Cover Image: Aftershocks


Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

This book was in a way hard for me to review. Her life story is stressful, raw, and full of experiences, all which she described beautifully, she is a talented writer.. 
She is constantly searching for things that she doesn't seem to know how to reach. Her mother left her, her sister and their father when she was young and this abandonment never left her and caused a lot of hurt in her life. The author and her sister, lived with her father traveling the world as he worked for the United Nations, so they called many places around the world home for short periods of time. He remarried, but when the author was 13 he died of cancer and they were left with their stepmother and half brother, but once again his death leaves her with abandonment issues again, as he was her best friend and always there for her.
This memoir is Stressful at times, but also informative and thoughtful, with a bit of hope that keeps her going. 
I learned a lot about so many things from her different experiences, in the different countries they lived in, as well as the people she meets and how she interacts with them.
I would like to thank NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for a copy of this book.
Was this review helpful?
Owuso’s memoir gave me all the feels. I absolutely loved reading about her life: the good, the not so good, and everything in between. Growing up all over the world gave her such unique perspective but it also made it hard to have a sense of home and belonging. Seeing the world and her experiences in it through her eyes was incredibly interesting. Thanks to netgalley for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
I really liked this book. I enjoyed how the author broke up different parts of their life and used descriptions to earthquakes and aftershocks to go with them. I enjoyed reading about her life around the world and the stories about her relationship with her brother. Recommend to those who are fans of memoirs and stories about families
Was this review helpful?
Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for the gifted copy. 

I feel guilty confessing that Aftershocks is presently a DNF for me at just short of the 50% mark. I have picked it up and set it back down several times, grappling with what was not working for me and trying to press on. As the weeks have gone by, I have realized it may be a case of right book, wrong time for me. 

I do not want a negative star rating to impact the author since I DNF but also feel disingenuous to give a five star review. The middle ground feels the most fair presently. 
I liked how Nadia separated sections of her life to represent fault lines, aftershocks, etc, as they build on the impact these events had on her growth into adulthood. She dives rich into the cultural history of her heritage and exposes raw, honest emotion throughout each pages. I cannot speak to the second half of the memoir but in the first, her writing was eloquent and poetic. The subject matter is heavy, as so many memoirs are, but she pulls in the effects on others just as much as herself. 

I hope that someday I will want to revisit this book and finish the remainder to see how she navigated the relationships in her life next.
Was this review helpful?
“An earthquake is trauma and vulnerability: the earth’s, mine, yours.”

Consider me bedazzled! My god, what a poetic memoir! This book got under my skin. It did what all great books should do: in gorgeous prose, it made me think, it made me feel, it made my soul sing. I lapped it all up like a thirsty pup. Highlights galore. I just reread some of them and I was blown away again. The author, Nadia Owusu, is so wise, so insightful, so self-reflective, I could read her words all day long. And I’m always impressed when someone can be analytical and lyrical at the same time, like she can. What I like about poetic, perfect language all mixed up with emotions, sounds, and the flow of a great story, is that it makes everything sound passionate, dramatic. And instead of thinking oh, she’s overdoing it, I thought, yes, this is brilliant. She is speaking from deep down, and there is drama in the soul. She’s letting us in; are we ever lucky.

Owusu grew up on a several continents. Her dad was Ghanaian, her mother Armenian. Her mother abandoned her when she was two. Her dad died when she was 13. There’s a stepmother in the picture. She never got over being abandoned, and to over-simplify, it was a big contributor to an identity crisis that eventually drove her mad.

Owusu uses earthquakes as a metaphor for her life. She weaves all things earthquakes into her story, and it completely works. She talks seismology and aftershocks, of course. She did experience (and describe) a couple of real earthquakes, but it’s the earthquakes within her that get the most airtime. Look at these gems:

“A story is a flashlight and a weapon. I write myself into other people’s earthquakes. I borrow pieces of their pain and store them in my body. Sometimes, I call those pieces compassion. Sometimes I call them desecration.”

“My mind ate the earthquake victims’ stories. It chewed them into private truths, digested them into memories.”

Besides all the earthquake talk, there is also a blue chair that keeps reappearing. She sits in the chair and goes mad. Her madness is scary and intense, and she describes it vividly. And I didn’t see the madness coming—the blurbs don’t make a big deal of it, for some reason. I couldn’t stop thinking of how it must have felt to lose touch with reality. Such pain, such fear, such loneliness. Here is one of her comments about her madness:

“A story I could tell is that my mothers drove me mad. But when it comes to madness, there is no such thing as attribution. There is only contribution. My mothers were the sparks that lit the fire, but they cannot be blamed for how it burned.”

Though I obviously loved this book, I really got mad at the author at one point. Well, twice, but the first time was minor: toward the beginning, she went a little overboard describing the history of some countries. It wasn’t poetic; it sounded sort of textbook-y and I feared I was going to be given history lessons all day. Luckily she pulled out of that gear pretty quickly and returned to her poetic self. Forgiven.

