Pet

Written by: Akwaeke Emezi

Cover Art by: Shyama Golden

For ages: YA (CW: child abuse. Mention of bruises and insinuation of pedophilia)

Language: English, some French Creole. 

Topics Covered: Black Culture & Identity, BIPOC Narratives, Sci-Fi, LGBTQ Lives, Growing Up, Friendship, Social-Emotional Learning, Transgender Youth, Family, Art.

Summary: 

This book is phenomenal.  Jam is a teenage girl living in a town called Lucille where there used to be monsters, but aren’t anymore due to the rebellion when Jam’s parents Bitter and Aloe were her age.  The unique thing about this world-building that Emezi has done is to create an entirely believable community situation that applies to our society today.  “Monsters” look just like you and me, and we don’t know where they lurk.  Believing that monsters have disappeared allows them to flourish secretly and this is what Jam learns after Pet shows up.

Jam is a fascinating character and wonderful protagonist.  She prefers to use sign language for her main communication, but does voice occasionally.  Jam transitioned early on in her life, and she has memories of her best friend Redemption’s family coming to visit her when she got affirmation surgery a few years prior to the book taking place.  Jam can also read energy somewhat psychically, and has a habit of touching the floor in her house to read what’s happening in other rooms.  When Pet shows up saying there is a monster that needs to be hunted, her parents order her to banish Pet but Jam is not so sure.  What if there is a monster in Redemption’s house?

Pet is a book that reminds readers that monsters can lurk in the unlikeliest of places, and might even try to convince society that they don’t exist.  Jam learns that it’s easy to not see what you don’t want to go looking for because it might disrupt the happier vision in one’s head.

About the Author & the Cover Artist: 

Image result for Akwaeke Emezi
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Akwaeke Emezi is a writer and video artist based in liminal spaces and a 2018 National Book Foundation ‘5 Under 35’ honoree. Their sophomore adult novel, THE DEATH OF VIVEK OJI, has been named one of the most anticipated books of the year by The New York Times, BuzzFeed, and Library Journal. It is forthcoming from Riverhead Books on August 4, 2020 and is available for pre-order now.

Emezi’s debut YA novel PET (Make Me a World/Random House Children’s Books) received a 2020 Walter Honor and was a finalist for the 2019 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature as well as an Indie Next selection, debuting with five starred reviews from KirkusPublishers WeeklySchool Library Journal, Bookpage, and Bulletin. It has been named a 2019 Best Book of the Year by School Library Journal, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, Apple, and Amazon, among others. Emezi was recently featured in Kirkus Reviews and profiled in The New York Times.

Born in Umuahia and raised in Aba, Nigeria, Emezi was awarded a Global Arts Fund grant in 2017 for the video art in their project The Unblinding, and a Sozopol Fellowship for Creative Nonfiction. Their writing has been published by T Magazine, Dazed Magazine, The Cut, Buzzfeed, Granta Online, Vogue.com, and Commonwealth Writers, among others. Their memoir work was included in The Fader’s ‘Best Culture Writing of 2015’ (‘Who Will Claim You?‘) and their experimental short UDUDEAGU won the Audience Award for Best Short Experimental at the 2014 BlackStar Film Festival.

Emezi is currently making video art and working on their sixth novel.

“Hi, I’m Shyama Golden (rhymes with llama and the Y is silent).
I got my start entering rodeo art competitions and wasting actual film taking photos of neighborhood cats in Houston, Texas. Drawing horses was my thing, until middle school, when I taught myself how to write HTML from a Dummies book so I could make my own websites. My most notable work during this era was a portrait of all the Spice Girls in MS Paint which I had lovingly drawn one pixel at a time.  I then went to Texas Tech University for graphic design and after graduation, did a huge range of things over the next decade: logos, packaging design, app design, publication design, websites, tons of GIFs, and even typeface design. It was all going well, but I had a gut feeling that I was meant to be driving in another lane. I slowly learned to plow through the self doubting voices in my head to able to make my own art, which has also lead to some great collaborations over the years.
Currently, my oil, acrylic, and iPad paintings use figuration to explore how identity is experienced, performed, and reinforced. My work often focuses on intersectional identities, particularly those of hyphenated-Americans. The subjects I depict are a combination of real and imagined people, with masks and animals often functioning as metaphors for human social dynamics. One series I am working on involves taking characters used in traditional Sri Lankan folk dances, and placing them in contemporary Americana scenes, and another places people I know in infinite abstract pattern worlds.
I love incorporating subtle animation, or making seamless patterns out of my digital work, and I often share my process on instagram when I’m working on physical paintings. I have a solo exhibition coming up on September 20th, 6pm, at THE HALL at 9 Hall street in Brooklyn NY so please stop by and say hello!”

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