The BKBF Interview: Akwaeke Emezi


Akwaeke Emezi, author of Freshwater, is answering our questions in the newest #BKBF Interview. Hear about the community that turned her on to reading and who she would put on a Brooklyn Book Festival panel. Emezi will be at the Brooklyn Book Festival on Sunday talking about Multiple Selves/Multiple Views with Arif Anwar, Lorna Goodison and Emmanuel Iduma. Not to be missed!


Where is your favorite place to read? I don’t think I have a preference, really. I read lying about in my apartment, on the train, while eating out alone—there are so many places perfect for slipping into another world.

What is your favorite book to give an adult or a child? My favorite book to give to a child would be Niama’s Adventures by Renina Jarmon—about a little Black girl who time travels in her dreams, meets legendary Black women in history, and swims with mermaids.

What books are currently piled in your “To Be Read” stack … and where can the stack be found in your home? I’ve recently been gifted quite a lot of books, which seems to be an author perk, so I do have actual stacks of books lying around! I end up arranging them on my coffee table and next to my plants because most of them have really pretty covers, but the books I want to read next are in my phone so I can access them easily. I’ve got Fonda Lee’s Cross Fire and Victor LaValle’s The Changeling at the top of my list.

Who made reading important to you? I’d say the adults in my community when I was growing up—my parents, my teachers, my parents’ friends. I started reading and writing my own stories when I was about four or five, and every adult in my life encouraged it heavily. They gave me books, they let me spend hours in the library, they bought me more books, and made sure reading was an organic part of my life. It was—in retrospect—such a gift they gave me.

If you had the power to create your own fantasy BKBF panel – any writer or artist, dead or alive – who would you love to see discussing books? Ooh, this is exciting! I’d definitely want to be involved and I’d love to talk with Toni Morrison, Helen Oyeyemi, Taiye Selasi, and Eloghosa Osunde. I think our books are already engaged in a certain conversation and it would be amazing to bring the authors into it as well.

Akwaeke Emezi is an Igbo and Tamil writer and video artist based in liminal spaces. Her debut autobiographical novel Freshwater is a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice and an Indies Introduce Title. It received rave reviews from the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker, and the LA Times, among others, as well as starred reviews from Library Journal and Booklist. Emezi’s first young adult novel, PET, will be published in 2019. Her short story ‘Who Is Like God’ won the 2017 Commonwealth Short Story Prize for Africa.


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