Smith, Alexandria

  • Alexandria Smith
  • Women's and Gender Studies, Rutgers University
  • Abstract Title: Roaring Inside the Marble: Queer Diaspora in Akwaeke Emezi’s Freshwater

Abstract: Akwaeke Emezi’s debut, deeply autobiographical novel Freshwater (2018, Grove Press) is a text concerned with disrupting how space is perceived. Emezi is of Tamil and Igbo heritage, both groups with a significant diaspora. In Freshwater protagonist Ada’s mind is visualized as a marble room: “cool veined white walls and floors.” Throughout the novel, this room is the site of Ada’s struggle with the wily and insistent spirits that comprise part of her self, as an ogbanje. In this paper, I read the white marble room of Ada’s mind as an iteration of S/Place, the figure Nourbese Philip theorizes as the linking of black women’s interiority and external surroundings in the New World. More specifically, I explore the metaphor of the white marble room as an entry point for examining the ways that Freshwater disrupts colonial aesthetics, architecture, and geographies. I trace how Ada’s movements across geographic space and refusals of normative modes of identifying enact what Gayatri Gopinath, Nadia Ellis, and others name as queer diaspora. 


Bio: Alexandria Smith is a PhD candidate in Women's and Gender Studies at Rutgers University. She was raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, and received a B.A. in Comparative Women’s Studies and International Studies from Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia. Alexandria’s dissertation, “Blackness (from) Elsewhere,” examines how Black queer women’s semi- and autobiographical writing translates lived experience into creative and theoretical material.