Of Gods and Men: Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi

Freshwater, Akwaeke Emezi’s harrowing yet beautiful novel, is the story of Ada, a young woman who believes herself to be inhabited by gods and versions of herself. She is ọgbanje, a concept from Igbo culture that means a child that is both coming and going, a kind of evil spirit that constantly dies and is reborn as a plague of bad luck to a family. But Ada doesn’t die in childhood, instead surviving through blood sacrifice and fracturing into multiple selves. As the years drag on, the psychic and physical stress of sharing a body with so many other beings each with their own contrasting demands, begins to take its toll. As Emezi peels back Ada’s layers, she exposes the culture clash between Indigenous beliefs and Western colonialism.

Westerners who lack the context for ọgbanje are likely to offer an armchair diagnosis of Dissociative Identity Disorder, interpreting Asụghara and ...