I’m currently planning a contemporary global literature course (for a variety of reasons), and I’ve been trying to extend my specialty in contemporary fiction to texts and foci outside my little niche. So when my friend M raved about Nnedi Okorafor’s Who Fears Death on Goodreads, I was intrigued. Okorafor herself had read an article from The Washington Post about rape as ethnic cleansing in the Sudan and was inspired to write about the child of one such violent conception.
A young Okeke woman is brutally raped and left for dead by a Nuru general, while her village is pillaged and destroyed by his men. Disgraced and abandoned by her husband, she heads out into the desert to die, but changes her mind when she realizes she is carrying a child. Determined to give her daughter a good life, she prays that she can seek revenge on her rapist. It’s heavy stuff. And that’s just the premise. The daughter is named Onyesonwu, or “Who fears death?” in the Okeke tongue. Considered an Ewu (a child of rape), she is a pariah in the town to almost all except the enigmatic Mwita and a tiny handful of friends with whom she undergoes a circumcision ritual. She soon discovers incredible powers that she possesses, but in the midst a series of visions makes her realize that her biological father is trying to kill her. It is her passion, emotion, and anger that can save her and bring justice to herself.
There are no words for how incredible this book is. It’s heavy and beautiful and amazing all at once. I never thought you could merge sci-fi with post-apocalyptic Africa, but Okorafor totally does. Onye is an *amazing* protagonist–as I said on Goodreads, I was very sad to leave her behind when I closed the book. The writing is gorgeous, and the story is an incredible testament to the incredible capacity of women. If you like sci-fi or fantasy, or just a really good adult novel, then you need to read this book ASAP.
Also: I just found out that the prequel, The Book of Phoenix, is being released on May 15. Hooray!!!