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Unoma Azuah. Photo credit: Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune.

Unoma Azuah, novelist, poet, academic, curator, and one of Nigeria’s leading LGBTQ rights activists, has a new book, her third, coming on 1 March 2020: her debut memoir, to be published by Beaten Track. Titled Embracing My Shadow: Growing Up Lesbian in Nigeria, it will be Nigeria’s first memoir about being lesbian.

Embracing My Shadow is the latest in a much-needed series of firsts in literature by queer Nigerians: Jude Dibia’s novel Walking with Shadows (2005), focused on gay characters; Chinelo Okparanta’s short story collection Happiness, Like Water (2013) and novel Under the Udala Trees (2015), focused on lesbian characters; Romeo Oriogun’s poetry chapbook Burnt Men (2016), with a bisexual male voice; and Chike Frankie Edozien’s memoir Lives of Great Men (2017), about being gay.

Here is a synopsis from its publisher:

Embracing My Shadow traces Unoma Azuah’s challenging growth as a lesbian in Nigeria and how she navigated the paths of abuse, ethnic discrimination and homophobia in a hyper-religious and patriarchal Nigerian society. The struggles that dominated her growth as a girl with a nonstandard sexual orientation were further aggravated by the problems that came with being born of parents from two enemy camps. Her father was a Nigerian soldier, while her mother was an Igbo woman from defunct Biafra. Her parents’ romance was discreet. However, their situation became complicated when her father kidnapped her mother and her family as the Nigerian-Biafra war raged on.

Despite striving and succeeding as a college student, Unoma’s sexuality remained the shadow that continued to haunt her, especially as she was forced to undergo a series of Christian deliverances to exorcise her of the homosexuality demon. These issues defined her formative years, and escaping her trauma became a mission.

Embracing My Shadow, being the first Nigerian lesbian memoir, fills a crucial gap. It is a story of a real life experience, and it affirms the conflicts and voices of LGBTQI Nigerians who have been constantly told that their sexual orientation is un-African.

Embracing My Shadow has been praised by the academic Lindsey Green-Simms—

The long-awaited memoir from the acclaimed writer and LGBT activist Unoma Azuah is finally here, and it does not disappoint. Azuah’s lucid and poignant prose makes achingly palpable the vicissitudes of anger, love, pain, and heartbreak she experiences growing up as a lesbian in Nigeria. She writes with tenderness and humor and joins the ranks of writers like Chike Frankie Edozien and Binyavanga Wainaina whose memoirs highlight the complex lives and humanity of queer Africans.

—and the poet David Ishaya Osu—

Mesmeric, moving and powerful. Embracing My Shadow is not just a personal narrative, Unoma has also written a manifesto for love, freedom, and bravery. This book is history on its own – and this will touch lives.

Unoma Azuah, who teaches writing at Wiregrass Georgia Technical College, Valdosta, GA, is the author of the novels Sky-High Flames and Edible Bones, which have been honoured with the Aidoo-Synder Book Award, the Spectrum Book Award, and the Hellman/Hammet Award, and editor of the anthologies Blessed Body: Secret Lives of the Nigerian LGBT and Mounting the Moon: Queer Nigerian Poetry.

Brittle Paper congratulates Unoma Azuah.

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About Otosirieze Obi-Young

View all posts by Otosirieze Obi-Young
Otosirieze Obi-Young is a writer, journalist, & Deputy Editor of Brittle Paper. The recipient of the inaugural The Future Awards Prize for Literature in 2019, he sits on the judging panels of The Miles Morland Writing Scholarships and of The Gerald Kraak Prize. He is Nonfiction Editor at 14, Nigeria’s first queer art collective, which has published volumes including We Are Flowers (2017) and The Inward Gaze (2018). He is Curator at The Art Naija Series, a sequence of e-anthologies of writing and visual art focusing on different aspects of Nigerianness, including Enter Naija: The Book of Places (2016), which explores cities, and Work Naija: The Book of Vocations (2017), which explores professions. His work in queer equality advocacy in literature has been profiled in Literary Hub. His fiction has appeared in The Threepenny Review and Transition. He has completed a collection of short stories, You Sing of a Longing, is working on a novel, and is represented by David Godwin Associates literary agency. He has an M.A. in African Studies and a combined honours B.A. in History & International Studies/English & Literary Studies, both from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He taught English in a private Nigerian university. Find him at otosirieze.com, where he accepts writing and editing offers, or on Instagram or Twitter: @otosirieze. When bored, he Googles Rihanna.

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