Nigerian novelist, poet, academic, curator, and one of Nigeria’s leading LGBTQ rights activists, Unoma Azuah, has a new book, coming on 1 March 2020: her debut memoir, to be published by Beaten Track. Titled Embracing My Shadow: Growing Up Lesbian in Nigeria, it will be Nigeria’s first memoir about being lesbian.
Embracing My Shadow is the latest in a much-needed series of firsts in literature by queer Nigerians: Jude Dibia’s novel Walking with Shadows (2005), focused on gay characters; Chinelo Okparanta’s short story collection Happiness, Like Water (2013) and novel Under the Udala Trees (2015), focused on lesbian characters; Romeo Oriogun’s poetry chapbook Burnt Men(2016), with a bisexual male voice; and Chike Frankie Edozien’s memoir Lives of Great Men(2017), about being gay.
Here’s a synopsis of the book:
Embracing My Shadow traces Unoma Azuah’s challenging growth as a lesbian in Nigeria and how she navigated the paths of abuse, ethnic discrimination and homophobia in a hyper-religious and patriarchal Nigerian society. The struggles that dominated her growth as a girl with a nonstandard sexual orientation were further aggravated by the problems that came with being born of parents from two enemy camps. Her father was a Nigerian soldier, while her mother was an Igbo woman from defunct Biafra. Her parents’ romance was discreet. However, their situation became complicated when her father kidnapped her mother and her family as the Nigerian-Biafra war raged on.
Despite striving and succeeding as a college student, Unoma’s sexuality remained the shadow that continued to haunt her, especially as she was forced to undergo a series of Christian deliverances to exorcise her of the homosexuality demon. These issues defined her formative years, and escaping her trauma became a mission.
Embracing My Shadow, being the first Nigerian lesbian memoir, fills a crucial gap. It is a story of a real life experience, and it affirms the conflicts and voices of LGBTQI Nigerians who have been constantly told that their sexual orientation is un-African.