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Images of Nigeria & of Africa in general in SF&F - Synchronicity swirls and other foolishness

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January 10th, 2017

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01:41 am - Images of Nigeria & of Africa in general in SF&F
In the past several months, I've read two novels set in Nigeria, one by a Nigerian living in the UK (Tade Thompson), and the other by someone whose parents moved to the US from Nigeria and who has repeatedly visited Nigeria (Nnedi Okorafor). Thompson's novel Rosewater is SF set in a near future Nigeria and which I decided to buy after a review by James Nicoll as well as (correct) assurance on his LJ that it wasn't too grim (although it was very far from an optimistic novel).

I'd heard many positive things about Nnedi Okorafor's writing for a number of years, after she won the World Fantasy Award and much acclaim for her novel Who Fears Death, but I didn't read it, and never plan to, because by all reports it's impressively grim and bleak, and that's remarkably far from my preference. I avoided her work for that reason, until last year's Hugo Awards, when her novella Binti was nominated, and won. It was brilliant and pleasantly non-bleak, and I happily voted for it. I was unaware that she had written other novels that I was willing to read, but recently ran into mention of her novel Akata Witch, because it has a sequel coming out sometime relatively soon.

I loved Akata Witch, in large part because it's both a very standard YA novel of the sort where a teen learns she can perform magic and begins studying it with several other teens that she becomes friends with. It's well written, fun, hits all the tropes quite well, but it is also set in Nigeria, that style of magic is Nigerian, and these facts are deeply woven into the fabric of the novel.

It's also fascinating and nifty for me to have a (small) data set of novels set in Nigeria, written by people who know this nation to some degree as an insider, and to see how they differ. The two versions of Nigeria in the two novels are very different, in large part because the protagonist of Rosewater used to be a petty criminal and has first hand experience with that nation's criminal subculture and with lethal vigilante justice, and the protagonist of Akata Witch is a middle class urban teen who has no contact with any of this.

Discussing these novels also reminds me of a prior post I made about novels written about non-white protagonists by people who and aren't members of that race, but in this case, I'm thinking about novels by people who are and aren't (to at least some degree) people who are part of a particular nation's culture. Although the author is white, South African author Charlie Human's two novels & Apocalypse Now Now & it's sequel Kill Baxter provide a very vivid sense of life in Capetown and other parts of South Africa, but it's more difficult for me to judge, because I haven't read novels set there by anyone else.

Prior to reading any of these novels, the best SF&F novels I'd read set in Africa were both by white residents of the UK, Evolution's Shore (published as Chaga in the UK) & it's sequel Kirinya, by Ian McDonald, and the Poseidon's Children trilogy by Alastair Reynolds. I think all of these books are excellent and I loved reading them (and very much hope that someday Ian McDonald finishes what looked to be another book in his series, since I can definitely see room for one), but they are very much novels written by outsiders. McDonald's novel has a white woman from the UK and her daughter as his protagonists, and Reynolds' novels are all set several centuries in the future in an Africa that doesn't resemble anyplace in our world all that much.

As with my previous post, there's a depth and a sense of culture and connection that I find in the novels by Tade Thompson, Nnedi Okorafor, and Charlie Human that I don't find in those by Ian McDonald or Alastair Reynolds, and also a different perspective on race in those by Thompson and Okorafor.

It sometime feels a bit odd to me to look at the far greater diversity now available in media while awaiting the incoming US government, but I highly recommend both Rosewater & Akata Witch.

Original post on Dreamwidth - there are comment count unavailable comments there.
Current Mood: pleasedpleased

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[User Picture]
Date:January 10th, 2017 05:24 pm (UTC)
Good to know; thanks.

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