I Am Still With You

A Reckoning with Silence, Inheritance, and History

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By Emmanuel Iduma

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Already known as a gorgeous literary stylist and keen-eyed art critic, Emmanuel Iduma unfurls his inimitable, rhythmic prose to tell the story of his return to Nigeria, where he grew up, after years of living in New York. Though prompted in part by a family wedding and the death of his father, he had an urgent, elusive mission, as well: to learn the fate of his uncle Emmanuel, his namesake, who disappeared in the Nigerian Civil War in the late 60s. A conflict that left so many families broken, the war remains at the margins of the history books, almost taboo to discuss, so Iduma must stop in city after city throughout the Biafran region, reconnecting with relatives dear and distant to probe their memories, stopping at university libraries to furtively photo copy illicit books, and visiting half-abandoned monuments along the highway. And perhaps, if he can understand how his father grieved the loss of his brother, Iduma might learn how to grieve his father, in turn.   
   
Equal parts memoir, national history, and political reckoning, this is a story of loss and grief, both deeply personal and collective. It’s the story of countless families across the country and across the world who will never have answers or proper funerals for their loved ones. It’s a story about the birth of an artist, about writing itself as an act both healing and political, even dangerous. But it’s also a classic story of repeated history – how a country that never healed from its fissures decades ago is now seeing the same political agitations roiling again. Underground political groups are clamoring for a new Biafran revolution today, and Iduma must determine whether there’s a place for him in that movement. How much of his identity is wrapped up in this history? What does it mean to return home, when home was always more about a person than a place? 
 

Excerpt

A PARTIAL FAMILY TREE*

*This is an accurate but incomplete family tree, in part because it would be unnecessary and unwieldy to name everyone here. Not all of my paternal relatives are mentioned in this book, and some members of my extended family, whose names appear, have been assigned pseudonyms to preserve their anonymity.




one

A year after I returned home, Lagos erupted in protests.

I checked the news every waking hour throughout those unsettled weeks of October 2020, gathering details of arrests, of ill-fated spectators hit by stray bullets, and of roadblocks set up by roving groups of begrudged young people. I understood enough of the demands being made by the protesters—for the government to disband the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, a police unit known for extrajudicial killings—to know that I sympathized with the movement. And yet during the first week of the protests, my lack of productivity hovered over my desk like an albatross. One evening, my wife Ayobami and I drove to join the crowd. It was by now the second week. Looking back, I realize I had agreed to venture out only because I could be of no use to myself otherwise, as if moved by irritability and not curiosity.

We parked behind a long row of cars two kilometers from a toll area and began to walk. The highway was full of a steady stream of people who, for the most part, seemed younger than we were. It was a popular opinion in the commentaries we read, and we could now attest, that this was an uprising by a generation born after or just before Nigeria’s return to democratic rule in 1999. They have vague or no memories of military dictatorships—unlike I do, such as of a morning in early 1998 when I was stung by residue of tear gas while crossing the road to run an errand, a definitive warning against taking to the streets in protest in my childhood and thereafter.

Approaching the tollgate, we saw clusters of idle protesters, sitting on barricades or on car hoods. Some blared music from their cars, dressed in singlets or miniskirts. The mood was exuberant; apathy toward the government had become a cause célèbre. One barricade had been spray-painted with careful serifed lettering: change is coming. A woman distributed food from a sack, for free, and she was given the most attention of anyone we’d seen by a small group of disheveled teenagers. There was a larger group in front, and a speaker who had mounted a concrete platform led them in a chant against the Special Anti-Robbery Squad: “End SARS now!” But the group seemed listless and responded with little vigor, kept their expressions blank, or chatted among themselves. It hadn’t been like that all day, if we judged from the aerial photographs circulating online, of a surging, innumerable crowd on either side of the toll area.

We had gotten there a little after sunset, twelve hours after the beginning of the day’s sit-in. Now all we saw—the only time we mustered the resolve to go outside—was the husk of a decisive moment. Despite this, when we returned home and I thought of the travels I’d undertaken months prior, I was convinced of what was set off in me: the lingering sense of being enfolded in a sequence of histories and inequities larger than all of us.

