Nigerian-American author Freda Epum is writing a nonfiction collection of essays, poems, and images titled The Gloomy Girl Variety Show. The memoir focuses on her life as a Black disabled woman in America and will be published by Feminist Press in Fall 2024.

Epum’s collection of essays, poems, and images begins with the cultural obsession with HGTV’s home buying and makeover shows as a lens to examine the author’s “no place, nowhere identity.” The nonfiction narrative follows Epum’s life as a first-generation Nigerian American daughter, her years in and out of mental institutions, her drive for belonging, and the larger cost of living as a Black disabled woman.

Pitched as similar to Claudia Rankine’s Citizen and Bassey Ikpi’s I’m Telling the Truth, But I’m Lying, the memoir is a critical reflection on race, mental illness, and belonging in America. We are certain this memoir will encourage readers to think more these important intersections!

On her Instagram, Epum poignantly reflects on her journey of writing the book:


I’ve been struggling to write this post all weekend because there are no words to describe the relief, joy, anxiety, sense of accomplishment, gratitude I feel that this book actually gets to be in the world.

I wrote the first essay for Gloomy Girl in 2015 during a deep bout with depression, anxiety, and psychosis. It was just before went to the mental hospital for the first time that same summer. There was something about crafting my most scary and vulnerable moments into pretty little meditations that helped me get through it. Though I think the real genesis for this book started during my final semester of college at Smith in an independent study with John Slepian. I glued together a baseball cap, cardboard, cotton fluff, and yarn, spray painted it grey, and wore it on my head while I walked around campus sad and sullen. It was a physical representation of my emotional state that I desperately wanted others to witness to prove to myself that I wasn’t the only one who felt this way.

Along this 8 year journey I’ve met so many writing friends…, finished an MFA @miami_creative_writing , met the love of my life @mattdb578 , got an agent @reikodavis , and now an editor @laurenrosamaria . But most importantly I’ve healed that girl in her early twenties that was piecing together words to understand her new Bipolar mind, in hopes of helping other Black women, children of immigrants, and any one who’s felt an in-betweenness to do the same. Thank you so much to the many people (especially my family) who made this possible–there are so many of you who I’m eternally grateful for. See you in a bookstore in Fall 2024.

Freda Epum is a Nigerian-American writer and artist from Tucson, AZ. She is an MFA graduate from Miami University and lives in Cincinnati, Ohio. Her work has been published widely in publications such as The Rumpus, Electric Literature, Entropy, Bending Genres, and more. She is the author of two chapbooks – Input/Output with Amanda Beekhiuzen-Williams and Entryways into memories that might assemble me (selected for the Iron Horse Literary Review Chapbook Prize by Lacy M. Johnson).

Congrats to Epum on the memoir!