freedom—including the moments when Emezi doesn’t know what their freedom might look like ... A must for fans of Freshwater; readers new to Emezi’s writing will find themselves drawn in by their way with words.
... a masterpiece borne of pure magic and jagged pain. It is a lightning rod for the most intimate parts of the soul. It will smack the air from your lungs and catch you in a hazy, literary trance ... Emezi dissects human frailty in prose that is raw, intimate and merciless. They speak with the unapologetic fearlessness of a god speaking to mortals because that is how they identify. That is what they are ... Emezi flays their life wide open for us to read, ink becoming blood in this book that catalogs their tendrils of trauma and the hollow screams of suicidal longing as a spirit in a world built for humans. They unravel everything for their readers, from their metaphysical dysmorphia and modifications to personal spells for success, like a synaptic ball of yarn. Then they weave that metaphorical yarn into something so beautiful that it hurts; so beautiful that it feels like it must have wound itself around some vital organ while you were distracted by the words on the page. Emezi’s ability to string words into sentences, and sentences into spells, is hypnotic ... It is a testament to Emezi’s openness that they can convey the foreign pain of inhumanity to us --- the loneliness of living simultaneously outside and in the in-between, the claustrophobia of inhabiting a human body, the desire to be understood while being something many consider unfathomable. Yet even after they have been harmed by it, even after they have tried to escape it, Emezi approaches life and the world around them with intricate compassion ... takes up space. It has gravity. Upon reading it, I am inclined to say that it even has its own orbit. With this raw and blindingly brilliant work of art, Emezi has certainly carved their name into the fabric of artistic history.
... disturbing, haunting ... Fresh off the success of their third novel, The Death of Vivek Oji, Emezi delivers a sharp, raw, propulsive and always honest account of the trials they endure as a person 'categorized as other' ... Emezi thrives. By talking and writing, they convey how it feels to have a 'spirit at odds with flesh' ... not for the fainthearted. Many of the personal anecdotes can be gruesome and disturbing — thoughts of skinning and cannibalistic desire, stories of dead bodies and maggot-infested dogs — but they are written in an enthralling visceral stream of consciousness. At times, there is a pretentiousness to Emezi’s writing, when they do find the voice to talk about their greatness. But arrogance suits them ... Though the book can be difficult to read, Emezi carefully captures the struggle of what it means to be a person — or an entity — in a world that is not designed to accommodate their existence ... A powerful memoir such as this benefits greatly from this epistolary structure. Such intimacy deserves a proper release. Dear Senthuran: A Black Spirit Memoir is written for those searching for kindred spirits in a world that makes them hard to find.
The fiery prose describes a difficult childhood in Nigeria, a fractured relationship with their parents, and the challenges of fitting into traditional societal roles. At times the red-hot intensity of their world can be a bit difficult to take in...Nevertheless, this is a remarkable memoir by a writer who doesn’t shy away from sharing their ambitions or their vulnerabilities.
[A] unique, visceral memoir ... The author is crystal-clear in their focus on 'writing for people like me, not for a white gaze,' and seen through the prism of Igbo ontology, this adventurous life story is undoubtedly compelling. For some readers, getting past Emezi’s 'outrageously arrogant' demand 'for attention, for glory, for worship' as a self-described 'bratty deity' may require a leap of faith and a modicum of empathy, a merely human trait. Tribal spiritual beliefs meet contemporary literary acclaim in a powerful memoir.
[A] gorgeous epistolary memoir ... Emezi details the loneliness that comes with being 'estranged from the indigenous Black realities' and is unwavering in their demand that readers meet them on their terms, even if they might be considered 'too strange, too arrogant.' Yet in consistently captivating prose, Emezi demonstrates that it is precisely this unyielding belief in themself that catapulted their career, clinching literary awards and six-figure book deals. Those interested in broadening their metaphysical understanding of the world would do well to pick up this spellbinding work.