Nigerian author and English PhD student Uche Okonkwo is set to publish her debut short story collection A Kind of Madness in April 2024 with Tin House Books. The book cover just came out and we are absolutely amazed by the dazzling design and stunning serpentine illustration.

Designed by Tin House Director of Design and Production Beth Steidle, the book cover is gorgeous and features a yellow background with specks of glitter and a gigantic pink and purple snake winding around the letters of the book title. I would definitely consider decorating my coffee table with this book!

Let’s talk about the main illustration on the cover. Snakes generally don’t have a good reputation in contemporary popular culture, often associated with evil or deception. But historically speaking, serpents and snakes represent a plethora of good forces such as creativity, fertility, transformation, and renewal. This is primarily because snakes shed their skin through sloughing and are seen as symbols of rebirth.

Perhaps the snake on the book cover also alludes to the human condition of resilience, of being able to bounce back from difficult circumstances and looking toward the future with a fresh perspective. Set in Nigeria, Okonkwo’s collection explores these crucial themes of community expectations, familial strife, and the struggle for survival within familial and community relationships. Read our book news post about A Kind of Madness here.

The cover designer Beth Steidle remarked to Lit Hub that A Kind of Madness is about people dealing with desire, desperation, jealousy, hunger, and more:

These feelings are layered, colliding; driving the characters to emotional extremes and, at times, literal madness. To visually reflect these themes, we angled towards maximalist—bold colors, type, and texture paired with a creature that is unnerving, secretive, and wild (and, readers will notice, a creature that slithers into dreams and visions several times in the course of the collection—a perfect fit).

The exaggerated spiral shape and woven transparency of the snake’s body create a sort of dreaminess that better comes into being the closer and longer that you look. The warm pink and purple tones hint at a femininity that is contrasted by the stark black and white type, which appears a little wild and handwritten, as if it has been hastily scrawled. A gold, glittering background adds an overall strange, celebratory quality, all to hallucinatory effect. We hope that the shape of the snake and the metallic background will lend a sense of movement and fluctuation as the physical book is being held.

The author Uche Okonkwo exclaimed that she loved Steidle’s stunning representation of the collection through her cover design. In an interview with Lit Hub, she added:

There’s so much to love about this cover. I was curious to see what choices the designer would make here, how she would speak to the idea of madness and the different ways that it manifests in the stories in the collection. She nailed it! The vibrant shades of gold, pink, and purple contrast sharply with the dark themes of the stories: the struggle for survival, everyday treachery, betrayal, fraught relationships. I’m intrigued by the positioning of the snake. There’s something alluring, but also subtly menacing about this radiant creature weaving through the text, extending itself up beyond the page to whisper something maddening in my ear. I couldn’t have imagined a more stunning cover!

We are so excited for Okonkwo’s debut collection to hit bookstores on April 16, 2024. Exploring the key question “why is it that the people and places we hold closest are so often the ones that drive us to madness?”, Okonkwo looks at the tensions between mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, best friends, siblings, and more.

Read the publisher’s synopsis below:

Set in contemporary Nigeria, Uche Okonkwo’s A Kind of Madness is a collection of ten stories concerned with literal madness but also those private feelings that, when left unspoken, can feel like a type of madness: desire, desperation, hunger, fear, sadness, shame, longing. In these stories, a young woman and her mother bask in the envy of their neighbors when the woman receives an offer of marriage from the family of a doctor living in Belgium—though when the offer fails to materialize, that envy threatens to turn vicious, pitting them both against their village. A teenage girl from a poor family is dazzled by her rich, vivacious friend, but as the friend’s behavior grows unstable and dangerous, she must decide whether to cover for her or risk telling the truth to get her the help she needs. And a lonely daughter finds herself wandering a village in eastern Nigeria in an ill-fated quest, struggling to come to terms with her mother’s mental illness.

Preorder A Kind of Madness here.