Nigeria cover, US cover, and UK & Australia cover.

Nigerian author Pemi Aguda’s debut short story collection Ghostroots now has three covers and they are quite riveting! Set to release in May, the book will be published by Masobe Books in Nigeria and by W.W. Norton in the US. It will also be published in June by Virago, an imprint of Hachette in the UK.

Aguda’s debut collection of stories is set in a hauntingly reimagined Lagos where characters vie for freedom from ancestral ties. According to the synopsis, Aguda’s stories unfold against a spectral cityscape where the everyday business of living—the birth of a baby, a market visit, a conversation between mothers and daughters—is charged with an air of supernatural menace. Check out our book news about Ghostroots here.

The three covers for publishing in Nigeria, US, and UK are all phenomenal! In terms of the unsettling nature of the stories and the cover, the UK cover (on the right) designed by Poppy Loughtman—with art direction by Nico Taylor—takes the cake. Featuring the same effect as an acrylic pour, the cover reminds the viewer of a painting or perhaps a windowpane where the rain makes it hard to see who or what is on the other side.

Designed by Ofuzim Anderson Oriahi, the Nigeria cover (on the left) is haunting in its own way as the geometric shapes set up to look like a face features eyes looking in two different directions. The bright colors of the cover hold the viewer’s gaze for quite some time as well.

Meanwhile, the US cover (in the middle) designed by Sarahmay Wilkinson with art by Day Brierre is conceived in a different style compared to the other two. The texture of the cover appears to resemble an old newspaper and the central image is an illustration of a dog (or perhaps a deer) with blood spurting out of its neck. While this may seem a bit spooky, the comic book quality lends itself to humor rather than fear.

In a conversation with us, Aguda shared that she is lucky to love the book’s different faces:

For the W. W. Norton cover, I was immediately drawn to the juxtaposition of the smile and the gash. Many people think it’s a red scarf at first, and that double-take, that revision, I find compelling.

The Masobe Books cover, with its lines and planes, has an architectural sense to it—a topic I return to. And the unsettling eyes in the midst of all that? Don’t you get the sense of being watched? Yes, my stories are haunted by the past, by present society and the coming unknown.

The Virago cover was inspired by the dancing masquerades in “Masquerade Season,” and the dancing in this story takes turns being ecstatic and troubled. I love the disorientation embodied in this cover—the streaks and strokes, eerie and ghostly, moods that I hope are evoked by the stories in Ghostroots.

The twelve stories in this collection explore the tension between people’s longing to be themselves and the ways they are haunted by the past. We are excited to read them soon! Check out the details of some of the stories below:

In “Manifest,” a woman sees the ghost of her abusive mother in her daughter’s face. Shortly after, the daughter is overtaken by wicked and destructive impulses. In “Breastmilk,” a wife forgives her husband for his infidelity. Months later, when she is unable to produce milk for her newborn, she blames herself for failing to uphold her mother’s feminist values and doubts her fitness for motherhood. In “Things Boys Do,” a trio of fathers finds something unnatural and unnerving about their infant sons. As their lives rapidly fall to pieces, they begin to fear that their sons are the cause of their troubles. And in “24, Alhaji Williams Street,” a teenage boy lives in the shadow of a mysterious disease that’s killing the boys on his street.

Pemi Aguda is from Lagos, Nigeria, and earned an MFA at the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan. She won the 2022 O. Henry Prize for her short story “Breastmilk” and her novel manuscript for The Suicide Mothers won the 2020 Deborah Rogers Foundation Writers Award.

Preorder here.