Whiting Awards 2020: Nadia Owusu

Photo: Camarena Photo.

Nadia Owusu is a Brooklyn-based author and concrete planner. Simon & Schuster will publish her first e book, Aftershocks, in 2020. Her lyric essay chapbook, So Devilish a Fire, is a winner of the The Atlas Review chapbook sequence and was printed in 2018. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming within the New York Times, The Literary Review, Catapult, and others. Nadia grew up in Rome, Addis Ababa, Kampala, Dar es Salaam, Kumasi, and London. She is an affiliate director at Living Cities, an financial racial justice group.

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How and why a mosquito bitesAn excerpt from Aftershocks:

I used to be fascinated by place as a result of no place had ever belonged to me, nor had I ever belonged to anywhere. That was additionally why, as a toddler, I used to be fascinated by the physique. Perhaps, I believed, I may simply belong inside my very own physique. Perhaps I may know the streams of the veins in my wrists the way in which different folks knew the streams by which they swam as kids. Perhaps I may know the names of all of the bones at the back of my hand the way in which different folks knew the names of the backroads that have been shortcuts dwelling. I may know the rhythm of my pulse like my good friend Dan knew the rhythm of the approaching prepare in his hometown, the rhythm he woke as much as and went to sleep to and hoped would lead him elsewhere sometime. Instead, I moved additional and additional outdoors of my physique. Most of us do. But I moved up to now outdoors that I bought misplaced and couldn’t discover my method again in.

What will occur, I ponder now, if I lower myself open? I as soon as dissected a fetal pig. I laughed at its chilly rubbery corpse. I laughed as I made the primary incision. I don’t know why I laughed.

I snatch small sharp scissors from my desk and press the purpose of them into my thigh. I can’t deliver myself to go deep. I don’t snicker.

The earth is lowered to this blue chair island. I rub the soil of my cheek in opposition to the soil of the blue upholstery.

Once, I used to be in an airport someplace in Africa, ready for my father to reach. It may have been Uganda, Ethiopia, or Tanzania. The reminiscence isn’t a transparent one. I so typically waited for my father at airports. This airport had huge home windows that regarded out on the touchdown strip, so you possibly can watch folks get off the airplane with their suitcases and their cardboard bins and plastic baggage. Nobody travels gentle to anyplace in Africa. Tourists carry large backpacks filled with tents and mosquito repellent and khaki outfits. Africans carry items for everybody they know, and a few for strangers. There have been no arrival gates. People walked down a ladder and onto the tarmac. They paused and set their baggage down. They took off their sweaters or wiped their glasses. I scanned the group for my father, however my eyes landed on a lady with brown pores and skin like mine. She had lengthy cornrows down her again. I seen her as a result of her pause was longer than everybody else’s. I puzzled what she was doing. She bought down on her knees and positioned her cheek in opposition to the tarmac after which kissed it. She stayed there, together with her lips pressed to the bottom, for an excellent very long time.

“What’s she doing?” I requested Anabel, who was ready beside me, inspecting her lipstick within the little mirror on its case.

“Greeting the earth,” Anabel mentioned, as if it was the obvious factor on this planet. “She’s in all probability been away from dwelling for a very long time.”

With my cheek in opposition to the blue chair, I press my lips in opposition to the place in my wrist the place my heartbeat whispers. “Hello,” I say. Up shut, blue veins appear to be rivers trapped underground. Borders not but burst.

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