Before the protests, I’d visited my older brother, Emeka, in Abuja, the capital city. Two years my senior, he and his wife have two sons. I usually saw him each time I had the opportunity; I’d go to him in Abuja or pass the night in his hotel room if he was in Lagos for work. During our most recent time together, I noticed his new quirks, particularly in how he carried himself as a father: spanking the older boy, named after our father, and feeding the younger boy, named after me. Some days, I was surprised by the chill of the mornings, even before it rained. I’d take in the views of the surrounding rocks, the distant line of trees. The red earth, the wide roads, the occasional bumps, the smell of roasted corn.

I told him, on the day I arrived, that I would like us to speak about our family’s tragedy during the Nigerian Civil War.

The war began on July 6, 1967, after a year and a half of cataclysms. In 1966, Nigeria had been an independent country for six years, and its three largest ethnic groups—the Hausas in the North, the Yorubas and Igbos in the South—had been faultily amalgamated, together with up to three hundred other groups, within borders created during British colonial rule. Two coups d’état preceded the war, the second, led by soldiers of northern origin, to counter the first. In the bloodletting of the July 1966 countercoup, nearly thirty thousand people were killed in pogroms in the Northern Region.

Most of the assailed were Igbo; what had begun as a mutiny by northern units of the Nigerian Army was now a popular uprising against Igbos and others belonging to the smaller ethnic groups around southeastern Nigeria. Hundreds of thousands of Igbo survivors returned to their ancestral homelands in the Eastern Region, whose government proclaimed its independence as the Republic of Biafra. Then the federal government declared war, referred to as a “police action,” to keep the country one. The military officers who led each side—Biafra’s Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, Nigeria’s Yakubu Gowon—were in their midthirties. Boys, some barely teenagers, volunteered to fight for the breakaway republic. They imagined a nation formed by revolutionary struggle, free from the persecution of the Hausa ruling class and its British allies. Many of the casualties of the war, as it dragged out for another thirty months, were children. In September 1968, the International Committee of the Red Cross estimated that almost ten thousand people were dying daily from starvation caused by Nigeria’s blockade of Biafra.

An entire generation was wrenched from the future.

All three of my father’s older brothers fought in the war. When it ended on January 15, 1970, the second-oldest was unaccounted for. It is yet unclear exactly how old he was when he enlisted in the Biafran Army and went to the front. He did not return home, as his older and younger brothers did. I have never seen a photograph of him and cannot tell what he looked like.

What is the story of his life, since he died so young and left nothing behind?

I must have learned about the war for the first time as a preteen, or even as a younger boy, when my father told me he’d named me after his disappeared brother. Since then, I have sometimes felt that anytime my name is called, I echo a gesture once his. If that is true, then perhaps I can find out what happened to him.

The ignorance is not mine alone. Not many in my generation of Nigerians, thirty-five and under, can speak of the war beyond the cursory summation that it is an event of the past. We were not taught the conflict in primary or secondary school, and came to it through the anecdotes of family members who lived through it. We are a generation that has to lift itself from the hushes and gaps of the history of the war. Some, like me, have confronted that history by sleuthing, buying dozens of books to uncover the causes and consequences of the traumatic events. And some, stoked by the propaganda of a group known as the Indigenous People of Biafra, or IPOB, the most prominent among the current wave of pro-Biafran agitators, clamor for another secession. Their key argument is that Igbos, and all those who make up “Biafraland,” are still as victimized as they had been in the lead-up to the war.

The books published about the war, by memoirists on either side—most of which are self-published and available only in a handful of local bookstores—are written from the perspective of those who survived, those who can reflect on its horrors. The dead, voiceless, keep to themselves.

