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Q&A with Lola Akinmade Åkerström - Everything is Not Enough

By Saffron Coutts

We are honoured to welcome Lola Akinmade Åkerström to The Reading Corner to talk about her new release, Everything is Not Enough, released on the 24th of October 2023.

Can a career woman truly have it all?

Powerful marketing executive Kemi Adeyemi has finally found the man she needs, but Tobias Wikström thinks she’s the most selfish woman he has ever met for asking him to give up his life in Sweden and move to the US for her own comfort. Will Kemi be forced to stay if she wants to keep him while chipping away at her hard-earned career? As things begin to sour and challenge her relationship with Tobias, someone else moves back into the picture.

Can having it all be a gilded cage?

Looking into divorce in Sweden isn’t what former model-turned-flight attendant Brittany-Rae von Lundin anticipated. Only jointly owned assets are split evenly between couples. Brittany gave up her career and came with nothing into Jonny’s kingdom. Having had a child with him, her greatest fear for Maya includes being cut off from the resources she’s become accustomed to. With a man obsessed with a ghost, trying to get away isn’t going to be easy. And the deeper she digs into his past, the darker the secrets she unravels.

Can you run from your past to have it all?

After fleeing her home through a client to seek a new life in Sweden, Yasmiin finds love in the arms of Yagiz Çelik while carving out her own small corner. But as someone from her past forces Yasmiin to become a caretaker before she’s ready, she now must confront and move beyond her teenage history, while following her dreams of becoming a makeup artist.

Everything Is Not Enough follows the loosely intertwined and messy lives of Kemi, Brittany, and Yasmiin as they interrogate themes of place, prejudice, and patriarchy in Europe, proving—yet again—that Lola Akinmade Åkerström is the next great voice of nuanced contemporary women’s fiction.

Before we begin our Q&A, I have to say this was such a beautiful but raw book to read. It felt like a brutally honest love letter, not just to women in general, but our women of colour. Using three perspectives of different women all on their own journey of self- acceptance, it forces you as the reader to sit up and notice the similarities in their struggle of making their voice heard. I devoured this book within the space of a few days, absolutely desperate to see that Brittany-Rae, Kemi and Yasmiin all receive and accept the love and success that they deserve.

Thank you so much for your kind words. It means a lot. I really appreciate it. My work is to make people feel completely seen in their messiness, and give them grace to grow.

As Everything is Not Enough is set in Sweden, there is a strong inclusion of the Swedish language throughout the novel. I loved that the character whose perspective we were reading determined whether we got a translation for the Swedish being spoken. Furthermore, if the character failed to understand what was being said we were also without a translation. It gave us a taste of the frustration felt when the lack of fluency was weaponized against them. Was this taken from personal experience in relocating to Sweden? If so, what did you want the readers to take away from this?

Thanks for noticing this! It was something I was conscious of portraying in the book. The characters that got the most Swedish translations were those who were more fluent in the language. I wanted to bring that feeling of being unmoored when you’re learning a new language. From being a beginner to swimming in an ocean of intermediates as I’ve written about. So, I want the reader to experience what it feels like when you’re trying to integrate versus assimilate while stilling learning the nuances of your host culture.

What inspired you to write from three perspectives?

I wanted to show that the Black woman experience wasn’t a monolith and the best way to do that is to have three different Black women living side by side so you can see how their backgrounds, values, experiences, socioeconomic status, and personal views in life affect how they emote and navigate society. So, when one of the women makes a mistake, the reader doesn’t make a blanket “well you know how Black women are” statement. Through the book, they process Kemi, Brittany-Rae, and Yasmiin as fully formed individuals independent of each other and the colour of their skin.

A strong theme that emerges from the book is the manipulation and abuse of women’s bodies, was this something that felt essential to understand a black woman’s perspective in society and home?

Simply scroll on TikTok and you see all the degrading and disrespectful videos of Black women that both White and Black people post. From mocking wigs flying off to fatphobia and other misogynoir. Most recently, a white Icelandic woman slapped a 13-year-old Black British girl on a school trip to Iceland. In a region of the world – Nordics - where hitting children is a crime. And I haven’t even brought in the conversation of sex-trafficking Black women in Europe. I need to keep bringing all this to the forefront in my work.

