Aftershocks: A Memoir (Hardcover)
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.
About the Author
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 Washington Post’s The Lily, Literary Review, Electric Literature, Epiphany, and Catapult. Aftershocks is her first book.
PRAISE FOR AFTERSHOCKS BY NADIA OWUSU
"Aftershocks is a stunning, visceral book about the ways that our stories—of loss, of love, of borders—leave permanent marks on our bodies and minds."—BOOKLIST
"Enthralling...readers will be moved by this well-wrought memoir."—PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
“Engrossing…an impressive debut memoir. [Owusu is] a promising writer."—KIRKUS REVIEWS
"This extraordinary memoir is a seismic tale of unravelling her sense of self from a tangle of different languages and homelands. Owusu is a writer to watch."—BOOKSELLER (UK), EDITOR'S CHOICE
“An engaging and reflective new memoir focused on universal themes of home, abandonment, identity and autonomy.”—MS. MAGAZINE
“Nadia Owusu's Aftershocks bleeds honesty. It is a majestically rendered telling of all the history, hurt and love a body can contain. A wonderful work of art made of so many stories and histories it is bursting with both harshness and perseverance. An incredible debut.”—NANA KWAME ADJEI-BRENYAH, author of New York Times bestseller Friday Black
"Aftershocks is a triptych feat of style: the lucid language, the masterful handling of time, the brilliance of its seismic theme. It’s also an astute exploration of the long legacy of colonialism. Owusu is a product of that political and cultural collision, and one of the great gifts of this compelling memoir is the moving narrative of her reconciling that identity. And if that weren’t enough, Aftershocks is an indelible portrait of Owusu’s resilience in the face of almost unfathomable familial trauma as well as her immortal love for her father."—MITCHELL S. JACKSON, author of Survival Math
“Nadia Owusu has lived multiple lives and each has demanded much of her. She has met and surpassed those demands with her memoir, Aftershocks. Owusu is half-Armenian, half-Ghanaian; socially privileged and psychologically wounded. She spends her life moving between Europe, Africa and New York, reeling from her mother’s desertion and her father’s death. Her task and burden are threefold: to chronicle the historical wounds and legacies of each country; to chart her own descent into grief, mania and madness; to begin the work of emotional reconstruction. She does so with unerring honesty and in prose that is both rigorous and luminous.”—MARGO JEFFERSON, author of Negroland: A Memoir, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award
“Aftershocks is more than just a book—it is delicate, intricate choreography. This memoir is a testimony to how certain books and writers can tell you their story in a way that mirrors your own. Even if the facts of that story are different, the emotion is familiar. Owusu is that writer. She has created a book full of shared emotional memories and I wanted to sit in those memories with her for as long as I could. Nadia Owusu is powerful, beautiful, poetic, and Aftershocks is a testimony to her commitment to constructing towering, lovingly-rendered sentences. Quite simply, Aftershocks is one of the most beautiful books I have ever read.”—BASSEY IKPI, New York Times bestselling author of I'm Lying but I'm telling the Truth
"A white-hot interrogation of the stories we carry in our bodies and the power they have to tear us apart. Owusu illuminates the blood and bones wrought by our borders and teaches us the necessity of owning our narratives when personal and collective histories have been shattered by violence.”—JESSICA ANDREWS, author of Saltwater