I shared that history and reasoning with my brother, to set things up. We sat in a small room for visitors in building he worked in as an executive of a Bible school. Later, listening to the recording I made of our conversation, I was impressed, first, by the timbre of his voice—familiar, because it sounded like mine—as well as the similar patterns of our speech. Then, as I continued, I was curious about the eagerness in my voice when I asked a question or paraphrased a response, as if to accept the incontrovertible truth of what he said. Yet I suspected this was something far more difficult to admit to: a cop-out. I was desperate to attribute the failings of memory to someone else, to make another narrator responsible for the gaps in my family story.

“Daddy didn’t really talk about it,” Emeka said. “Some of the details I remember are in sketches. Locations are hazy in my head. When he talked about it, he focused on his anticipation that his brother would come back. Our uncle was probably in his midteens or older when the war began. So he was old enough to be part of a troop. This is one thing we know. We also know he had some privileges, and connection to an older military officer. Oh, and he was a wrestler.”

“Yeah? I don’t remember hearing that.”

“He was Daddy’s immediate older brother.”

“I thought he was second.”

“Now I don’t know. But this is what Daddy said, that he was the one he was closest to.”

“Yes, I remember.”

“Daddy told us stories of their school days. And I hope I’m not mixing up his brothers, but this uncle you’re looking for was more athletic, more agile, less inclined to academic work. He defended Daddy during fights in primary school.”

When he said this, I recalled our teenage years. As boys two years apart, Emeka and I fought each other often, and it was almost always the case that he’d beat me up.

“Here’s the point I’m trying to make,” Emeka continued. “He was the brother Daddy loved the most. Then the war took him away.”

We outgrew our fights by my senior year in secondary school and became mellow in our disagreements, acquiring the maturity of de-escalation. Once, returning to the boarding school we both attended, I placed a notebook containing wads of our pocket money in front of my seat on a motorcycle and forgot to pick it up again. It was only when he asked that I realized I’d lost it. He said nothing to me as he walked away, bristling with rage, now penniless for the rest of the month. I still feel a throb of guilt when I remember my negligence, worsened by his unexpected decision not to wreck my face.

“When do you intend to travel?” my brother said as we spoke of our disappeared uncle. I had told him of my hope to reconstruct my uncle’s life by traveling to speak with our relatives and visiting the towns where the last battles of the war were fought.

“As early as possible next year,” I said. “My main concern is how to spend more time in Nigeria.”

By then, I hadn’t told Emeka my return would be for the long term, for fear he might think of my move as reckless. From our early twenties, I regarded him as a bastion of composure, especially once he became bespectacled, raising the bridge of his eyeglasses while he talked with the precision of a checkmate.

“If you do this right,” he said, “you can actually know the place he died. Or at least where he disappeared from. And you can follow the mystery from there. If Daddy picks up the book, he’d be shocked at what he could have done if he wanted to find out what happened to his brother.”

How would my father have responded to my search? Each time we discussed the news, which almost always indicated the sorry state of the country, he’d end with a version of “All I pray for is my daily bread.” But that was his apathy for politics, not history. I do not think of him as a man who undervalued his need for the past: never once did he refuse to answer a question I posed about his youth or the lives of his brothers. I regret that I didn’t come around to ask him more questions about the war. That I drew out little from him before his death had more to do with my lack of persistence than the absence of his insights. That said, I found it difficult to estimate the limits of his patience. At what point would he have said, “I don’t know, Emma, I don’t know”?—steadying his eye with the glance I knew meant that he didn’t wish to speak further.

On occasion, we did speak about the war, even if I cannot recall the conversations in perfect sequence, or the context in which we had them. For one, he repeatedly mentioned that his family experienced more want in the immediate aftermath of the war than during it, due to his connection to a Biafran officer he served as a houseboy from the time he was eleven years old till he was thirteen. It is unclear how my father was hired. Yet the colonel must have cared enough for him to ensure that his family did not starve.

