Akwaeke Emezi is one of TIME Magazine’s Next Generation Leaders, an honor which recognizes the work and advocacy of rising stars “building a better future.”

Every year since 2014, TIME Magazine, in partnership with luxury watch brand Rolex, spotlights a group of young artists and rising stars across various categories such as politics, business, culture, science and sports. Previous stars have included American gymnast Simone Biles, Nigerian singer Burna Boy, and climate change activist Greta Thunberg. Emezi is joined in the class of 2021 by the likes of actor Anthony Ramos, rock climber Kyra Condie, and South African photographer Trevor Stuurman.

Each honoree is profiled by another artist, highlighting the work they do and their achievements. Emezi is profiled by journalist Trevell Anderson and photographed by Elliott Jerome Brown Jr. The profile touches on Emezi’s experience growing up in Aba, Nigeria and coming into their love of books and the wonder of storytelling. Emezi talks about the pricelessness of authenticity and their resolve later in life to carve out spaces for themselves within the mainstream. They also share insights from their forthcoming memoir Dear Senthuran: A Black Spirit Memoir, which is described as a “viscerally intimate chronicling of Emezi’s lived experience,” and “a manifesto marking a shift in their career away from the all-consuming white gaze toward a perspective that is Blacker and more beautiful.”

Read an excerpt from the feature below;

Frank and flat-footed, like a soul singer who commands attention without backup dancers and light shows, Dear Senthuranbuilds upon the narrative of life as an ogbanje first introduced in Freshwater.This time, however, there are no masks. Emezi is refreshingly uninhibited in laying bare the truth of their life as an embodied spirit. They recount everything from their Nigerian upbringing and ongoing issues with their parents to discovering and accepting their innate divinity; from the “bridge across realities” of their gender journey to specifics of their publishing career, including the advances they got for each book and what they stand to make from FX’s series adaptation of Freshwater.The memoir, the first draft of which they finished in December 2019, reflects, as Emezi writes, “the unfolding of a self,” one that once binded, tucked and doubled over into itself to be more legible to others, into the glorious beast they were called to be. Dear Senthuran is a brutally honest and vulnerable testimony of survival, of the rejuvenating variety that inspires and activates; if it had a soundtrack, the timeless Clara Ward gospel hymn “How I Got Over” might be on loop.” Read more

Congrats to Emezi! All photos via Emezi’s Instagram page.