“Then I smiled at him, his hands in mine, and I asked for the third thing. “Eugene,” I joked. He nodded, teary-eyed, as if it would save him. “I will,” he said. He knew that’s not what I was asking; you are no one’s to give except yours. I just wanted your play brother to give his blessings if you ever had reason to need them, whether you asked or not.” – Akwaeke Emezi [Grief | Dear Eugene]
From grief of love to grief of living, Akwaeke leaves neither the left nor right arms of bemoaning untouched. Against all odds, all of which seem to show up in each letter of Dear Senthuran, they push forward regardless as an Igbo spirit in this memoir, determined to take us (the readers) to the other side of their story. And each time with equal tenacity, we meet them with fresh interest and discovery in the next page, the next page, the next letter.
“The state of my body matches that of my mind – floating, tripped, and suspended amid clouds, crashing down into borders, lonely. Nowhere seems real; all the people are constructs. I have stopped fighting detachment and started learning how to sink into it instead. ” – Akwaeke Emezi [Nowhere | Dear Katherine]
Themes of aloneness, yearning and spirit dissonance, linger in each chapter of Dear Senthuran. Pulling the reader as though with a spell, to continue to stare those emotions we all thought were secret, in the face while confronting an ever unfolding dilemma; of how dare they see all of us this way and with their own story? It takes a brilliant writer such as Emezi, to undress their readership so early in their book and demand with unspoken authority, after stripping each one of us naked, that we keep on reading. Cautioning us even through their friendship, with others like ‘Katherine’, that there is more.
“It was already terrifyingly obvious that editors didn’t know what to do with this book, that they liked the writing but didn’t know how to market it. Maybe I was too unknown for work this risky, where no one knew how it would sell because there wasn’t really precedent for it in the market. Maybe if I’d written something easier, something safer. Maybe if I didn’t insist on walking everywhere aflame. Years before, Enuma told me to go with the story that scared me, and I still do that, I still run toward the fear.” – Akwaeke Emezi [Money | Dear Nonso]
Akwaeke writes from their center as an Igbo spirit. Black yes, but spirit after all. Their ontology does a masquerade dance in a couple of the letters in the book, it shows its head gallantly here and there. As something loud, confident, but still in discovery. We join its dance not knowing if we will see it again till the next season, the next letter. With Dear Senthuran, Emezi takes us on a journey. Pacing us skillfully, keeping our hearts racing badly enough to want to read each letter until the very end where they say to (Dear) Ann, “Thank you for listening. I love you.” As though to let their readers know too, in case we still had our heads down, that it was time to look up and say it back.