But then, after reading a passage in a 1972 book by Arthur Nwankwo, who worked in the Directorate of Propaganda for the Republic of Biafra, I feared that I should have been questioning of my father’s good fortune. “Food for the boys, meagre as it was, was misused by unit commanders,” wrote Nwankwo of the Biafran brass. “In distributing food, some commanders equated themselves to as many as 300 soldiers. Sometimes they divided the food into two and took one part. In 1969 one brigade commander helped himself to two-and-a-half of the four goats allowed to the entire brigade for Christmas celebrations . . . If ninety uniforms were given to a brigade, the commander might take thirty for himself and his entourage of batmen, orderlies and provosts. Usually, he surrounded himself with a platoon of relatives and friends to look after his personal needs. These men, always well clothed and well fed, never fired a shot.”

My father’s colonel, going by the tradition at the time, was almost certainly a brigade commander, and could, in general terms, fit Arthur Nwankwo’s description. What can I make of the inglorious opportunism by which my father and grandparents were possibly fed throughout the war? What can I make of it, knowing that either my dad was too young to protest the source of the largesse he received, or too concerned with keeping his parents alive to even care? I imagine Daddy as he took food to his family, walking two or several kilometers from the front, no doubt hunched over by the weight of a sack.

If you do this right, my brother said. He was suggesting I might also go so far off base I’d uncover little. In the earliest conversation preceding my search, he had defined my goal. Yet I knew to be moderate about my expectations. Fifty years after the end of the war, after all the gaps and silences and airbrushings, as much as I hoped to get lucky, it would be a miracle if I found the place where my uncle died. He left no trail for me to follow. In my research until then, I’d stumbled on no document containing names of Biafran infantrymen, either noting the date of their enrollment or the battalions they fought with.

If an attempt to discover my uncle’s death place was a fool’s errand, I thought it might be possible to know what kind of young man he had been, to rescue his preoccupations and ambitions from the obscurity of thousands whose bodies were never found by their families. A question of recovering the origin story of my name, yes, but also a matter of locating myself in my country’s history, of traveling to the heart of the mystery that is the Biafran War.

From my brother, I now inferred the following: My uncle was the third son of my grandparents. Likely, my brother said, the third. He was good with the use of his body. A wrestler. He was respected by many, so he would either beat up those who beat up my father, or the fear of him would keep them from beating up my father. He seemed to be street-smart, rather than book-smart, and had repeated classes more than once. When the war came, he was loyal to his officer so that he could provide for his family, and it may have been through his influence that my father got work as a houseboy to another officer. Then the war took my uncle away.

I barreled through the clouds in darkness, my body hurled along an unbroken line. It was not my first time on a transatlantic trip, and yet I was alert, unable to manage sleep. In ordinary times, this could have been a measure of exhilaration, even happiness. That night, though, what I envisaged upon my arrival in Lagos was like the shimmer of light in a far-out sea, a perfect mirage. Uncertain. Each turbulent jerk of the airplane increased my sense of unease. In a haze, I felt myself careening, but just before I imagined hitting the ground, I was raised into rays of heavenly luster. A strange way to travel, I thought.

Several hours earlier, at the airport in New York, I was bumped up to premium economy as soon as I paid for extra luggage. A sign, I considered, of the mood I needed to become familiar with, the feeling of being out of place.

I was finally relocating to Lagos, a city and an amassment of questions. What would I arrive to find? As the plane hit the tarmac, for real this time, I shut my eyes, and in that hairline of space between eyelid and eyeball, I saw my father’s face in a violet vision. Then I heard the growing ruckus of grateful passengers and became conscious of a different face, its singular welcome.

Ayobami was waiting for me. We were engaged. She saw me trudging with my suitcases stacked on a trolley, and her smile grew, gradually, in radiance. Watching her make her way to me, I felt a burst of readiness for the first time since my trip began. She had come with a porter, who took my trolley and led the way. Ayobami and I embraced with hunger. I felt her face. Then we turned quickly to follow the porter.

I noticed two men, standing on the curb, who seemed to have watched us all the while. “Cook pepper soup for him this night o,” one of them said to her when we walked past. She responded with the murmur of a scoff, and I felt riled up, wanting to call back to the men with words of warning. Instead, I kissed her, then reached to knead her knuckles.

