April 8, 1974|
Cincinnati, Ohio, United States
|Known for||Writer, professor|
Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa|
The World Fantasy Award
Nebula Award for Best Novella
Hugo Award for Best Novella
Macmillan Writers Prize for Africa
Carl Brandon Parallax Award
Children's Africana Book Award
Nnedi Okorafor (full name: Nnedimma Nkemdili Okorafor; previously known as Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu; translated from Igbo into English as "mother is good"; born April 8, 1974) is a Nigerian-American writer of fantasy and science fiction for both children and adults.
Background and personal life
Okorafor's parents traveled to America to go to school, but they could not return to Nigeria because of the Nigerian Civil War. The American-born daughter of Igbo Nigerian parents, Okorafor has been visiting Nigeria since she was very young.
During her years attending Homewood-Flossmoor High School in Flossmoor, IL, Okorafor was known as a nationally-known tennis and track star, and excelled in math and the sciences. Due to her interest in insects, she desired to be an entomologist.
She was diagnosed with scoliosis at the age of 13, a condition that worsened as she grew older. 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. It was the first time she had ever written anything creatively. That summer, with intense physical therapy, Okorafor regained her ability to walk, but she was unable to continue her athletic career, using a cane to walk. At the suggestion of a close friend, she took a creative writing class that spring semester, and was writing her first novel by the semester's end.
Okorafor holds a master's degree in journalism from Michigan State and a master's degree and PhD in English from the University of Illinois, Chicago. She is a 2001 graduate of the Clarion Writers Workshop in Lansing, Michigan. She currently lives in Olympia Fields, Illinois, with her family.
Okorafor received a 2001 Hurston-Wright literary award for her story "Amphibious Green." Okorafor's short stories have been published in anthologies and magazines, including Dark Matter: Reading The Bones, Enkare Review, Strange Horizons, Moondance magazine, and Writers of the Future Volume XVIII. A collection of her stories, titled Kabu Kabu, was published by Prime Books in 2013. It includes the titular piece, co-authored by Alan Dean Foster, and six other previously unpublished short stories, as well as 14 stories that had been previously published in other venues since 2001, and a foreword by Whoopi Goldberg.
Novels and novellas
After her 2001 Hurston-Wright award, she then published two acclaimed books for young adults, The Shadow Speaker (Hyperion/Disney Book Group) and Zahrah the Windseeker (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). Zahrah won the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa. It was also shortlisted for the 2005 Carl Brandon Parallax and Kindred Awards and a finalist for the Garden State Teen Book Award and the Golden Duck Award. The Shadow Speaker was a winner of the Carl Brandon Parallax Award, a Booksense Pick for Winter 2007/2008, a Tiptree Honor Book, a finalist for the Essence Magazine Literary Award, the Andre Norton Award and the Golden Duck Award and an NAACP Image Award nominee. Okorafor's children's book Long Juju Man was the 2007–08 winner of the Macmillan Writer's Prize for Africa.
Okorafor's first adult novel, Who Fears Death (DAW/Penguin Books), won the 2011 World Fantasy Award for Best Novel, was a 2011 Tiptree Honor Book and was nominated for the 2010 Nebula Award. In 2011 she returned to young adult with Akata Witch (Viking/Penguin), which was a Junior Library Guild Selection, and nominated for the Andre Norton Award. It was also on the American Library Association's Amelia Bloomer Project list honoring children's books with feminist themes.
Okorafor's science fiction novel Lagoon was a finalist for a British Science Fiction Association Award (Best Novel) and a Red Tentacle Award (Best Novel) and a Tiptree Honor Book.
The Binti trilogy began with a 2015 novella, Binti. This was followed by Binti: Home, published in 2017, and Binti: The Night Masquerade, published in 2018. Binti won both the 2016 Nebula Award and 2016 Hugo Award for best novella, and was a finalist for a British Science Fiction Association Award (Best Short) and BooktubeSFF Award (Best Short Work).
In February 2017, Okorafor announced via Facebook her science-meets-witchcraft short story "Hello, Moto" was optioned by Nigerian production company Fiery Film. The story is being adapted into a short film, titled Hello, Rain by filmmaker, C. J. Obasi. The story tells the tale of a woman who discovers that she can merge witchcraft and technology when she creates wigs for herself and her friends that allow them to wield influence and power, to help battle corruption. Instead, she watches her friends themselves become corrupted. A teaser was released in January 2018.
