These Letters End in Tears

Publication: 2024

Author: Musih Tedji Xaviere

Set in a country where being gay is punishable by law, These Letters End in Tears is the heart-wrenching forbidden love story of a Christian girl with a rebellious heart and a Muslim girl leading a double life

Bessem notices Fatima for the first time on the soccer field—muscular and focused, she’s the only woman playing and seems completely at ease. When Fatima chases a rogue ball in her direction, Bessem freezes, mesmerized by the athlete’s charm and beauty. One playful wink from Fatima, and Bessem knows her life will never be the same.

In Cameroon, a country where same-sex relationships are punishable by law, the odds are stacked against Bessem and Fatima from the start. And when Fatima’s older brother, a staunch Muslim, finds out about their affair, he intervenes by physically assaulting them, an incident that precedes a police raid at the only gay bar in town. After spending days in jail, Fatima goes missing without a trace, and Bessem is left with only rumors of her whereabouts. Has Fatima been sentenced to an unknown prison? Has she been banished from her community, or married off, as the rumors suggest? Or something even more sinister?

Thirteen years later, Bessem is now a university professor leading a relatively quiet life, occasionally and secretly dating other women. However, she has never forgotten Fatima. After spotting a mutual friend for the first time in years—the last person who may have seen Fatima—Bessem embarks on a winding search for her lost love.

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Covers

Original Language

ENGLISH (North America) | Catapult
ENGLISH (UK & Commonwealth excl. Canada) | Jacaranda Books
ENGLISH (West Africa) | Masobe Books

Translation Rights

DANISH | Klim
DUTCH | Orlando
ITALIAN | Astoria

Prizes

Winner of the Pontas & JJ Bola Emerging Writers Prize 2021

Reviews

"An urgent and devastating story about the cost of living in a place that refuses to recognize your humanity. With vivid and textured prose, Musih Tedji Xaviere weaves a tale readers will not soon forget." Soon Wiley, author of When We Fell Apart

"Xaviere’s debut novel evokes intimacy, apprehension, and suspense to deliver a portrayal of sorrow—specifically, the pain of being queer in an unaccepting society— that feels wholeheartedly real, as if reading a friend’s diary . . . Along with grief, Christian-raised narrator Bessem draws on the motif of masking in her astute observations of Cameroon’s class, religious, and cultural tensions as well as its underground queer culture, laying bare the societal structures compelling allegiance to the status quo. Deeply tragic, Xaviere’s novel stands as a literary testimony to injustice, corruption, and violence—all for the preservation of love.” Lillian Liao, Booklist

"This is a gut punch of a novel. Every now and then one story will consume every part of you and this will do it . . . A beautiful and wrenching story.” Adam Vitcavage, Debutiful

"Xaviere has woven together a needed story about love and how that love gets torn apart by homophobia. Using lovely prose and an intimate epistolary style, we follow Bessem's journey in finding her long lost love." Soraya Palmer, author of The Human Origins of Beatrice Porter and Other Essential Ghosts

“A tender, moving portrait of forbidden desire. In deft, clear prose, Xaviere presents us with the devastating and yet redemptive power of love.” Chukwuebuka Ibeh, author of Blessings

"A smart, finely detailed book that contends with not only sexuality, homophobia, and traditional gender roles, but also the legacy of colonialism in West Africa. . . Xaviere’s vivid and moving first novel is a resounding success." Kirkus Reviews

“An engaging debut of a memorable forbidden love beautifully narrated by one of the voices to watch.” Zukiswa Wanner, author of The Madams

"Musih Tedji Xaviere's debut novel These Letters End In Tears, is a beautifully tender, heartfelt story about love and the devastating consequences of a world that is not yet all accepting. Her prose is deft and delicate, pulling you quickly in and holding you, as though you were living it." JJ Bola, author of The Selfless Act of Breathing

"Xaviere’s heartrending story is an important addition to African queer literature." Kuhelike Ghosh, Brittle Paper