Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Fine Chefs Feeding My Inner Princess | Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu

Often, you read an author's debut work, and that is the end of your relationship with them. Sometimes, you see something truly special peeking through the awkward places. Many disappoint you with their second try. But, this is not the case with Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu

I write a lot about my inner princess. Especially in today's market where Disney and Mattel are doing their absolute best to choke our children's inner creative lives. Sure, the modern Disney princess is less of a victim. But, there are always trade-offs. If she is brown - she has no marketable clothing. If she is White, she is defiant and often disrespectful of her parents. Let me not even address the despicable, misogynist Mattel's Barbie media whose sole mission it to actively teach girls how to perfect the ideal bitchy, aggressive, uncooperative, diva persona.

Regardless, of these larger mainstream failures, my inner princess is less ravenous than she used to be. Nnendi Okorafor-Mbachu is an active participant in making this happen. When I read, Zahrah The Wind Seeker, I was intrigued. Here was an author whose stunning imagination managed to get her Afrocentric, young adult, speculative fiction novel published by a major publishing house. (Black women, all women stand up and cheer that victory.) And she was not only able to do this - but - she did it with a main character who is "African," dreadlock, (dadalocked) and challenged Eurocentric concepts of beauty. Finally, she had the audacity to write a book in which a brown female character and a brown male character have a healthy, age-appropriate, loving and equal relationship. Glory! Glory! How could this have slipped past the censors!

I discussed this book in greater detail in another blog. I promised I'd let you know how the next book was. So here I am inviting you to read The Shadow Speaker.

This author made such an immense leap between the first book, Zahrah The Wndseeker and the second, The Shadow Speaker. Obviously a dedicated and sincere writer, Okorafor-Mbachu attacked her second novel like one of her heroines tackles a problem. Not quite full on - but slowly, thoughtfully - occasionally impetuously and without regard for the option of failure. This novel was so full and rich. Not once stilted or awkward. Each of the characters were fully realized without being heavy on back story or using age-old devices.

From the author's website - a synopsis

"Niger, West Africa, 2070

When fifteen-year old Ejii witnesses her father's beheading, her world shatters. In an era of mind-blowing technology and seductive magic, Ejii embarks on a mystical journey to track down her father's killer. With a newfound friend by her side, Ejii comes face to face with an earth turned inside out -- and with her own magical powers.

But Ejii soon discovers that her travels across the sands of the Sahara have a greater purpose. Her people need to be protected from a force seeking to annihilate them. And Ejii may be just the hero to do it."


For some reason, I get the sense that if this novel had been available when I was a 9 to 12 year old girl, I would have had a very different life. Perhaps, I would have been more aware about our environment; the devestating impact of imperialism and colonialism; and a touch more aware of both my inner and outer beauty. I would have had a hero. Not a princess - a hero.

And that may make all the difference in some young woman's life today. This author has helped me face and dismantle some of my internalised isms. Through her work, I'm not looking as much for princesses as I am learning to embrace more realistic action figures.

These are two books which have become part of my library. Check them out!

1 comment:

Ferocious Kitty said...

Ordered tonight...thanks!