2022 Longlist for the National Book Awards
Winner of the Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets, Sherry Shenoda’s collection Mummy Eaters follows in the footsteps of an imagined ancestor, one of the daughters of the house of Akhenaten in the Eighteenth Dynasty, Egypt. Shenoda forges an imagined path through her ancestor’s mummification and journey to the afterlife. Parallel to this exploration run the implications of colonialism on her passage.
The mythology of the ancient Egyptians was oriented toward resurrection through the preservation of the human body in mummification. Shenoda juxtaposes this reverence for the human body as sacred matter and a pathway to eternal life with the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century European fascination with ingesting Egyptian human remains as medicine and using exhumed Egyptian mummies as paper, paint, and fertilizer. Today Egyptian human remains are displayed in museums. Much of Mummy Eaters is written as a call and response, in the Coptic tradition, between the imagined ancestor and the author as descendant.