Aftershocks by Nadia Owusu


Nadia Owusu has lived in many places in her life--Italy, England, Uganda, Tanzania; yet, home was a place she never knew. Born from an Armenian mother, who left when Nadia was two years old, and a Ghanaian father, who died when she was thirteen, Nadia juggled conflicting identities her whole life.


Aftershocks is Nadia’s attempt to define the blurred lines of cultural identity, family heritage, and sense of home and belonging in a world that pressures her to label herself. This poetic memoir, effectively structured as an earthquake, describes the main events of Nadia’s life--the foreshocks, rumbles, faults, mainshocks, and aftershocks.


Nadia’s mother abandoned her when Nadia was just two years old. Her father was a United Nations official who often moved her stepmother, sister, and half brother from one country to the next. As soon as the family had settled into a new country, it was time to move again.


At age 13, Nadia’s father died of cancer. Nadia and her siblings continued to live with her stepmother, a spiteful woman whose toxic energy earned her the title of “evil stepmother,” as Nadia refers to her early in the book.


Motherless. Fatherless. And stateless. These were the burdening shackles that hang around Nadia Owusu’s identity. Throughout Aftershocks, we learn the lingering disappointments that early instability created within her life. Nadia lives her life working through these long-term effects, all while balancing the pressures of black womanhood.


When Nadia moved to New York, she was a blossoming young woman whose identity issues cast her into a pit of depression. Confused about who she was, where she belonged, or who she could lean on for answers, Nadia worked her way back to the surface through writing Aftershocks.


This book, her saving grace, helps her understand that her belonging is wrapped up in every event, every person, every place she’s ever experienced--and by this fact, she knows she can continue to write her home into existence.


Themes:

Coming of age; memoir; black womanhood; depression; mental health; legacy; country; cultural identity; colonialism


Memorable Quotes:


“I am made of the earth, flesh, ocean, blood, and bone of all the places I tried to belong to and all the people I long for. I am pieces. I am whole. I am home.”


“America was still a new land to me then and I was still trying to understand it. I was trying to understand what being black meant here, what it meant for me. I was trying to understand the ways in which I had become a different kind of black than I was in England, in Italy, in Tanzania, in Ethiopia, in Uganda, in Ghana. In each of those places, being black meant something different.”


“Pain is not always felt when and where it is inflicted. Grief is slow internal bleeding.”


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