For close to seven years, I lived in New York City. In my time there, I studied for a graduate degree in art criticism, then found part-time work as an adjunct professor while I continued to write freelance. But the day came when, due in part to a death in my family, I felt ready to shirk the assurances of work and return to the country I was born in. By the morning of my flight in December 2019, I had ended the lease to my Brooklyn apartment, shipped my books, and announced to my friends and employers that my return date was indeterminate. It was the most practical thing to do in preparation for a year when I hoped to get closer to my family—both through the nature of traveling I was committing to, and by renting a house in Lagos. The greater permanence of my presence, I imagined, would give us better access to each other.

I glanced out of the taxi window and saw that we were now under the cantilevers of the Lekki-Ikoyi Bridge. I drifted into introspection. In a year or two, would I squander the straws of my resolve and think of Nigeria with a grudge, the land whose pull I’d miscalculated from afar? I also wanted to know, without equivocation, what kind of country I was returning to, what kind of investigations it required from me. I turned toward Ayobami, who I knew would be my sure companion through it all. She was watching me and had likely done so throughout the time I faced the window. I pulled her closer, and she settled her head on my shoulder. The car sped onto Admiralty Way. We entered tender into the night.




two

A video, recorded on May 26, 1967, begins with a noiseless pan of faces: mostly men who are gathered, it seems, in front of the State House in Enugu, the capital of Nigeria’s Eastern Region. They’re holding up large proclamations.

give us biafra, federation has died blessed
be the democratic republic of biafra
declare us biafrans now
biafra we want

Each man has assumed the demeanor he considers most momentous, as if readying for a snapshot—fists are raised, eyes are shaded with sunglasses, faces are held in fixed smiles. Then the camera shows another placard, which partly reads ojukwu. Then it cuts to different footage.

We’re inside the State House now. More men, a scattering of women, gathered for a meeting of the Consultative Assembly of Chiefs and Elders—a group, by some estimates, of up to 335 people. They flank a dais. From the rear, Odumegwu Ojukwu emerges, walking with his hands folded behind him, and turns to the camera just when he is closest to it. He is young enough for his stern-faced glance to seem as though he is working up resolve.

“Your meeting today is very crucial,” he says when he’s at the podium. “Eastern Nigeria is at the crossroads. Since our last meeting, everything possible has been done by enemies of the East to escalate the crisis in an attempt to bring about the collapse of this region. They have failed and will continue to fail.”

I watch the balance in the lieutenant colonel’s demeanor, the care in his enunciation, the bulge of his eyes, the movement of his brow. I consider him the type of man who understands the distinction between authority and adoration, and who can leverage the former to enjoy the latter.

The next afternoon, following a noisy session, the Consultative Assembly, made up of several leading politicians in eastern Nigeria, unanimously mandated Ojukwu to declare the region an independent state at the earliest practicable date. Its name and title would be the Republic of Biafra. Three days later, during the early hours of May 30, Ojukwu gathered diplomats and journalists to the State House and made a declaration of independence.

Then, on June 3, 1967, a soundless video montage is recorded by the Reuters news agency: The Biafran flag hangs at the entrance to the State House, now being called Biafra Lodge. A huddle of men in suits, each awaits his turn to shake hands with Ojukwu. Ojukwu, in a striped, dark kaftan, is addressing the press. He looks up half smiling and now, seen closer, brings a cigarette to his mouth, his eyes closed as he takes a puff. A poster—don’t sell your region, it reads—is affixed to a window, with the illustration of a soldier in uniform holding out a pouch marked with a £ sign. Close to the end of the video, a smiling man, wearing sunglasses and a bowler hat, holds a drawing of Ojukwu below his chin.

The rest of the seventy-second video contains footage of the Niger Bridge in Onitsha, the town at Biafra’s western border: Soldiers have mounted a barricade. A group pushing a cart with a jumble of belongings, including a bicycle, walks across in a hurry, barefoot. One woman is running. Behind her, three armored tanks are parked, squat and malevolent.

