AKWAEKE is an artist based in liminal spaces.
AKWAEKE's art practice is deeply rooted in the metaphysics of Black spirit, using the lens of indigenous ontologies to focus on embodiment, ritual, and rememory. Featured on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah as well as on the cover of TIME Magazine as a Next Generation Leader, Emezi has given talks at Princeton University, Meta, MoMA, the Schomburg Center, the Dallas Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, etc and is represented as a public speaker by the Tuesday Agency. They have been lauded as 'one of our greatest living writers' (Shondaland) and 'a once-in-a-generation voice' (Vulture) and are represented by UTA, Mohamed Kheir at Objectively Good Media, and Jacqueline Ko at The Wylie Agency.
A National Book Foundation '5 Under 35' honoree, Emezi was born in Umuahia and raised in Aba, Nigeria. They were named one of The New Hollywood Guard: Writers by Vanity Fair and their debut romance novel YOU MADE A FOOL OF DEATH WITH YOUR BEAUTY (Atria Books) was a 2023 NAACP Image Award nominee. The book rights were sold in a seven-figure deal to Amazon Studios, with AKWAEKE executive producing alongside Michael B. Jordan's Outlier Society. FOOL OF DEATH was also a Good Morning America Buzz Pick, a Sunday Times Top Five bestseller in the UK, shortlisted for Foyles Book of the Year, and named a Best Romance of 2022 by the New York Times and Washington Post. Emezi's debut poetry collection CONTENT WARNING: EVERYTHING was published by Copper Canyon Press in April 2022 and their sophomore YA novel BITTER was published in February 2022 by Knopf Books. Their debut memoir DEAR SENTHURAN (Riverhead Books) was recently awarded the 2022 Stonewall Book Award for Nonfiction.
A finalist for the 2022 Dublin Literary Award, the 2021 PEN/Jean Stein Prize, the 2021 Dylan Thomas Prize, the 2021 Orwell Prize for Political Fiction, and the 2021 Publishing Triangle Award for Trans and Gender-Variant Literature, Emezi's sophomore adult novel THE DEATH OF VIVEK OJI (Riverhead Books) received a Stonewall Award Honor and was also longlisted for the 2021 Aspen Words Literary Prize. The audiobook narrated by Yetide Badaki and Chukwudi Iwuji won the 2021 Audie Award for Literary Fiction. The novel was a Good Morning America Buzz Pick, an instant New York Times Bestseller, an Indie Bestseller, and an Indie Next selection, receiving rave reviews from The New York Times, USA Today, NPR, The LA Times, and The Washington Post. It was also A New York Times Notable Book and Editor's Choice, and was named a Best Book of the Year by NPR, The Washington Post, Elle, Harper's Bazaar, Teen Vogue, and Vulture.
Their debut YA novel PET (Make Me a World/RHCB) was a finalist for the 2019 National Book Award for Young People's Literature and a Lambda Literary Award, as well as an Indie Next selection. Praised in The New York Times, it received a Stonewall Honor, a Walter Honor, and an Otherwise Award Honor after debuting with five starred reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, Bookpage, and Bulletin. PET was also named a 2019 Best Book of the Year by School Library Journal, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, Apple, and Amazon, among others. Upon its publication, Emezi was featured in Kirkus Reviews and profiled in The New York Times.
Emezi's debut autobiographical novel FRESHWATER (Grove Atlantic) went through early development as a TV series at FX, with Emezi writing and executive producing with P. Carter. Translated into thirteen languages, FRESHWATER won the 2019 Otherwise Award (formerly the Tiptree) and the Nommo Award. It was a New York Times Notable Book as well as a finalist for the Center for Fiction's First Novel Prize, the PEN/Hemingway Award, the NYPL Young Lions Fiction Award, the Edmund White Award for Debut Fiction, and a Lambda Literary Award. FRESHWATER was long-listed for the Carnegie Medal of Excellence, the Women's Prize for Fiction, the Brooklyn Public Library Literary Prize, The Wellcome Prize, the Aspen Words Literary Prize, and named a 2018 Best Book of the Year by the New Yorker, NPR, the Chicago Public Library, and Buzzfeed. It debuted as an Indies Introduce Title, receiving rave reviews from The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the New Yorker, the Guardian, and the LA Times, among others. Emezi was photographed by Annie Leibovitz and profiled in the February 2018 issue of Vogue Magazine (Modern Families With A Cause).
Emezi was awarded a Global Arts Fund grant in 2017 for their video art, which premiered in 2018 at Gavin Brown's enterprise in Harlem. They also received a 2017 Sozopol Fellowship for Creative Nonfiction and their short story 'Who Is Like God' won the 2017 Commonwealth Short Story Prize for Africa. Their writing has been published by the Gagosian, the Paris Review, the New York Times, T Magazine, Dazed Magazine, The Cut, Granta, Vogue, and Commonwealth Writers, among others. Their memoir work was included in The Fader's 'Best Culture Writing of 2015' ('Who Will Claim You?') and their film UDUDEAGU won Best Short Experimental at the 2014 BlackStar Film Festival.