'Nzelu writes with a witty confidence rarely seen in debut fiction. Smart, serious and entertaining, I expect this book to have wide appeal and for the writer to go far.'

Bernardine Evaristo, author of Booker-shortlisted novel, Girl, Woman, Other

'A magnificent novel, full of wit, warmth and tenderness'

Andrew McMillan

'I haven't been able to put it down... Okechukwu Nzelu has effortlessly captured the tricky nuance of life, love, race, sexuality and familial relationships'

Candice Carty-Williams, author of Queenie

‘[a] tender, funny debut…Nzelu writes with compelling honesty, but he’s also gifted with a warm sense of humour.'

Daily Mail

‘a vivid picture of people seeking security and identity in the maze of modern-day England. This is fiction as sculpture: skilfully paring down a scene to reveal the shape of the pain hidden within. Jonathan’s search for validation, and Nnenna’s drive to create an identity for herself, are moving and relatable stories, intimately told’


'A promising debut novel about race, class, family, belief and sexuality'


Figuring out who you truly are is the central theme of this open-hearted debut . . . a quietly complex plot comes together and a lyrical epilogue takes over

Irish Times

One of my earliest pieces for the Church Times was about Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's debut novel Purple Hibiscus, and I remember feeling reluctant to use the word "masterpiece" of that book, which indeed it was. Okechukwu Nzelu is another new Nigerian writer to celebrate: The Private Joys of Nnenna Maloney has the same clear, well-written prose and natural dialogue, the same important human issues deftly touched on, the clashes between generations, and, crucially, how skin-colour can warp, but also illuminate, a human life

Church Times

'[An] effervescent depiction of race and sexuality in 21st-century Britain. Nzelu is a delightfully generous writer and treats the conflicts of his characters with equal sympathy but he is best of all on the multiple subtle ways in which the most well-intentioned straight white people use sexuality and race to 'other' even their closest friends. He's also very funny . . . zesty social comedy that skewers religious, racial and sexual prejudice with a light touch'


'Witty narrative . . . [a] well-written tale'

Financial Times

'This debut is the big-hearted story of a half-Nigerian teenager growing up in Manchester, desperate to find out the truth about her Igbo heritage'


'Okechukwu writes with confidence, wit and humour. Unforgettable characters and a voice that stays with you even after the final page. Edifying and hilarious, The Private of Joys of Nnenna Maloney is a beautiful debut that you won't want to put down.'

Derek Owusu, writer, poet and podcaster

How do you begin to find yourself when you only know half of who you are?

As Nnenna Maloney approaches adulthood she longs to connect with her Igbo-Nigerian culture. Her close and tender relationship with her mother, Joanie, becomes strained as Nnenna begins to ask probing questions about her father, whom Joanie refuses to discuss.

Nnenna is asking big questions about how to 'be' when she doesn't know the whole of who she is. Meanwhile, Joanie wonders how to love when she has never truly been loved. Their lives are filled with a cast of characters asking similar questions about identity and belonging whilst grappling with the often hilarious encounters of everyday Manchester.

The Private Joys of Nnenna Maloney is a funny and tender tribute to community, faith and forgiveness; to growing up and growing into ourselves.


Okechukwu Nzelu

Okechukwu Nzelu is a writer and teacher. He was born in Manchester in 1988 and read English at Girton College, Cambridge. His work has been published in Agenda, PN Review, E-magazine and The Literateur and his essay 'Troubles with God' was published in the anthology Safe: On Black British Men Reclaiming Space (Trapeze, 2019). In 2013 his radio play, Me and Alan, was broadcast on Roundhouse Radio. In 2015 he was the recipient of a New Writing North Award for The Private Joys of Nnenna Maloney, which is his debut novel. He lives in Manchester.


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