Nnedi Okorafor | Books, Biography, & Facts (2024)

Nigerian American author

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Also known as: Nnedimma Nkemdili Okorafor

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Nnedi Okorafor

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In full:
Nnedimma Nkemdili Okorafor
Born:
April 8, 1974, Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S. (age 50)

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Nnedi Okorafor (born April 8, 1974, Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.) is a Nigerian American author whose science fictionandfantasynovels, short stories, and comics for both children and adults express her concepts of Africanfuturism and Africanjujuism. Okorafor often promotes young Black girls as superheroes in her work, and her writing investigates racial inequality, sexual violence, and other social issues.

Okorafor’s Igbo parents immigrated to the United States from Nigeria in the late 1960s, during that country’s civil war. She was raised in the suburbs of Chicago and spent time during school vacations with family in Nigeria. She excelled as an athlete in high school and college, playing tennis and running track, and she was enthusiastic about science and math. When she was 19 years old and a student at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, she had surgery to correctscoliosis, but, due to complications, she was temporarily paralyzed from the waist down. During the months it took her to regain the use of her legs, she wrote short stories to keep busy. Once she had recovered, Okorafor returned to the University of Illinois and completed a bachelor’s degree in 1996.

Okorafor received a master’s degree in journalism from Michigan State University in 1999. She then attended the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she received a master’s degree in English literature in 2002 and a doctorate increative writingin 2007. Okorafor was an associate professor at Chicago State University from 2008 to 2014 and at the State University of New York at Buffalo from 2014 to 2017. In 2021 she became a professor of practice at Arizona State University in 2021, where she joined the school’sInterplanetary Initiative.

Okorafor bases her work on African myths andlegends, and she has used her writing to develop her concepts of Africanfuturism and Africanjujuism. She has pointedly rejected the term Afrofuturism: “Media sources, I appreciate and am honored by your interest in my work, but please STOP CALLING MY WORK AFROFUTURIST,” she wrote on social media in 2020. “IT IS NOT.” Instead, Africanfuturism—a term Okorafor coined—puts Africa, rather than the West, at its centre and privileges that continent’s people and culture while looking to the future. Similarly, she defines Africanjujuism as a form of fantasy “that respectfully acknowledges the seamless blend of true existing African spiritualities and cosmologies with the imaginative.” Her books and stories move across the genres of fantasy, science fiction, and magical realism, all inflected with a focus on Africa. As she told The Root in 2015:

When I traveled to Nigeria, I would see Nigerians interacting with technology in a way that I was not seeing reflected in literature. I was not seeing Africa as a whole reflected in writing about the future.

Being an American, I knew of science fiction. The foundation was already there. The thing that kicked me into writing it was not the existing sci fi, but considering Nigeria and wanting to see Africa in the future.

Okorafor’s first published book was Zahrah the Windseeker(2005) for young adults, which is about a girl with superpowers who feels as though she does not fit in because vines grow in her hair. Okorafor’s second book,The Shadow Speaker(2007), is set in Niger in 2070. The story follows a 15-year-old girl as she tries to find her father’s killer and protect her people from destructive forces. Okorafor’s Akata fantasy series for young adults includesAkata Witch(2011),Akata Warrior(2017), andAkata Woman(2022). The books focus on a Nigerian American girl with albinism named Sunny. After she moves from New York to Nigeria, she feels like an outcast, but she soon finds out that she has special powers and joins other children with similar abilities to help catch a serial killer.Ikenga(2020), for middle-school students, has as its protagonist a 12-year-old boy in Nigeria.

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Who Fears Death(2010) was Okorafor’s first novel for adults. It is set in postapocalyptic Africa, and its main character has the power to shape-shift. HerThe Book of Phoenix(2015) is a prequel toWho Fears Death.Lagoon(2014) is a science fiction work about aliens landing in Lagos.Noor(2021) is set in a futuristic Nigeria where society treats the protagonist as an outsider because she has technologically advanced artificial body parts.

Binti(2015),Binti Home(2017), andBinti: The Night Masquerade(2018) constitute Okorafor’s Binti trilogy of short novels. The series features a woman who attends Oomza University, which is located in outer space. There she encounters a jellyfish-like alien species called the Meduse and unites two warring planets. However, once she is back home, she needs to conquer her people’s mistrust of their enemy to ensure everyone’s survival.Bintiwon a Hugo Award and a Nebula Award for best novella in 2016. The novellaRemote Control(2021) follows the quest of a girl in Ghana who is trying to find out how and why she has become the adopted daughter of Death.

Okorafor has written comics forMarvel featuring theBlack Pantherand his sister Shuri. She also worked with Tana Ford to createLaGuardia(2019), a graphic novel set in an apartment complex in New York City. The story features a pregnant Nigerian American woman fighting for immigration rights for both humans and aliens.

