Posted in fiction

‘Freshwater’ gives fresh language for body and spirit

Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi (available from BookPeople) tells the story of someone whose identity has always been defined by multiple spirits, the ọgbanje.

“So we were still caged inside the Ada, with the grainy memory of charcoal coating the back of her throat. She was more isolated than ever and we were chafing at still being flesh, so the only thing left to do was hunt. If we were trapped in a body, then we would do bodily things. We painted the Ada’s mouth and lined her eyes with night, and we went out with Asụghara on a long and relaxed leash.”

The physical world, especially the human body in relation to it, and Ada’s body in particular within this novel, is called an “oath.” It serves as a reminder that spirits belong in the spirit world; hence, it is a promise made to those spirits who have stopped in and bound themselves to the physical world only for a time.

“With a force like ours, we dragged other things along — a pact, bits of bone, an igneous rock, worn-out velveteen, a strip of human hide tying it all together. This compound object is called the iyi-ụwa, the oath of the world. It is a promise we made when we were free and floating, before we entered the Ada. The oath says that we will come back, that we will not stay in this world, that we are loyal to the other side. When spirits like us are put inside flesh, this oath becomes a real object, one that functions as a bridge. It is usually buried or hidden because it is the way back, if you understand that the doorway is death.”

Emezi has achieved something special in their book. This is a powerful way of speaking about gender, personality, embodiment, culture, authenticity and fidelity to oneself, and the conflicting emotions and inner forces that pull us. Their website:

Posted in art

‘Bad Fire’: A new, hallucinatory memoir

From the book description (2018 short version):

“A brief, galloping memoir of mental illness, containing unflinching observations and unorthodox positions on Judaism, atheism, gender, weight loss, madness, and butterflies. With color illustrations by the author.”


After these events concluded in my life, I spent seven months writing this thirty-page memoir. Every word was scrubbed over and over. It was a short, emotionally intense, true story. It was what I had to offer at that time.

eBook and Paperback

The written text has been updated in late 2020. The new version is available through Amazon’s print-on-demand and Kindle services and will be made available through independent bookstores, too (stay tuned).


Although the short version published in late 2018 is no longer available for sale as ebook/paperback, you can still listen to my original narration for free. Bad Fire by Tucker Lieberman. Read by the author. (1 hour, 1 minute; MP3, 90 MB) Intro/outro music by Tyops (Creative Commons attribution license). This audio was featured on Wombwell Rainbow.

Please note: The new version available for sale as ebook/paperback as of late 2020 is nearly three times as long. It doesn’t correspond exactly to the narration of the 2018 version.


Since publishing Bad Fire, I continue to learn and share more.

  1. “What can we make of the death of Aaron’s sons?”, published 7 March 2019 on, in which I discuss the Biblical background of some of the imagery in Bad Fire. 
  2. “The Suicide of Nadav and Abihu,” published in the Passover/Spring 2019 issue of Shalom Magazine, in which I reach a conclusion on that same question. (Turn to page 40 in the Issuu reader below.)
  3. I was interviewed by Maribel Garcia for Book Club Babble. (Posted 2 May 2019.)
  4. “Crisis: A Playlist” is my guest blog for Anne Davis’ Running In Shadows. (27 May 2020.)

New version

The old version is no longer for sale. Here’s more about the new version.