HarperCollins Speakers Bureau

Bassey Ikpi

New York Times Bestselling Author, Performer and Mental Health Advocate


  • I'm Telling the Truth but I'm Lying
  • Mental Health in the Black Community
  • How to Parent with Mental Illness
  • How to Make Work, Work for You: Navigating Your Career and Balancing Mental Health
  • The Importance of Storytelling: for Individual Healing and Community Transformation


More Media

Bassey Ikpi embodies the brilliance of multifaceted creative minds. Ikpi is a writer, performer, mental health advocate and author of the instant New York Times bestselling book, I’m Telling the Truth, but I’m Lying (Harper Perennial). Essence Magazine called her debut collection of essays “beautiful and compelling,” while Audible defines the writing as both “visceral” and “comforting.”

In I’m Telling the Truth, but I’m Lying, Ikpi explores her life—as a Nigerian-American immigrant, a black woman, a slam poet, a mother, a daughter, an artist—through the lens of her mental health and diagnosis of bipolar II and anxiety. Her remarkable memoir in essays implodes our preconceptions of the mind and normalcy as Ikpi bares her own truths and lies for us all to behold with radical honesty and brutal intimacy. The compilation, which went into a second printing on the day of its release, has earned Ikpi stunning reviews from readers and media outlets nationwide.

Whether written or spoken, Ikpi is effortlessly clever--an alchemy of intellect, humor, and pathos. Appearing on stages and screens across the world as a public speaker and TV personality, Ikpi first gained public acclaim as an internationally recognized poet. In a past life, she was a featured poet on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam and toured with its Tony Award-winning Broadway show. Also an active voice in pop culture commentary and the mental health community, Ikpi has been published by The Root, Huffington Post, and Essence, as well as in anthologies including Rookie On Love from acclaimed editor Tavi Gevinson. Ikpi has been commissioned by Nike’s global nonprofit Girls Effect, writing and performing the short film, Invisible Barriers.

As the founder of the (now defunct) non-profit organization The Siwe Project, a mental health organization, Ikpi created the global movement #NoShameDay, an initiative that aims to reduce stigma and increase mental health awareness. An honest and inspiring speaker perfect for universities, healthcare associations, and mental health advocacy groups, Ikpi moves audiences to reframe the way they think about trauma, shame and mental illness. Currently, she is working with TPH productions, Taraji P. Henson’s production company.

Praise for Bassey Ikpi:

“This compilation of work is not only a brilliant read, but a gut wrenching account of what it is to be a human living with mental illness in a world of already complex emotions and experiences. Bassey lifts you out of your own shoes and sets you gently in her own for a journey that is at times a painful and intense experience. All mental health providers and professionals should read this work it is a unique look into the personally lived experience of a woman’s battle to navigate the human condition and her mental health. The Amarillo community was honored to read this work as well as discuss the contents within its pages with Bassey Ikpi herself, and we are proud to say the notes of hope and courage nestled into her words will not soon leave our community.”
-- Martha Del Toro, Marketing Director, Northwest Texas Healthcare System

Praise for I’m Telling the Truth but I’m Lying

“As phrases that can stop and startle you, here’s just one. ‘My mother loves and hates and heals and hurts with the same hands.’ The noted spoken word artist has written a book of essays that perform a memoir…. Thanks for writing this.”
--Scott Simon, NPR

“Ikpi is not the first to write about mental illness, but I can’t say I’ve ever read a narrative about it like this… her writing is yes, poetic and lyrical with tenderness and thoughtfulness but also funny. She’s just so damn funny and her wit often makes her essays as humorous as they are heartbreaking…. You want to root for her well being. You want to be more understanding of others. And, for some of us, by the end of I’m Telling The Truth, but I’m Lying, you might find yourself realizing you are no less guilty of telling yourself certain stories in order to deal with trauma, secrets, and shame.”
--Michael Arceneaux, Essence

“Bassey Ikpi is a human miracle and I want to scream my joy from the rooftops that we are allowed to experience her journey (as an artist, as a black woman, as a black woman dealing with mental illness!) in her gorgeous book.”
--Samantha Irby, author of We Are Never Meeting in Real Life and Meaty

“Bassey Ikpi’s lyrical memoir-in-essays asks us to reframe the way we think about memories, the stories we tell ourselves, the stories we tell other people, the stories we never tell, and all the other ways we try to make sense of who we are in the world.”

