Emezi’s take on romance and loss pushes boundaries

Monday August 08 2022

Book cover of “You made a fool of death with your beauty” by Akwaeke Emezi. PHOTO | POOL


Nigerian best-selling author Akwaeke Emezi forays into the world of romance with her latest book, You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty.

Feyi Adekola, 29, has been mourning her dead husband for five years. But now she wants to move on with her life and tentatively begins to date again. She is a very attractive woman of Nigerian descent and an upcoming artist, who left small-town life and now lives in New York City.

Her best friend and housemate is Joy, the daughter of Ghanaian parents and a lesbian who has a penchant for dating married women. Together they enjoy life in the bustling, dynamic “Big Apple.”

Feyi meets a new guy at a party and ends up in a steamy encounter with him the same night. They break up a few months later and she starts dating his friend, Nasir, pursuing a much slower course of love with him. Nasir invites her to travel with him to his home country in the Caribbean, and to stay with him at his father’s magnificent mountainside mansion.

Nasir’s father is a talented chef and TV celebrity with strong connections in the world of fine arts. But while on holiday on the islands, Feyi develops an intense attraction to an older man and, not surprisingly, matters get complicated as she gets drawn into a hidden love affair.

It remains to be seen whether she will stay with Nasir or take her chances on a new relationship with very deep consequences. Feyi is a complicated personality, bold and reckless when she is attracted to somebody. But, she is “messy and contradictory”, emotionally detached in her liaisons yet guilty about betraying the memory of her late husband. He died in a car crash while she survived.


On the contrary, the friendship between Feyi and her best friend Joy is admirable for its honesty, humorous female banter, and genuine exchanges. Of all the relationships in the book, this one was probably the best.

Read: Ten books by black authors expected in stores this year

As a modern-day romance novel, You Made a Fool deviates somewhat from the usual storylines by pushing the boundaries of relationships and identity while looking at matters from deep personal loss. This is no light holiday romance, even though the protagonist moves speedily from one romantic interest to another, but a narrative that reviews complex relational issues.

Much of Emezi’s book writing is semi-autobiographical, incorporating her own experiences as a black, non-binary transgender person. You Made a Fool seeks seems to follow the same trend, talking about the different genres of love, friendship, loss and fluid sexuality from a black perspective.

Emezi is of mixed heritage, the daughter of a Nigerian father and Sri Lankan mother, and she lives in the US. Readers not familiar with Emezi’s work may recall the public spat in 2021 between her and Nigerian literary star, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, over gender identity and feminism.

Grief and creativity

You Made a Fool is mostly told from Feyi’s viewpoint. It might have benefited from hearing more of the inner voice of Alim, a bisexual widower, or more about Feyi’s dead husband. It would have been interesting to know how grief and new romance were affecting her creativity. The latter half of the book starts to feel cliched and though there are several long dialogues, matters do not feel satisfactorily resolved.

However, Emezi uses incredibly descriptive language throughout the novel, whether it is describing city life, landscapes, food flavours, sex scenes or the appearance of the characters. She evokes all the senses and draws you firmly into each setting or mood. The prose definitely supersedes the storyline.

Her characters are diverse and somewhat well-developed even though everyone is too perfect looking. Of all the personalities in the book, Joy is probably the most interesting for her spunky and comical personality.

Freshwater, Emezi’s first novel and inspired by her own life, was a New York Times bestseller and it spotlighted Emezi as an emerging author to watch out for.