In the tradition of The Glass Castle, a deeply felt memoir from Whiting Award-winner Nadia Owusu about the push and pull of belonging, the seismic emotional toll of family secrets, and the heart it takes to pull...Read More
In the tradition of The Glass Castle, a deeply felt memoir from Whiting Award-winner Nadia Owusu about the push and pull of belonging, the seismic emotional toll of family secrets, and the heart it takes to pull through.
Young Nadia Owusu followed her father, a United Nations official, from Europe to Africa and back again. Just as she and her family settled into a new home, her father would tell them it was time to say their goodbyes. The instability wrought by Nadia's nomadic childhood was deepened by family secrets and fractures, both lived and inherited. Her Armenian American mother, who abandoned Nadia when she was two, would periodically reappear, only to vanish again. Her father, a Ghanaian, the great hero of her life, died when she was thirteen. After his passing, Nadia's stepmother weighed her down with a revelation that was either a bombshell secret or a lie, rife with shaming innuendo.
With these and other ruptures, Nadia arrived in New York as a young woman feeling stateless, motherless, and uncertain about her future, yet eager to find her own identity. What followed, however, were periods of depression in which she struggled to hold herself and her siblings together.
Aftershocks is the way she hauled herself from the wreckage of her life's perpetual quaking, the means by which she has finally come to understand that the only ground firm enough to count on is the one written into existence by her own hand.
Heralding a dazzling new writer, Aftershocks joins the likes of Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight and William Styron's Darkness Visible, and does for race identity what Maggie Nelson does for gender identity in The Argonauts.
Nadia Owusu is a Brooklyn-based writer and urban planner. She is the recipient of a 2019 Whiting Award. Her lyric essay So Devilish a Fire won the Atlas Review chapbook contest. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Granta, the Guardian, Bon Appétit, Electric Literature, The Paris Review Daily, and Catapult. Aftershocks is her first book.
"In Aftershocks, Nadia Owusu tells the incredible story of her young life. How does a girl--abandoned by her mother at age two and orphaned at thirteen when her beloved father dies--find her place in the world? This memoir is the story of Nadia creating her own solid ground across countries and continents. I know the struggle of rebuilding your life in an unfamiliar place. While some of you might be familiar with that and some might not, I hope you'll take as much inspiration and hope from her story as I did." - MALALA YOUSAFZAI
"[A] gorgeous and unsettling memoir." - THE NEW YORK TIMES (EDITOR'S CHOICE)
"Owusu's life has been a series of upheavals: She has lived across the world, thanks to her Ghanaian father's work with the United Nations, and was all but abandoned by her Armenian-American mother. Eventually, settling in New York as an adult gives the author a chance to make sense of her identity. Images of earthquakes and their aftermaths recur throughout the narrative: As Owusu notes, aftershocks are the 'earth's delayed reaction to stress.'" - THE NEW YORK TIMES
"Owusu devotes a portion of this memoir to surveying the ruptured histories of the many countries she's connected to, but it's her striking personal story and charged language that makes Aftershocks compelling. [L]yrical...[A] well-wrought, often powerful memoir." - MAUREEN CORRIGAN, FRESH AIR
"Nadia Owusu's first full-length book, Aftershocks, is about all of these parts of what is her single, complex life. In her capable writing, stories become nearly tangible objects she holds to the light, turns over and over, eager to discover a never before glimpsed sparkle or a surprising divot in their familiar shapes." - NPR
"Full of narrative risk and untrammeled lyricism, [Aftershocks] fulfills the grieving author's directive to herself: to construct a story that reconstructs her world." - WASHINGTON POST
"Throughout the book, Owusu writes poignantly about belonging and assimilation...as she grapples with identity and her willingness to erase the most vibrant parts of herself in an attempt to belong. Owusu is unflinching in examining herself, which is commendable... In the end, Owusu ultimately answers what home is. Her definition is pure and restorative to read. 'I am made of the earth, flesh, ocean, blood and bone of all the places I tried to belong to and all the people I long for. I am pieces. I am whole. I am home.'" - THE NEW YORK TIMES
"Earthquakes are a metaphor for psychological struggles, family ruptures, and centuries of diasporic and colonial history in this ambitious memoir. The author, a Tanzanian-born American citizen, grew up with her father, a Ghanaian official for the United Nations, in Europe and Africa, witnessing poverty and violence. Her feelings of rootlessness were compounded by her mother's early abandonment and her father's untimely death. Against a backdrop of global events--wars, occupations, genocides--Owusu charts the rifts and convergences that have shaped her life. The book's roving structure, encompassing meditations on race, belonging, and fluid identity, reflects Owusu's fragmented efforts to understand herself." - THE NEW YORKER
"In her searing debut memoir, Owusu analyzes her shaky sense of belonging and identity as she reflects on her fractured family unit and upbringing." - TIME
"Nadia Owusu's debut memoir, Aftershocks, has those residual tremors that follow an earthquake as its central metaphor, and the author had plenty of life-shaking events around which to orient her narrative. There is something fairy tale-like about Owusu's story, an orphan-like existence of struggle and survival, but there is no fairy godmother who rescues this heroine--just a growing sense of self-awareness to orient her in a troubling world." - VOGUE
"This is a magnificent, complex assessment of selfhood and why it matters." - ELLE
"It takes a skillful hand to weave complex concepts so seamlessly into a narrative, and Owusu executes this masterfully. By relating the events of her upbringing, she is also telling the story of her father and the history of the countries that had become home to her. Whether it's coming to understand her sexuality or examining herself through the lens of race, Owusu takes the reader deeply through her thoughts and experiences." - LOS ANGELES REVIEW OF BOOKS
"Aftershocks offers an incredible account of a life both privileged and fraught, and a rigorous accounting of living as heir and stranger to so many histories, voices and identities." - SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE