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The Death of Vivek Oji

The Death of Vivek Oji

Author(s): Akwaeke Emezi

Location(s): Nigeria

Genre(s): Fiction

Era(s): early 21st century

They burned down the market on the day Vivek Oji died. One afternoon, in a town in southeastern Nigeria, a mother opens her front door to discover the lifeless body of her son wrapped in fabric on the welcome mat. The story of that child, Vivek Oji, is the story of two families from disparate cultures who came together in a time of upheaval, and of Vivek’s struggle to be true to a self whose spirit and longings defy conventional expectations. Raised by a privileged, distant father and an understanding but overprotective mother, Vivek suffers disorienting blackouts, fugue states that disrupt all connection 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 resettled in the area. 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 his friend’s escalating crisis–the mystery of Vivek’s behavior gives way to a heart-stopping act of violence in a moment of transcendent freedom. Propulsively readable, teeming with vivid and unforgettable characters, The Death of Vivek Oji is a story of family and friendship that challenges expectations at every turn. It is a major step forward from a writer of rare insight into the porous barriers between body and identity, spirit, and self.

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