Mummy Eaters


Mummy Eaters

Sherry Shenoda
Foreword by Kwame Dawes

African Poetry Book Series

104 pages


September 2022


$17.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)

September 2022


$17.95 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)

September 2022


$17.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

2023 American Book Award
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.

Author Bio

Sherry Shenoda is a Coptic poet and pediatrician, born in Cairo, living near Los Angeles. Working at the intersection of human rights and child health, she serves as a pediatrician in a nonprofit health center. She is the author of The Lightkeeper: A Novel.


“I think of this book as a book of invocations. A shimmering history of histories. A wail in a chorus of wailing and a prayer in a chorus of prayers where time is pleated and beloved people and places who have passed into death are ‘alive, there, through the aperture of grief.’ This book is a prayer for time to ‘settle an aloe on mother’s heart.’ Such poems thrum with the brilliant, meditative attention of someone who learns from every thing. See: ‘Lend me, gazelle, your fleet hooves […] / I seek the Field of Reeds, the blue lotus. / Bring the cobra. I do not fear him.’ There is such deep intelligence, tenderness, and courage everywhere here.”—Aracelis Girmay, author of The Black Maria

Table of Contents

Foreword by Kwame Dawes
Sunflowers of Fukushima: Invocation
Part I
Ancestor Opening of the Mouth: A Daughter’s Long Wail
Aftermath: A Mother’s Long Wai
Mummification: Early Lessons
From Mummification to the Incarnation
Descendant Ponders the Rising Cost of Dying
Race against Time I
Shabti, Ushabti: “Answerer”
Descendant Ponders Space
Ancestor Dreams of the River Nile by a Dark Gate
Kemet, Nile
Descendants, in Memory of Our Family Farm
Ancestor Makes a Negative Confession
Etymologies: God
Descendant Mourns Akhenaten: A Lesser Hymn to One God
Apophatic Confession
To Become One of the Blessed Dead
Part II
Etymologies: Mummy
Mummy Eaters
Immigration: “King (Deceased)”
Living Mummies
A Dealer Sits
Flesh Trade
Descendants Discuss Motivation, Your Honor
Descendants Discuss Literary Merits of Mummy Eating
Thomas Pettigrew Mansplains Mummies
How to Silence I: British Lessons
How to Silence II: Roman Lessons
Stolen Hour
How to Silence III: Greek Lessons
Race against Time II
Mummy Brown
Supply and Demand
Part III
Race against Time III
Descendant Talks Suffering with Old Aunties
Descendant Opening of the Eyes: A Daughter’s Long Wail
Descendant Interrogated about Suffering and Ancestry
Descendant Addresses French Boy: Skin Politics
Descendants Offer Prayer
Etymologies: Book of the Dead
Cairo, 1958
Descendants Discuss Definitives
Descendant Names Modern Mummy Eaters
How to Silence: Mathematics Edition
True Mirror
Ancestor Calms Descendant’s Fears about Having Children in a World without Kemet
El Asar
How to Silence IV: Arabic Lessons
Ou-ta: How to Speak from Silence
Final Test
Letters for My Grandmothers
Notes and References


2023 American Book Award
2022 Longlist for the National Book Awards

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