In July 2017, Okorafor announced via Twitter that Who Fears Death was picked up by HBO to become a TV series with novelist and Game of Thrones producer, George R.R. Martin, joining the project as an executive producer. Okorafor will remain involved with the project as a consultant.
In 2005, Okorafor wrote and published her first play, Full Moon. The Buxville Theater Company in Chicago helped produce this full-length theatrical work.
In 2009 Okorafor donated her archive to the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) Collection of the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections at the Northern Illinois University Library.
In October 2017, Okorafor announced via Twitter she would be writing three issues of Marvel's Black Panther comic book, picking up where author Ta-Nehisi Coates left off. "Black Panther: Long Live the King" is due out in late 2017. A month earlier, Okorafor had a short comic entitled, "Blessing in Disguise," inspired by the 2014 Boko Haram kidnapping of over 200 Nigerian girls, released in Marvel's Venomverse War Stories No. 1 comic book. In March 2017, it was announced that Okorafor would return to writing derived from the Black Panther, Wakanda Forever, where the Dora Milaje act in team-ups with Spider-Man, X-Men and Avengers. In July, 2018, it announced that Okorafor would write a solo title of Shuri.
Influences and themes
Okorafor's novels and stories reflect both her West African heritage and her American life. Rather than identifying as Nigerian-American, Okorafor refers to herself as "Nigamerican" and explains the importance of her dual heritage during a 2016 NPR interview:
That's very much a part of my identity, and it's also very much a reason why I think I ended up writing science fiction and fantasy because I live on these borders – and these borders that allow me to see from multiple perspectives and kind of take things in and then kind of process certain ideas and certain stories in a very unique way. And that has led me to write this strange fiction that I write, which really isn't that strange if you really look at it through a sort of skewed lens.
Okorafor noticed how the fantasy and science fiction genre contain little diversity, and that was her motivation for writing books of these genres set in Africa. She wanted to include more people of color and create stories with Africa as the setting because so few stories were set there. She wrote her first story as a college sophomore and made the setting of her story Nigeria. Her stories place black girls in important roles that are usually given to white characters. Okorafor cites Nigeria as "her muse" as she is heavily influenced by Nigerian folklore and its rich mythology and mysticism.
Gary K. Wolfe wrote of her work: "Okorafor's genius has been to find the iconic images and traditions of African culture, mostly Nigerian and often Igbo, and tweak them just enough to become a seamless part of her vocabulary of fantastika."
Her work often looks at "weighty social issues: racial and gender inequality, political violence, the destruction of the environment, genocide and corruption" through "the framework of fantasy."
Okorafor shares that while the themes of her stories are often multi-layered they are always grounded in "stories of the women and girls around me and also within myself."
Okorafor asserts that her work and parental responsibility relates to each other because "writing and being a mother are a part of me, so they are mixed together and balance each other out."
World fantasy award
Shortly after winning The World Fantasy Award in 2011, Okorafor published an essay "Lovecraft’s racism & The World Fantasy Award statuette, with comments from China Miéville", in which she reflected upon her conflicting emotions on winning an award in the shape of a large silver bust of H.P. Lovecraft, who was a known racist and anti-Semite. Okorafor would later voice her support for Daniel José Older's 2014 petition to replace the Lovecraft bust with one of Octavia Butler. In this piece, she acknowledges both the literary legacy of Lovecraft and his continued influence in the contemporary world of science fiction:
Do I want “The Howard” (the nickname for the World Fantasy Award statuette. Lovecraft’s full name is “Howard Phillips Lovecraft”) replaced with the head of some other great writer? Maybe. Maybe it’s about that time. Maybe not. What I know I want is to face the history of this leg of literature rather than put it aside or bury it. If this is how some of the great minds of speculative fiction felt, then let’s deal with that… as opposed to never mention it or explain it away.
