cover image Blessings


Chukwuebuka Ibeh. Doubleday, $28 (288p) ISBN 978-0-385-55064-2

In Ibeh’s engrossing debut, a gay Nigerian man is ostracized by his family and society as he struggles to be himself. As a boy, Obiefuna is close with his mother, Uzoamaka, but feels distant from his father, Anozie, who invites another young boy to live with their family and work in his building supply store. Obiefuna develops a crush on the boy, and when Anozie witnesses them acting on their shared feelings, he sends Obiefuna away to a religious boarding school, much to Uzoamaka’s dismay. Anozie continues to isolate Obiefuna from the family, banning him from returning for holidays, prompting Uzoamaka to vigorously object. As the years go by at school, Obiefuna carries on various sexual relationships despite the country’s prohibition of homosexuality, while his mother continues to protest his father’s choice to send him away (“It’s one thing to love a child, but it’s an entirely different thing for the same child to feel loved”). When Uzoamaka is diagnosed with cancer, she hides the news from Obiefuna, fearful of how he’ll be affected and hopeful she’ll be cured before they see each other again. Ibeh incisively portrays the family members’ conflicting emotions and strife, and offers a bracing depiction of queer life in Nigeria. Readers won’t want to miss this. Agent: Emma Leong, Janklow & Nesbit Assoc. (June)