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Chukwuebuka Ibeh in conversation with francesca ekwuyasi

July 11 @ 6:00 pm

City Lights and Doubleday Books celebrate the publication of

Blessings: a novel

By Chukwuebuka Ibeh

Published by Doubleday

Moonlight meets Purple Hibiscus in this searing debut of self-acceptance, sexual awakening, and first love set in a Nigeria on the verge of criminalizing same-sex relationships.

Obiefuna has always been the black sheep of his family—sensitive where his father, Anozie, is pragmatic, a dancer where his brother, Ekene, is a natural athlete. But when Obiefuna’s father witnesses an intimate moment between his teenage son and another boy, his deepest fears are confirmed, and Obiefuna is banished to boarding school. As he navigates his new school’s strict hierarchy and unpredictable violence, Obiefuna both finds and hides who he truly is. Back home, his mother, Uzoamaka, must contend with the absence of her beloved son, her husband’s cryptic reasons for sending him away, and the hard truths that they’ve all been hiding from. As Nigeria teeters on the brink of criminalizing same-sex relationships, Obiefuna’s identity becomes more dangerous than ever before, and the life he wants drifts further out of reach. Set in post-military Nigeria and culminating in the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act of 2013, Blessings is an elegant and exquisitely moving story that asks how to live freely in a country that forbids one’s truest self, and what it takes for love to flourish despite it all.

Chukwuebuka Ibeh is a writer from Port Harcourt, Nigeria, born in 2000. His writing has appeared in McSweeneys, New England Review of Books and Lolwe, amongst others, and he is a staff writer at Brittle Paper. He was the runner-up for the 2021 J.F. Powers Prize for Fiction, was a finalist for the Gerald Kraak Award, and was profiled as one of the “Most Promising New Voices of Nigerian Fiction” by Electric Literature. He has studied creative writing under Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Dave Eggers, and Tash Aw, and is currently a an MFA student at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.

francesca ekwuyasi is a is a learner, artist and storyteller born in Lagos, Nigeria. She was awarded the Writers Trust Dayne Ogilvie Prize for LGBTQ2S+ Emerging Writers in 2022 for her debut novel Butter Honey Pig Bread (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2020). Butter Honey Pig Bread was also shortlisted for a Lambda Literary Award, the Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction, the Amazon Canada First Novel Award and longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Dublin Literary Award. Butter Honey Pig Bread placed second on CBC’s Canada Reads: Canada’s Annual Battle of the Books, where it was selected as one of five contenders in 2021 for “the one book that all of Canada should read.” francesca’s writing has appeared in the Malahat Review, Transition Magazine, Room Magazine, Brittle Paper, the Ex-Puritan, C-Magazine, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Canadian Art, Chatelain and elsewhere. Her short story Ọrun is Heaven was longlisted for the 2019 Journey Prize. She co-authored Curious Sounds: A Dialogue in Three Movements (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2023), a multi-genre collaborative book with Roger Mooking.

What has been said about Blessings

Named one of USA Today, Esquire, & Cosmopolitan’s most anticipated books of 2024

“Chukwuebuka Ibeh’s writing has a certain delicacy to it, so wonderfully observant, and so beautiful.” —Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, author of Americanah and Purple Hibiscus

“Blessings is a stunning and exceptionally moving story of love, shame, redemption and fierce familial bonds. In sublime, evocative prose and from alternating points of view, Ibeh tells the story of Uzoamaka and Obiefuna as mother and son come to transformative realizations about themselves and each other. Ibeh has an elegant and passionate way with language, from the depictions of the Nigerian cultural landscape and its tense reckonings with queerness to the gorgeous mundanities of the protagonists’ home lives and the various dynamics of religion, class, and schoolboyhood. I’m grateful that this beautiful book exists, and I will return to it again and again as if for the first time.” —Francesca Ekwuyasi, author of Butter Honey Pig Bread

“Blessings is as raw and heart-wrenching as it is beautiful and delicate. A masterfully executed story about love, faith and sexuality that clenches your heart and doesn’t let go until the very last page. Ibeh is a once in a lifetime talent!” —Elvin James Mensah, author of Small Joys

“A sublime coming-of-age tale… An extraordinarily composed and deeply felt debut.”  —The Guardian

“There is music to the way Chukwuebuka Ibeh writes. There is balance. Blessings pulled me into a world I’m extremely unfamiliar with, yet somehow made it comfortable, even resonant. The intimate storytelling, the powerful dialogue, and the well-paced narrative all made it one hell of a heartbreakingly joyous read. Each chapter of this debut novel enthralled me, pushing me to the next, eager to share the road with its unforgettable protagonist right up to the ending, which made me want to start from the beginning again. On top of it all, Ibeh has provided a meaningful representation of queer Nigerians—one that opens borders and breaks barriers. An opportunity for many not only to see what Obiefuna and his mother see, but also to feel what they feel. Run, don’t walk, to get this book.” —Danny Ramadan, author of The Foghorn Echoes

“Wow—what a debut! I was left feeling heartbroken yet hopeful. Chukwuebuka Ibeh is a beautiful writer.”  —Taylor-Dior Rumble, author of The Situationship

This event is made possible by support from the City Lights Foundationcit