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Nnedi Okorafor

This is an unusual post, as it is not a proper review by any means. But, as I was lounging this evening with warm beverage and a copy of Who Fears Death, I was struck again by how simply special Ms. Okorafor’s writing is. There is something starkly beautiful about her prose, about the stories she weaves with it.  So many books promise a strange and wondrous locale, but few bring along with them characters that are so much a part of their environment. And that is part of the magic for me. I am sometimes thrown off by books that go to great lengths to describe some place new and strange, I get distracted.

With Ms. Okorafor’s work, the place and the people are woven so tightly together that one cannot pay attention to one without noticing the other. It is part of what keeps me so enthralled. The strange and fascinating are described in ways that are so down to earth and mundane, because the reader is getting it all from the characters. There is no being pulled from the prose. And everything is all the more captivating as a result.

And the characters are truly wonderful. There is a vibrancy to them that is a rare find. I could spend time with these people- share thoughts, ideas, stories. I would consider myself lucky to do so.

There are no promises that everything will be okay, no easy win or way out. But there is the assurance that this too can be overcome- grit your teeth, gather your resources, and carry on. I gather those reassuring whispers close to me long after I have closed the book and have started the process of muddling through the day to day business of being an adult.

Her writing  just strikes me as so very important. I want more people to read it, both the adult and the young adult, and all the short stories in between. There is something so very essential in there, and I applaud Ms. Okorafor for capturing something to tenuous and giving it shape.

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Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor

“My name is Sunny Nwazue and I confuse people (Akata Witch, pg 3).”

Sunny is a young girl who is a kaleidoscopic of impression and definition. She was born in America, though the rest of her family was born in Nigeria, where they relocated back to when she was nine. She has African features covered with an albino’s complexion. She loves soccer, but can only play at night with her brothers, her skin far too sensitive for the sun and other boys her age would not let her join in regardless.

Sunny sees the end of the world in a candle flame one evening, and soon her life is changing. She finds out she is a Leopard Person, a person gifted with abilities and part of an ancient society as a result. Soon she is living two lives, one of a normal girl her age with normal schooling and another involving learning the juju and culture of the Leopard People.  In the background, a deadly killer stalks the bush, and it will be up to Sunny and her Leopard friends to stop him.

I was excited to read Akata Witch. A fantasy novel so rich with African culture is a rare treat and I loved every page. I read so much fantasy, most of it taken from European roots, Akata Witch serves to refresh the genre, adding something brilliantly unique to the mix. There are familiar themes of being the odd man out but they are taken in a brilliant new context- an albino in Africa, an American in Africa, a Leopard among Lambs. If you like your fantasy rich with culture, bright and alive within its setting, Akata Witch is not a book to miss.

Beyond that, the characters were endearing in their humanity. Never infallible, not always likable, but always human. Even with a juju knife in hand or calling their spirit face forward, each character sparkled with humanity. These are people I would like to meet, to chat with, to learn from.

Akata Witch, simply put, is a beautiful book and not to be missed. Young or old, this book has something for you.