HerStory June 2019: Nnedi Okorafor

Our June HerStory recipient, Nnedi Okorafor, is a Nigerian-American sci-fi and fantasy writer who delves into what she refers to as Africanfuturism in her varied works. She is a second-generation Nigerian-American who spent her formative years in the midwest, kicking ass and taking names both athletically AND mathletically. She fell in love with science fiction and fantasy at a young age, and considers Nigeria, which she visits frequently, to be her muse. It was her bout with scoliosis at 13, and the resulting short-term paralyzation, that inspired her deep-dive into creative writing, and caused a “what-I-want-to-be-when-I-grow-up” swerve from entomology to fiction writing. 

Her books, and the histories and backstories of her characters, are deeply inspired by African themes and culture, and thus are so very different than the histories and cultures that have long dominated the genres she writes in. Both sci-fi and fantasy have long been the realm of the white male, focusing on Euro-centric histories (see: JRR Tolkein, CS Lewis, etc), and it’s only recently that women and BIPOC (Black and Indigenous People/Person(s) of Color) have been gaining a foothold in the mainstream of these genres. Reading Nnedi Okorafor’s work, one gets a sense for the magic and mysticism that informs the lives of her characters. She deftly weaves deep-rooted tradition with far-reaching technology (as in the Binti series) or a magical world that’s co-existing quietly with non-magical society (as in the Akata Witch series). And then there’s the straight-up feminism inherent in her books. Her heroines are young women, working against a still-existent and oh, so pervasive mysogyny that threatens to stymy their abilities to reach their full potential. But, through hard work, inherent skill, and learned knowledge, they survive and thrive. Much like real-life heroines like Nnedi Okorafor.

Our June HerStory colorway is inspired by the book cover of Akata Witch, the first book in Nnedi Okorafor’s young adult series about a young woman coming into her own in a world she never knew existed (but explains so much). It’s been referred to as the “Nigerian Harry Potter,” but it’s so much more. The story is so rich and beautiful, and Sunny’s journey is so amazing and fraught with stress and tension. If you are a fan of sci-fi and fantasy (or just a fan of good storytelling), grab the book and cast on a pair of socks to honor it and Nnedi Okorafor today.  

Leave a comment