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“Electrifying.” — O: The Oprah Magazine 

Named a Best Book of the Year by The New York TimesThe Washington Post, NPRUSA TODAY, Vanity FairElle, Harper’s BazaarMarie Claire, Shondaland, Teen Vogue, Vulture, Lit Hub, Bustle, Electric Literature, and BookPage

What does it mean for a family to lose a child they never really knew?

One afternoon, in a town in southeastern Nigeria, a mother opens her front door to discover her son’s body, wrapped in colorful fabric, at her feet. What follows is the tumultuous, heart-wrenching story of one family’s struggle to understand a child whose spirit is both gentle and mysterious. Raised by a distant father and an understanding but overprotective mother, Vivek suffers disorienting blackouts, moments of disconnection between self and surroundings. As adolescence gives way to adulthood, Vivek finds solace in friendships with the warm, boisterous daughters of the Nigerwives, foreign-born women married to Nigerian men. But Vivek’s closest bond is with Osita, the worldly, high-spirited cousin whose teasing confidence masks a guarded private life. As their relationship deepens—and Osita struggles to understand Vivek’s escalating crisis—the mystery gives way to a heart-stopping act of violence in a moment of exhilarating freedom.

Propulsively readable, teeming with unforgettable characters, The Death of Vivek Oji is a novel of family and friendship that challenges expectations—a dramatic story of loss and transcendence that will move every reader.

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Riverhead Books (US) • Faber & Faber (UK) • Eichborn Verlag (Germany)


Longlisted for the 2021 Aspen Words Literary Prize

Longlisted for the 2021 PEN/Jean Stein Prize

“[A] dazzling, devastating story . . . A puzzle wrapped in beautiful language, raising questions of identity and loyalty that are as unanswerable as they are important.” —The New York Times Book Review

“Electrifying” —O: The Oprah Magazine

Brilliant . . . This is a book full of line-level beauty; a book of multiple perspectives, each rendered organically and fully; a book of mystery and community and love. . . . A special read that will not soon be forgotten.” —Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, author of Friday Black

Remarkably assured and graceful. . . . Emezi has once again encouraged us to embrace a fuller spectrum of human experience.” —The Washington Post

“This affecting novel of self-invention . . . poses searching questions about gender and acceptance.” —The New Yorker

“Instead of getting flattened by death, Vivek becomes more vivid on each page. He glows like the sun, impossible to look at directly yet utterly charismatic. I missed him when the novel was done.” —NPR

“One of the most highly acclaimed novels of 2020.” —Newsweek

“Powerful . . . [a] slim book that contains as wide a range of experience as any saga — a little bit like Vivek’s brief yet gloriously expansive life.”  —Los Angeles Times

“One of the best books of 2020. . . . a vivid, propulsive experience. . . . about freedom and our capacity to imagine what it’s like to be someone else, or perhaps, more so, what it’s like to experience them as they are.” — Goop

“A testament to Emezi’s immense literary prowess.” —Elle

“Equal parts heartwarming and emotionally shattering, the life and death of Vivek Oji is truly unforgettable.” —Teen Vogue

“Emezi has a gift for prose that is often as visceral, tender and heartbreaking as what it describes. . . . While the novel sets out to solve the mystery of Oji’s death, what gives it power is how it uncovers the story of a person shielded by the peace of self-acceptance against the pain of the world. Here is proof of what good fiction does best: it is an antidote to invisibility.”  —The Guardian

Emezi’s tender prose deftly depicts the inner lives of Vivek, Osita and those around them. . . . While the mystery surrounding Vivek’s death is finally revealed towards the end of this spellbinding mystery, what proves most satisfying is all that is learnt in the search for truth.”  —Financial Times 

“Emezi is a beacon of literary genius… in Emezi’s skilled hands, the mosaic of love, pain, community, family, trauma, and beauty, that make the crown to which Vivek is the bloody jewel, is crafted into an unforgettable and deeply moving story.” —Lambda Literary

“A robust literary triumph. . . . A sensitively drawn, achingly beautiful portrayal of the boundaries of personal, gender and societal identities.”  —Chicago Review of Books 

“While there are many books that stay with us long after we put them down,The Death of Vivek Oji is as permanent as a tattoo.” —Paper Mag

“Equal parts brilliant and heartbreaking as readers are taken on a journey to discover the hidden parts of Vivek’s life and the mystery surrounding his death.” —Marie Claire 

“[One] of our greatest living writers, Akwaeke Emezi is back . . . . a story of chosen family, discovery, love, pain, grief, and how colonialism infects individuals and nations.” —Shondaland 

“Electrifying . . . The Death of Vivek Oji is a masterful contemplation on gender identity and fluidity, the heavy weight of shame, and the importance of having friends and family who accept you rather than attempt to ‘fix’ you.” — Salon

“Propulsive and resonant. . . . Emezi is a dazzling literary talent whose works cut to the quick of the spiritual self.” —Esquire 

“Although Akwaeke Emezi introduces us to Vivek Oji in death[,] it is his life that will resonate with readers, long after they’ve turned this book’s final page.” — Refinery29

“A work of elegant musicality and ingenuity [that draws] the reader into a world of memories, talismans, photographs, spirits, and intimacies.” —Myriam Gurba, Zora 

“A masterful winding and unwinding of the tethers of love, shame, identity, intimacy, and violence. . . . The story takes us into the intimate worlds of each character, with chapters moving fluidly between consciousness and the voice that sees all of them moving and making choices. . . . [The Death of Vivek Oji] made me want to live.” —Man Repeller

“The Death of Vivek Oji is an alchemy of personal family story and untouchable myth. It circles itself, like a shark preparing to take down its prey; reader, you will be disarmed.” —LitHub

“An astonishing book . . . With warmth and great detail, Emezi explores the complicated friction of cultural clashes and the loss of youthful innocence.” —Stylist

“A deep, tender look at a family unraveling around the tragic and early loss of someone they loved but never understood. . . . beautifully captures an ordinary family in all its loving, hurtful, messy glory.” —Shelf Awareness 

“Emezi offers a richly textured depiction of a middle-class community in Nigeria . . . Vividly written and deeply affecting.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

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