“The writing in I’m Telling the Truth, But I’m Lying is wholly sincere and consistently slanted. That’s so hard to pull off. No writer in the country does as much with short soulful sentences as Bassey Ikpi. We will not think or talk about mental health or normalcy the same after reading this momentous art object moonlighting as a colossal collection of essays.”
--Kiese Laymon, author of Heavy

“An intimate, extraordinary book that should transform the way we consider and talk about mental health. Bassey Ikpi’s essays, in all their brutal honesty, throb with power and grace—I defy anyone to read her work without being changed.”
--Nicole Chung, author of All You Can Ever Know

“Filled with lines, paragraphs and passages that both intrigue and shock… in essence, the collection paints a personal picture of the normalcy of mental illness… using visceral snapshots of memories from [Ikpi’s] childhood to her adult years.”

“I’m Telling the Truth, but I’m Lying is a richness of layers, rewarding the reader no matter which particular thread got you here: the experience of being African-born and raised in America, the coming up of a gifted writer and performer, tracing the lineage of mental illness through several generations, or the fleshing out of the literal highs and lows of bipolar II. Like kudzu, symptoms blossom and lace themselves through Ikpi’s accomplishments and griefs, strangulating her from life’s sustenance (food, friends, sleep). Her vivid, heart-racing chapters on the living, breathing moments of bipolar, particularly ‘This is What Happens,’ will be assigned in coursework for years to come. Bassey Ikpi’s writing is a revelation, a thrill, devastating and uproarious, lively in its accurate depiction of the lack of boundaries between the terrible and the hilarious. I’m Telling the Truth is a feat, and will soon be the favorite book of many. It is already one of mine.”
-- Tarana Burke, Founder of the Me Too Movement

“This mind-bending collection of essays will change the way you look at mental illness, as Ikpi struggles to explain what it feels like when your brain starts malfunctioning. It will call into question how reliably any of us can trust our own stories, and challenge readers to embrace radical honesty.”
-- Good Housekeeping

“For over a decade, Bassey Ikpi has been a vital voice for those of us living with neurodivergence. Her words and work have been there through some of our darkest moments, whispering for us to allow ourselves morning, and her debut collection I’m Telling the Truth, but I’m Lying gathers a lifetime of experience into a searing body of work. These true stories will engulf you, wring your heart out, and fill your chest with light. The writing is blade-sharp, precise and evocative, brilliant and graceful as it articulates an embodiment that has been both misrepresented and left unseen in our culture for far too long. Bassey is a storyteller to her bones and it shows. Read this book. Tell everyone you know to read this book. You have no idea how many people out there need these words.”
--Akwaeke Emezi, author of Freshwater

“Bassey Ikpi articulates the weightlessness and bodylessness of vulnerability and neuroses and depression with the ease of a fog sifting through the sky. I’m Telling the Truth, but I’m Lying will shatter you, sure. Probably. Definitely. But Bassey is so gifted, so real, so magic that you won’t even bother asking for glue.”
---Damon Young, author of What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker

“I read the first half… in a day and sobbed with recognition…. There were nuanced descriptions about childhood and family dynamics that I didn’t think anyone else had experienced. A wonderful exploration of the stories we tell ourselves to make sense of who we are.”
-- A Cup of Jo

“I’ve long known Bassey Ikpi to be a writer of great talent, but I am blown away by what she has accomplished with I’m Telling the Truth, but I’m Lying. In this impeccable collection of essays, Bassey writes about such difficult subject matter with gorgeous prose, effortless wit, a searing level of honesty and vulnerability coupled with a level of self-awareness you yearn for from compelling memoirists. Bassey’s work has always felt like haven, but she has outdone herself with this stunning debut. So many will be better for it.”
--Michael Arceneaux, author of I Can’t Date Jesus

“Lyrical and gritty and revelatory.”
-- Caroline Kepnes, author of You and Hidden Bodies

“Ikpi debuts an essay collection that takes readers on a journey from Nigeria to Stillwater, OK, to Brooklyn; from childhood to adulthood; from the depression and mania of bipolar II disorder and mental breakdown to the beginning of stability. The writings are intimate, intense, and sometimes harrowing and claustrophobic…. Ikpi’s writing is poetic. It skips, batters, sinks, soars, and flows according to events and the state of her mental health. Visceral and unsettling, these essays will not easily be forgotten. A must-read.”
-- Library Journal, starred review

“Highly anticipated, this collection is raw, courageous, and unsettling…. Haunting and affirming.”
-- Booklist

“Fraught memories are interrogated and reconstructed in these essays… candidly conveying how one woman faced and overcame her demons.”
-- Publishers Weekly

“Bassey Ikpi writes about the alienating effects of her mental health struggles…. Readers interested in the subject will love her brave and honest approach to this book.”