I set out first to Afikpo, the town in northeastern Igboland where my family is from. It was a trip planned with little preparation, during my first month of being back in Nigeria. I kept most of the luggage I’d returned with in Ayobami’s flat. Yet while settling into my leased apartment and having some time to spare, I wished to know all that was known in Afikpo about my uncle. I hoped to pick up fragments of his life story from my father’s relatives, who were likely to welcome me once I mentioned my father’s name.

I say that I am Igbo, and my people are from Afikpo, yet I confess that, due to how often we moved as a family, I am estranged from this town and that ethnicity. I have never lived here, only visiting when prompted by an occasion in the family. Yet at twenty-two, right after university, I went unaccompanied for the first time. I stayed in the house of my father’s close friend, who was the secretary of one of the traditional councils and had reams of unpublished historical accounts in a back room. I spent idle hours hunched over piles of paper, realizing that I felt inclined to study Afikpo’s past more than its present, as though my chief method of belonging to the town was historical, not filial. This time, I was going to Afikpo without the illusion that my ancestry was remote.

There is no pan-Igbo origin story. Unlike the Yorubas, for example, who claim universal descent from Oduduwa, the various subgroups in Igboland—a tropical forest region with a total landmass of about forty thousand square kilometers and an approximate population today of forty million—are not linked by a common ancestor or a linear narrative of settlement. Yet the word now standardized as Igbo—once written as Eboe and Ibo—has been in use since at least 1789, when Oluadah Equiano, perhaps the best-known precolonial Igbo man, who was sold as a slave to a Royal Navy officer, published his autobiography. Scholars take two approaches in determining a shared cultural identity for Igbos. First, an etymological approach: that Igbo is a word for ancient inhabitants of a forest area or for a community with shared values. Others focus on the geography of the area by examining settlement patterns and arguing that there was a core heartland from which subgroups originated.

Genre:

