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
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 It includes the titular piece, co-authored by Alan Dean Foster, and six other previously unpublished short stories, as well as 14 stories that had been previously published in other venues since 2001, and a foreword by Whoopi Goldberg.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.
Okorafor was the Young Adult Author special Guest of Honor at Detcon 1, the 2014 North American Science Fiction Convention; Detcon1 was putting special emphasis on YA science fiction.
She spoke at the TEDGlobal conference in Arusha, Tanzania, in August 2017.
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.