Without spoiling anything, when two of the characters had their own self-affirming moments in the salon near the end of the book my heart just about burst for them. It felt as if part of their inner peace had been restored by regaining a part of their identity back. Yasmiin started a conversation on how there is not enough education and access to beauty that does not just cater to white women. Do you find a lack of space for all beauty and hair types to still be a prominent issue in Sweden? I found Yasmiin’s declaration of “you need to love the people who show you love too” particularly striking, there is still such an unwillingness from some to lift others up instead of tearing them down.

Thank you. I really wanted to highlight the importance of community. Of connecting with people across various intersections. From being fellow immigrants to being Black women who have certain beauty needs to sharing the same socioeconomic status across ethnicity. The salon Yasmiin works in was inspired by my dear friend Jamaican American Lyota Swainson’s Zuzy Pretty salon in Stockholm. I collaborate with Black Swedish-owned brand Aysha Jones’ Färg Makeup for giveaways with both my books. The Afrosvenskarnas Riksorganisation (Afro-Swedish Organization) is doing great work in ensuring our voices are heard and matter in society. The Afro-Swedish community here is growing stronger by the day. We’re showing up to support and cheer each other publicly. We’re breaking down barriers and showing that we can thrive in the harshest of environments – both physically and metaphorically.

Did you ever see different endings for Kemi, Yasmiin and Brittany-Rae, if so, why did you change direction?

I think the endings grew organically from each of their situations. With Brittany-Rae’s ending, that was a challenge because if you’re divorced and share children, you’re not allowed to leave the country if your ex doesn’t officially permit it. Kemi’s ending could have gone many ways, but I’m happy with the direction it took.

If you could give one piece of advice to anyone experiencing the same adversities in moving to a new place as Kemi, Yasmiin and Brittany-Rae, what would it be?

Do thorough research, then proceed with an open mind. Some things may just be due to culture clashes, but most things stem from systemic exclusion, especially in Europe more so than in the US or UK. I enjoy living here. On paper, what’s not to love?! Our high taxes contribute to incredible work-life balance, a social safety net, and generous parental leave. But social comfort can also coexist with toxic environments that affect the mental wellbeing of women of colour. Those two things aren’t mutually exclusive.

What was the research like for the book? Where did you get the initial idea to include Turkish culture through Yagiz?

A lot of the research spilled over from my first book, but I also did more research into sex trafficking, phantom limbs, divorce laws in Sweden through my network, and more. I am also a travel writer and Istanbul is one of my absolute favourite cities in the world. I love the energy, openness, and warmth of the people and the city in general. I also wanted to add some nuance to the stereotype of the Turkish immigrant in Europe as well. Yagiz loves his family fiercely and is extremely hardworking. Instead of “othering” him, I wanted readers to get to know him as a person, empathize with why he makes the decisions he makes, and give him space to be fully human without absolving him of any of his decisions.

I would love to read more of your work! Is there anything in the works at the moment and what can readers expect to see from any future releases!?

I’m currently working on a third novel with the title “THE DEEPEST WELL” and it is historical fiction in a sense. It follows the life of Nancy Ndow who moves to Stockholm in the late 70s for college and how her life expands from there. The dual timeline follows her daughter Tina who was a popstar and who eventually becomes an activist.

You guessed it. The same Nancy who is Tobias’s mother from both IN EVERY MIRROR SHE’S BLACK and EVERYTHING IS NOT ENOUGH.

Finally, where can people purchase their own copy of Everything is Not Enough?

From any of your favourite booksellers and most of the major online outlets, but to support independent bookstores, you can buy it here from

Lola Akinmade Åkerström is a Nigerian photographer, speaker, travel storyteller and an international author whose books are published in 18 languages. She is based in Stockholm, Sweden. She is the current editor-in-chief for Slow Travel Stockholm.

Her work has appeared in National Geographic, BBC, CNN, The Guardian, Travel + Leisure, New York Times, Slate, Travel Channel, Magazine, The Sunday Times, AFAR, Lonely Planet, Fodor’s, several in-flight magazines, amongst others.


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