Okorafor’s memoir,Broken Places & Outer Spaces, was published in 2019.

Joan Hibler J.E. Luebering

Nnedi Okorafor | Books, Biography, & Facts (2024)

FAQs

What does Nnedi Okorafor write about? ›

Nnedi Okorafor (born April 8, 1974, Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.) is a Nigerian American author whose science fiction and fantasy novels, short stories, and comics for both children and adults express her concepts of Africanfuturism and Africanjujuism.

Is Nnedi Okorafor disabled? ›

At age 19, she underwent spinal fusion surgery to straighten and fuse her spine; a rare complication led to Okorafor becoming paralyzed from the waist down. Okorafor turned to writing small stories in the margins of a science-fiction book that she had.

What did Okorafor see during her trips that inspired her to write science fiction? ›

She had never really read sci-fi before. While she had an innate love for science, and at one point aspired to be an entomologist, the genre left her uninspired. On trips back and forth from Nigeria, she began to notice the interplay of technology in the country and how it was different from the US.

How many awards does Nnedi Okorafor have? ›

Nnedi has received the World Fantasy, Nebula, Eisner and Lodestar Awards and multiple Hugo Awards, amongst others, for her books.

What does the name Nnedi mean? ›

/Nne-di/ Gender: f. The mother lives.

Where does Nnedi Okorafor teach? ›

Critically acclaimed sci-fi and fantasy writer Nnedi Okorafor is a professor of practice with the Interplanetary Initiative in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University.

What genre is remote control by nnedi okorafor? ›

Remote Control is science fiction of the Africanfuturist strain that knows aliens exist, quietly shows how technology is influenced by culture, features a powerful yet deeply-pained female protagonist, and wonders about the role of corporations in rural Africa.

What is the albinism in Akata witch? ›

Sunny's Albinism

Sunny's albinism represents her identity—and, more broadly, her growing understanding that a person's supposed “bad qualities” can actually be the source of their greatest strengths. Sunny begins the novel ashamed of being albino, as… Brock, Zoë. "Akata Witch Symbols." LitCharts.

Does Binti have PTSD? ›

Binti continues to seek that balance in this book, her life now complicated by her Meduse appendages. Making things worse is her ongoing PTSD from the massacre that killed an entire ship of people.

Did Nnedi Okorafor write Black Panther? ›

Nnedi has also written comics for Marvel, including Black Panther: Long Live the King and Wakanda Forever (featuring the Dora Milaje) and the Shuri series.

What are the themes of Lagoon Okorafor? ›

Okorafor's Lagoon uses an alien invasion plot to not only undermine fictions about the human and nonhuman (via the monstrous) and the natural and unnatural (via the concept of queerness) by collapsing the everyday with the nightmarish, for instance, in the ways that the novel uses the Gothic motifs of terror and horror ...

Why is divergent science fiction? ›

Answer and Explanation: Yes, Divergent is a science fiction novel because it is set in a futuristic version of the real world, and all of the plot elements are based on explainable scientific advances, not magic.

What genre is Nnedi Okorafor? ›

Nnedi Okorafor (@Nnedi) is a novelist of African-based science fiction, fantasy and magical realism for both children and adults.

What is the meaning of Africanfuturism? ›

Afrofuturism was originally coined in scholarly circles to explore how Black writers and artists have utilized themes of technology, science fiction, fantasy and heroism to envision stories and futures of Black liberation and convey a more genuine and empowered image of the Black experience.

Who is the author of African Futurist? ›

Works of Africanfuturism include science fiction, fantasy, alternate history, horror and magic realism. Writers of Africanfuturism include Nnedi Okorafor, Tochi Onyebuchi, Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki, Tade Thompson, Namwali Serpell, Wole Talabi, Suyi Davies Okungbowa.

What is the synopsis of Razzmatazz? ›

Meanwhile, Eddie “Moo Shoes” Shu has been summoned by his Uncle Ho to help save his opium den from Squid Kid Tang, a vicious gangster who is determined to retrieve a priceless relic: an ancient statue of the powerful Rain Dragon that Ho stole from one of the fighting tongs forty years earlier.

What genre is remote control by Nnedi Okorafor? ›

Remote Control is science fiction of the Africanfuturist strain that knows aliens exist, quietly shows how technology is influenced by culture, features a powerful yet deeply-pained female protagonist, and wonders about the role of corporations in rural Africa.

What is the synopsis of Eze goes to school? ›

Plot summary

Eze Goes To School centers mainly on Eze Adi, the protagonist of the novel who struggles to get formal education due to his poor family background. Eze finally makes a name for himself due to his intelligence. The novel exhibits the struggles of getting formal education in Nigeria in the 90's.

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