  • Named a Best Book of 2023 by Vulture and a  Most Anticipated Book of 2023 by The Republic
  • “Traveling through Nigeria, Emmanuel Iduma confronts and contemplates the wounds left by the Biafran war: death on a mass scale; deaths in his family; griefs, angers and questions that still plague the living. I Am Still With You is both epic and intimate. It gives us the beauties and consolations of an ethnical imagination.”—Margo Jefferson, author of Constructing a Nervous System
  • "I Am Still With You by Emmanuel Iduma is a lyrical investigation into the nature of being, history, the collective memory of Biafra—a dark chapter in world history. Iduma writes with such startling clarity that the book ultimately becomes both powerful and transcendent."—Chigozie Obioma, Booker Prize-shortlisted author of The Fishermen and An Orchestra of Minorities
  • "This adroitly crafted work seeks closure for 'a generation that has to lift itself from the hushes and gaps of the history of the war.'”—The New Yorker, "The Best Books We Read This Week"
  • “Quietly brilliant…Iduma blends travelogue, reportage, criticism, memoir, and history in a hypnotic tale…What emerges is both an argument for narrative that resembles life — narrative that refuses to hew to the conventions of genre for the sake of it — and a subtle critique of the idea of genre itself.”—Vulture
  • “An expansive book…Through a skillful structure and expressive prose, I Am Still With You brings together probing philosophical questions about inheritance, cogent historical and political concerns…inventive, tender, and all its own.”—Lucy McKeon, Electric Literature
  • “As he searches for an uncle, missing since the 1967 Nigerian-Biafra war, Iduma’s conversations and chance encounters begin to fill the gaps memory cannot. He doesn’t know how the ‘fragments of the story fit together,’ but the journey teaches him how to grieve everything he, and Nigeria, have lost.”—The Boston Globe
  • “In I Am Still With You, Iduma meets the lacunae of his uncle’s life head on, in turn confronting other painful absences within his family with a thoughtful introspection, using history, literature, the archive, and vivid encounters from everyday life to make a path across the abyss.”—Los Angeles Review of Books / LARB Radio Hour
  • “An often moving account of his consciously unsystematic journey through the former Biafra region, from conversations with close and distant relatives to chance encounters. Increasingly less interested in how and whether ‘the different fragments of the story fit together,' Mr. Iduma learns that he can go home again — and immerse himself in an ‘Igbo melody.’”—Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
  • “A bold, poignant tale of speaking into the silence of history.’”—Shelf Awareness
  • I Am Still with You is filled with such echo of loss, of longing, so much that before you are halfway in, the mood envelopes you. It takes skill to deploy this in a way that is not easily seen on-page but is instead felt.”—Open Country Mag
  • “A poignant story rescued from…silences and lacunae. A powerful contribution to modern Nigerian history, particularly significant in an age of ethnic conflict around the world.”—Kirkus Reviews, *starred review*
  • “Searching war-scarred Biafra for traces of his uncle, a writer grapples with gaps in his family’s history and his own bifurcated identity… [Iduma’s] contemplative, poetic search brings him closer to his wife Ayobami and reminds him that his life remains inseparable from the history of his homeland.”—Booklist
  • “An immersive memoir… throughout, Iduma reflects on the power of family to both unite and divide…Iduma’s unravelling of the past is bound to leave readers eager to uncover their own family secrets.”—Publishers Weekly
  • “[A] haunting new memoir… Those interested in personal stories about Nigeria will likely enjoy this book.”—Library Journal
  • “His contemplative, poetic search brings him closer to his wife Ayobami and reminds him that his life remains inseparable from the history of his homeland.”—Kirkus Reviews
  • “In this melange of reportage and memoir, Iduma sets out to learn more about his uncle, and by extension his family.”—BuzzFeed
  • “In clear, elegiac prose, Iduma’s search leads to an affecting conclusion.”—The New Statesman
  • “A precious and lucid account on an event which is still insufficiently covered in the African media.”—The African Book Review
  • “A vital recollection.”—OkayAfrica
  • “His narrative captures the poetry of living and dying. Its language, with its ability to transport me through time and across space, beckoned me to travel.”—Brittle Paper
  • “A genre-defying work, I Am Still with You is a quest, both spiritual and real, a travelogue, a memoir, and a history of Biafra. It is a requiem to war’s unburied and unsung. It is a record of a writer’s mind grappling with the consequences of a national and personal loss. Acutely observed, hauntingly rendered, and deeply affecting—a masterful achievement.”—Aminatta Forna, author of Happiness and The Window Seat
  • “Like Manthia Diawara's In Search of Africa, Emmanuel Iduma's story of a nation's making—and unmaking—is rooted in a personal search for a lost individual. I Am Still With You is a moving account of a return, and a profound, elegiac plea for recognition of both the living and the dead. A compelling, sharply-observed story of discovery, beautifully paced and haunting in its details.” —Amitava Kumar, author of A Time Outside This Time and Immigrant, Montana
  • “To the daughter of a Nigerian man, long gone, this book shines a light through the silent fog that shrouded our past. It is a gift of understanding, for me and countless others.”—Rachel Edwards, author of Darling
  • “This expansive yet intimate memoir is about the author’s attempt to discover what became of his uncle. It is also an illuminating reckoning with the legacy of Biafra, a nation that continues to exist in the imaginations of many decades after it was defeated.”—Amazon Book Review

On Sale
Feb 21, 2023
Page Count
224 pages
Publisher
Algonquin Books
ISBN-13
9781643753690

Emmanuel Iduma

About the Author

Emmanuel Iduma, born in 1989, is a writer who trained as a lawyer in Nigeria. He is the author of the travelogue A Stranger’s Pose (Cassava Republic Press, 2018), which was longlisted for 2019 Ondaatje Prize. He has written for Granta, n+1, the New York Review of Books, BOMB, Brooklyn Rail, Aperture, Guernica, and others, and received many grants and awards, including the Windham-Campbell Prize. Iduma has an MFA in Art Writing from the School of Visual Arts, New York City and taught there for several years before moving to Lagos, Nigeria.
 
 

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