Award-winning author Nnedi Okorafor talks about her inspirations for her novels
Feb. 24, 2022
We conclude our series honoring Black History Month with an international award-winning novelist of science fiction and fantasy for children and adults. Born in the United States to Nigerian immigrant parents, Nnedi Okorafor is known for weaving African culture into evocative settings and memorable characters. We spoke with Nnedi for her story growing up Black in America.
What kind of writer would you say you are?
Okorafor: “I would say that I am a writer of science fiction and fantasy. Those are labels that people recognize even though it’s more than that. But I am a writer science fiction and fantasy, and the subcategories I go under are African futurism and African jujuism. It’s basically a very Africa rooted narrative. All of my stories are just like that.”
What got you started in the magical realism and African realism?
Okorafor: “Both of my parents are Nigeran immigrants and they were taking my siblings and me back to Nigeria from a young age. So even before I was writing this was a really great interest to me. The cultural stuff, just learning these new areas, all of that. That’s always been a part of my background… when I started writing, I am also really imaginative. I was just literally born that way. I see more than what most people see. That’s a very simple way of putting it. So when I started writing these stories, my mind immediately went back to those trips to Nigeria and meeting our relatives and just how much that effected me and the way that I see the world. Those trips were really pivotal for me, so when I started writing that was where my stories started. On top of that, the mystical elements, those are always something that I have been interested in just as a Nigerian American.”
How much mysticism did you have to make up?
Okorafor: “What I am doing in these narratives is, there is a lot more going on than those who don’t know the culture can know. You would be surprised at what I didn’t have to makeup.”