- 2005 – The Strange Horizons Reader's Choice Award for Stephen King's Super-Duper Magical Negroes
- 2007 – 2008 – Macmillan Writers' Prize for Africa for Long Juju Man
- 2008 – Carl Brandon Parallax Award for The Shadow Speaker
- 2008 – The Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature for Zahrah the Windseeker
- 2012 – The 2012 Black Excellence Award for Outstanding Achievement in Literature (Fiction) for Zahrah the Windseeker
- 2012 – Kindred Award for Who Fears Death
- 2011 – The World Fantasy Award (Best Novel) for Who Fears Death
- 2016 – The Nebula Award (Best Novella) for Binti
- 2016 – Children's Africana Book Award for Best Book for Young Readers for Chicken in the Kitchen
- 2016 – The Hugo Award for Best Novella for Binti
Young Adult—writing as Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu
- Zahrah the Windseeker (2005, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; paperback 2008, Graphia/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
- The Shadow Speaker (2007, Hyperion/Disney)
Children—writing as Nnedi Okorafor
- Long Juju Man (2009, Macmillan Africa)
- Iridessa and the Secret of the Never Mine (2012, Disney Books)
Young Adult—writing as Nnedi Okorafor
- Akata Witch (2011, Viking/Penguin) (Published as What Sunny Saw in the Flames in Nigeria and the UK by Cassava Republic Press)
- Akata Warrior (2017, Viking/Penguin/PRH) (Published as Sunny and the Mysteries of Osisi in Nigeria and the UK by Cassava Republic Press)
- The Man (to be published in Nigeria)
Adult—writing as Nnedi Okorafor
- Who Fears Death (2010, DAW/Penguin)
- "Hello, Moto" (2011, Tor.com)
- "Moom!" short story in "AfroSF: Science Fiction by African Writers" (2012, Storytime)
- Kabu Kabu (2013, Prime Books)
- "It's War" short story in "Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History" (2014, Crossed Genres)
- Lagoon (2014, Hodder & Stoughton Ltd.) (2015, Saga Press/Simon & Schuster)
- The Book of Phoenix (2015, DAW/Penguin/PRH) (prequel of Who Fears Death)
- Binti (2015, Tor.com)
- Binti 2: Home (2017, Tor.com)
- Binti: The Night Masquerade (2018, Tor.com)
- Remote Control (upcoming 2018, Hodder & Stoughton)
- Brave New Souls: Black Sci-Fi & Fantasy Writers of the 21st Century (2013) – Herself
- Okorafor, Nnedi (May 11, 2014). "My full name is Nnedimma. It means 'mother is good' in Igbo. 'Nnedi' means 'mother is'. Mothers r celebrated any time someone calls my name". Twitter. Retrieved 2018-02-24.
- "Nnedi Okorafor", Macmillan Publishers.
- Wabuke, Hope. "Nnedi Okorafor Is Putting Africans at the Center of Science Fiction and Fantasy". The Root. Retrieved 2018-02-23.
- "The speculative fiction of UB faculty member Nnedi Okorafor". University at Buffalo. Retrieved 2018-03-04.
- Alter, Alexandra (October 6, 2017). "Nnedi Okorafor and the Fantasy Genre She Is Helping Redefine". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved November 15, 2017.
- "Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor, Hardcover". Barnes & Noble. Retrieved February 19, 2017.
- "Welcome to www.hurston-wright.org". Archived from the original on July 26, 2011. Retrieved July 31, 2016.
- Mandelo, Brit. "We All Tell Stories About Her: Kabu Kabu by Nnedi Okorafor". Tor.com. Retrieved February 6, 2014.
- "2007 James Tiptree, Jr. Award". Retrieved August 2, 2016.
- "Winners and Shortlist: Macmillan Writer's Prize for Africa 2007/8". writeforafrica.com. Archived from the original on March 30, 2009. Retrieved August 2, 2016.
- "2011 WFA Winner: Who Fears Death". Worlds Without End. Retrieved October 31, 2011.
- "2010 Award Winners". Worlds Without End. Retrieved October 31, 2011.
- "2015 Nebula Awards Winners". Locus. Retrieved May 18, 2016.
- Barnett, David (August 21, 2016). "Hugo awards see off rightwing protests to celebrate diverse authors". The Guardian.
- "Nigerian Production Company Fiery Film Options Nnedi Okorafor's Short Story 'Hello, Moto'". Tor.com. February 17, 2017. Retrieved January 12, 2018.
- "Meet the Scientist Witches from the Short Film Adaptation of Nnedi Okorafor's 'Hello, Moto'". Tor.com. October 11, 2017. Retrieved January 12, 2018.
- "'Hello, Rain,' Is an Afrofuturistic Short Film Based on Nnedi Okorafor's 'Hello, Moto'". OkayAfrica. January 4, 2018. Retrieved January 12, 2018.
- Animashaun, Damilola (January 4, 2018). "Watch: Teaser For 'Hello, Rain', A Short Film Based On Nnedi Okorafor's 'Hello, Moto'". Konbini Nigeria. Retrieved January 12, 2018.
- "Hello Rain is where CJ 'Fiery' Obasi and Nnedi Okorafor collide". YNaija. January 6, 2018. Retrieved January 12, 2018.