The second crime really infuriated me, though, and kept me from giving the book 5 stars. I’m being vague on purpose, but let me just say she talks about a family member and tricks me. I felt so emotionally manipulated, like she was toying with me, and I didn’t think it was okay. Luckily, it didn’t go on for too long. For a bit today, while revisiting her wise and lilty words, I thought of upping the rating, but damn, I just can’t forgive this one. I guess I hold a grudge.

Nevertheless, I recommend this memoir wholeheartedly and hope a lot of people read it.

Thanks to NetGalley and Edelweiss for advance copies.
Was this review helpful?
Aftershocks by Nadia Owusu is such an intimate and vulnerable memoir that had me quite engaged from the first page. With a non linear plot, the book follows Nadia's life story and all the places she's had to be/live in.

I love how she talks about mental health. So open, raw and honest. She beautifully explores love and loss, relationships both platonic and romantic in a way that hooked me, made me relate with her experiences.

I quite enjoyed it.
Was this review helpful?
Nadia Owusu grew up all over the world with her father, step-mother, and younger siblings after her mother abandoned her family. When her father passed away at 13, the relationship with her step-mother only worsened resulting in Nadia's relocation to NY at 18 for school and considering herself "orphaned." Nadia struggled with her identity having absorbed so many different cultures, practices, languages, and even styles of speaking. 

This is Owusu's coming-of-age journey having grown up in Ghana, Rome, and London, finally settling in New York after re-patriating. The narrative style is lyrical and reminiscent of recovered memories where each chapter is a portion of her life by age and location. However, it is not organized linearly, which is fine because there is a clear disclaimer at the beginning of the book. The underlying connection between each recollection is the metaphor of an earthquake: aftershocks, tectonic plates shifting, and the sense of unease in anticipation of an earthquakes and what follows. 

This is a heart-breaking remembrance of Owusu's struggles with identity (half-Ghanaian, half-Armenian, nationally American), observations and experience of poverty, history of each place she has lived, and a re-examination of her father as a person rather than her idealized memory.
Was this review helpful?
this memoir is one of the most impactful ones I've read that has actually changed the way i live. the prose is masterfully artful in describing and weaving her culture and own experiances.
Was this review helpful?
This memoir takes a hard look at trauma. Owusu's voice is captivating and powerful and she takes a life that spans continents and creates a singularly personal and visceral remembrance.
Was this review helpful?
An open and raw memoir of her struggles with depression, Nadia lays it all bare. I truly appreciated her ability to acknowledge her flaws and those of the people around her but in the end the blame was not solely placed on them. Trauma manifests itself in many ways and facing it although necessary,is often very difficult. The reward is in overcoming.
Was this review helpful?
Rootlessness is the key word and all that it implies.  Owusu does an amazing job of conveying her lack of security and permanency though her life story.  Not only is the writing so beautiful, but her prose brings us to platforms that the average person could not even fathom.
It was fascinating when the author wrote about the desertion of her birth mother and her all-encompassing love for her father.  A mother's total rejection of her child is hard to comprehend and Owusu not only lived through it but managed to, eventually, come to terms with it.  When her stepmother so callously makes her second-guess her father's character, you wonder if anyone can sustain her beliefs in what parents are suppose to provide.
The story is so hard to read.   Yet, through the author's talent, I couldn't stop reading and appreciated her insight into surviving.
Was this review helpful?
Besides the back cover description, these few sentences give you a small taste of memories by Nadia Owusu. Her detailed, descriptive, choices of words brings you right into her world. She writes, “She asks what is wrong. How do I tell her about the trembling that leads to ripping, then to violent rupture; to whole lives and whole cities disintegrating; to piles and piles of rubble; to displacement and exile? How do I tell her that a day that begins with pancakes for breakfast can end in disaster; that, in an instant, an earthquake or a mother can arrive and change everything? How do I tell her that even when the earth stops shaking, cracks in the surface spread silently? Pent-up forces of danger and chaos can be unleashed at any time. I don’t know how to explain any of this, so I tell her I am afraid of the aftershocks.”
Was this review helpful?
As a lover of memoirs, I can appreciate the honesty and transparency in this book. However, as a human being, it was tough to read. I took my time with this book in the name of self-care. Some portions of the book had my heart completely broken for the author. Even though some passages may be depressing, it's necessary they we do not hide the ugly parts of our lives. While we read someone' else's pain, it forces us to come to grips with our own. I look forward to more works from this writer.
Was this review helpful?
Owusu's best writing is when she gets personal rather than sharing the history of various places she's lived.  A memoir of places she's lived and her sense of self or lack thereof. Italy, Ghana, to name a couple of places she reflects upon. Her father from Ghana and a step mother from Tanzania raise her. She barely knows her white mother. Powerful chapters on grief and the treatment of race in the United States. Well written and timely.

