Born in a Second Language


Akosua Zimba Afiriyie-Hwedie, 2021

WINNER, 2019 Button Poetry Prize.


Born in a Second Language investigates how translation shapes and alters both language and identity as speakers travel through space and time.

In this book, languages are a means of conjuring an existence, of full expression and of defining who one becomes. Home exists on a spectrum: Botswana, Zambia, Ghana, one’s body, music, mother, mother tongue etc.

Akosua Zimba Afiriyie-Hwedie’s book is an exploration of African and female identity, navigating what it means to be in-between identities, languages and homes and how those in-between spaces brush up against each other, and are in themselves, a home too.


Praise for Born in a Second Language

Born in a Second Language by Akosua Zimba Afiriyie-Hwedie is a book of beautiful poems, yes, but it is also a journey in time, in space, in a body. “I / look beyond God / for a woman / like my mother” says this poet, and I am hooked right away. It is a book that speaks in a full voice, a book that is unafraid of inventiveness, unafraid of play, unafraid also of telling it like it is–full truth. And what does this truth do? It asks tough questions: of itself, of us, of this very language: “How can I trust God In the language / in which He first forsook me” asks this voice. “How can I when / English makes a sentence sink, / iron gags and fastens mouths?” This is a powerful, necessary debut.

– Ilya Kaminsky, author of Dancing in Odessa and Deaf Republic

“As if somehow my open / mouth and this day’s English could unscramble Africa / and rejoin what was cut,” Afiriyie-Hwedie reminds us of one of the many labors of writing in English: the paradoxical hope that the language that makes you then breaks you over and over will yield itself long enough to build you. Holding trust and distrust in a singular pen stroke, she gives us words that welcome us home despite the persistent threat of refusal. She builds. And is building….

– Marwa Helal, author of Invasive Species

About Akosua Zimba Afiriyie-Hwedie

Akosua Zimba Afiriyie-Hwedie is a Zambian-Ghanaian poet who grew up in Botswana. She holds an MFA in poetry from the University of Michigan. She is the author of Born in a Second Language, winner of Button Poetry’s 2019… MORE

Additional information

Weight3.2 oz
Dimensions8.5 × 5.5 × .187 in

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Page Count

53 pages

Publication Date

July 6, 2021

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