- "Watch Teaser for Afro-Futuristic Movie 'Hello, Rain' based on Nnedi Okorafor's Short Story 'Hello, Moto'". BellaNaija. Retrieved January 12, 2018.
- Rogo, Paula (September 18, 2017). "Author Nnedi Okorafor's 'Who Fears God' To Become An HBO Series. But Why Is George R R Martin Getting The Credit?". Essence.com. Retrieved November 15, 2017.
- Caron, Nathalie. "Who Fears Death picked up by HBO, George R.R. Martin producing". Syfy. Retrieved November 15, 2017.
- "Nnedi Okorafor". ZODML. Retrieved 2018-02-24.
- Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) Collection Archived June 3, 2012, at the Wayback Machine., Northern Illinois University.
- "Nnedi Okorafor to be Young Adult Author Special Guest at Detcon1". detcon1.org. February 10, 2014. Retrieved July 31, 2016.
- "Nnedi Okorafor's TED Talk Explains Afrofuturism vs. Science Fiction Using the Octopus Analogy". Tor.com. November 2, 2017.
- "Nnedi Okorafor will write Black Panther stories for Marvel". CNN. Retrieved November 17, 2017.
- Helm, Angela. "Fantasy Writer Nnedi Okorafor Releases Comic Short Inspired by Chibok, Nigeria, Schoolgirls, Has Novel Developed for HBO". The Root. Retrieved November 17, 2017.
- 'Wakanda Forever' Brings Dora Milaje to the Rest of the Marvel Universe
- Comic Book Spinoff of Black Panther Will Focus on His Sister
- "Hugo Nominee Nnedi Okorafor: 'I Love Stories – And So I Write Them'". NPR.org. Retrieved November 15, 2017.
- "Gary K. Wolfe reviews Nnedi Okorafor", Locus Online, December 22, 2013.
- Aanu Zoboi, Ibi (May 17, 2010). "The People Could Fly: An Interview with Nnedi Okorafor". Strange Horizons. Retrieved February 25, 2018.
- Schnelbach, Leah (August 20, 2014). "Should the World Fantasy Award be Changed?". Tor.com. Retrieved 2018-02-26.
- "Nnedi Okorafor | Authors | Macmillan". US Macmillan. Retrieved November 17, 2017.
- "sfadb : Nnedi Okorafor Awards". www.sfadb.com. Retrieved November 17, 2017.
- Jordison, Sam (November 12, 2008). "A Nobel example for our books prize judges". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved November 17, 2017.
- Okorafor, Nnedi. "Zahrah the Windseeker – Nnedi Okorafor". nnedi.com. Retrieved November 17, 2017.
- "2015 Nebula Awards Nominees Announced". SFWA. February 20, 2016. Retrieved November 17, 2017.
- Okorafor, Nnedi. "Chicken in the Kitchen – Nnedi Okorafor". nnedi.com. Retrieved November 17, 2017.
- "2016 Hugo Awards Announced". The Hugo Awards. August 21, 2016. Retrieved November 17, 2017.
- Okorafor, Nnedi (November 2, 2011). "Hello, Moto". Tor.com.
- Hartmann, Ivor W., ed. (2012). AfroSF: Science Fiction by African Writers. StoryTime. ASIN B00AEUH112.
- Obensen, Tambay A. (July 2013). "Sneak Peek: 'Brave New Souls: Black Sci-Fi & Fantasy Writers of the 21st Century'". IndieWire.
- Nnedi Okorafor Home Page
- Mikki Kendall, "A Nigerian Sorceress Makes Her Way", Publishers Weekly, April 12, 2010
- Donna Freitas, "Weapons of Mass Creation", New York Times review of The Shadow Speaker, July 13, 2008
- Nebula Awards Guest Blog: Is Africa Ready for Science Fiction by Nnedi Okorafor
- Review of Zahrah the Windseeker by Gary K. Wolfe
- "Stephen King's Super-Duper Magical Negroes" by Okorafor-Mbachu
- "From the Lost Diary of TreeFrog7" (short story), Clarkesworld Magazine, May 2009
- Stories by Okorafor at AfricanWriter.com
- "If It Scares You, Write It: A Conversation with Nnedi Okorafor" (interview), Clarkesworld Magazine, December 2009
- Nnedi Okorafor at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
- 2010 Audio Interview on the Geek's Guide to the Galaxy Podcast
- "Nigerian Woman,Nndei Okorafor’s Novel to be Made into Series by HBO", Yeoal's Blogzine, July 10, 2017
- "Sci-fi stories that imagine a future Africa". Nnedi Okorafor at TEDGlobal 2017