Copy provided by the publisher and NetGalley
Was this review helpful?
Owusu's memoir follows her on her cosmopolitan upbringing around the world as she searches for her identity and a definition for the word "home". Framed with the extended metaphor of earthquakes, Owusu details the traumatic moments of her life and how they played a role in shaping who she became as an adult. 

The best part of this book is the beautiful prose Owusu commands. I typically don't write down quotes in my reading notebook (they take so much time!), but I have a couple of pages worth from this one. This is one of those books that you should read slowly, not all at once, and savor what she's written from page to page. In these descriptions, Owusu is able to create well-rounded, lifelike characters out of her family members. Some of these, like her step-mom and father, were more developed than some fictional characters! It made the memoir feel more personal and definitely made for a more interesting read.

I appreciated the scope of social issues Owusu was able to cover with this book. I think there are so many chapters or excerpts that I could use in my thematic units in my American Literature course that would add a new perspective to what it means to be "American" and what it means to be a person of color in the world. She tackles colonialism, racial identity, generational trauma, code switching, police violence against people of color, and so much more. For this reader, there wasn't anything new that I learned, but I can see this book opening a lot of eyes about issues in the world. 

While I did love the writing and found the overall experience enjoyable, it did read a bit slow. Perhaps that was where I was with my own reading preferences at the time, or perhaps it's because of the non-linear aspect of the storytelling that made me feel like I could put it down for awhile and not feel lost. But it was still a great read and one I'd recommend!
Was this review helpful?
The author has captured so much of the life in between that bicultural persons live as they adapt to the places that are a part of them but that never completely accept them.
Was this review helpful?
I cannot say enough of this book. Mesmerizing. Heart wrenching. The author takes us through her life with honesty. An absolute must read on the strength we sometimes do not realize we possess. Thanks to Netgalley, the author and the publisher for the arc of this book in return for my honest review. Receiving the book in this manner had no bearing on this review.
Was this review helpful?
I did love all the interesting and important topics the author was trying to include but in my opinion she was a little bit all over the place and didn't properly do any of them. I understand she was trying to include all the major parts of her life - the "special" relationship with her mother, the grieving of her father that passed away from AIDS (and the stigma around it), the Armenian genocide, the racial injustice she faced in multiple countries, the problems in Africa but... You simply can not do it all in one 300 page book.
This book was provided to me for free from the publisher in exchange of an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
Aftershocks by Nadia Owusu is a fascinating, poetically-written memoir largely about her experiences as a girl of mixed race and country parentage with often-changing circumstances and home. Owusu is the daughter of a Ghanaian father and Armenian-American mother who is formed by her mother’s abandonment and blind devotion to her father. During her childhood, she mostly lived with her father and sibling(s). Owusu’s father was highly educated and employed by embassies, which meant that she moved often and had a lot of privilege those in their surrounding country may not have experienced. Owusu frames her memoir by using earthquake terminology as a metaphor for her life and its fissures in childhood. This memoir combines her experiences, brief histories of each country she resides in, and issues of race and privilege. The writing is eloquent, thoughtful, and affecting. Owusu expresses the feeling of not belonging, identifying her privilege, and nostalgia of home so beautifully. In her memoir, she reconciles her parental relationships, including: her father’s presence and death when she a young teenager, her supportive but mercurial stepmother, and her mother who left when she was very young and was largely absent from her life. Overall, it is stunning memoir and reflection on family relationships, place, race, and privilege.

Thank you Simon & Schuster and NetGalley for providing this ARC.
Was this review helpful?
Structured around the phases of an earthquake which she sees as a metaphor for her life, Aftershocks, Nadia Owusu’s unflinching memoir, explores the effects of living life as a hyphenate, a person whose identity comprises overlying fault lines.

The daughter of an Armenian-American and a Black Ghanaian, Owusu enjoyed a cosmopolitan upbringing as her father held an administrative job with the United Nations. However, when she was young, her mother unexpectedly left, leaving Nadia and her sister in her father’s care. After her father died when she was thirteen, her mother declined to take in her daughters and left them in the care of Anabel, their mercurial stepmother. 

If Owusu only talked about her experiences in the countries where she lived, which she does with confidence and authority, the book would be worth reading. For example, she describes days leading up to the evacuation of the housing complex in Dar es Salaam, after which they never returned to Ethiopia. The historical and social context augmented the emotional impact.

Even more important, though, was her personal journey focused on mental health and identity. When Anabel visited Owusu in New York and cruelly dropped a bombshell about her father, it triggered a breakdown in which Nadia got stuck for days in a fugue sitting, sleeping, and barely existing in a blue chair. It forced her to reckon not only with her feelings about Anabel but also with her beliefs about her father and how these may impact her current relationships.

Honest and incisive, Aftershocks is a beautifully-written memoir of memory, identity, and mourning.
Was this review helpful?