Okorafor-Mbachu, Nnedi

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Okorafor-Mbachu, Nnedi

PERSONAL: Female; children: Anyaugo (daughter). Education: Michigan State University, M.A., 1999; Ph.D. study at the University of Illinois, Chicago; Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers' Workshop, graduated, 2001.

ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Houghton Mifflin Co., Trade Division, Adult Editorial, 8th Fl., 222 Berkeley St., Boston, MA 02116-3764. E-mail[email protected].

CAREER: Writer, novelist, playwright, and journalist.

AWARDS, HONORS: Writers of the Future Contest finalist, 2002, for Windseekers; Chicago Bar Association Goodnow Entertainment Award, 2003, for "The Awakening"; Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award finalist, 2005, for "The Magical Negro"; Equiano Prize for Fiction shortlist, 2005, for "How Inyang Got Her Wings"; Strange Horizons Reader's Choice Award for nonfiction, 2005, for "Stephen King's Super Duper Magical Negroes"; Margin: Exploring Modern Magical Realism short-story contest winner, for "Biafra."


Zahrah the Windseeker (novel), Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2005. Full Moon (play), produced in Chicago, IL, 2005.

Author of column, "Nnedi on the Net," for Star newspaper (Chicago, IL).

Contributor to periodicals, including Black Issues Book Review, Essence, Space and Time, Strange Horizons, Alchemy Magazine, Song of the Siren, USAToday.com, Pointcast.com, Student Advantage Network Online, Af-ricana.com, Afrique Newsmagazine, Moondance, Umoja, Shag, The Thirteenth Floor, and Margin: Exploring Modern Magical Realism.

Contributor to anthologies, including Mojo Conjure Stories, edited by Nalo Hopkinson, Warner Aspect (New York, NY), 2003; So Long Been Dreaming: Postcolonial Science Fiction and Fantasy, edited by Nalo Hopkinson and Uppinder Mehan, Arsenal Pulp Press (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), 2004; Dark Matter: Reading the Bones, edited by Sheree R. Thomas, Warner Books (New York, NY), 2004; and The Other Half Anthology of Writers of Color.

WORK IN PROGRESS: Ejii the Shadow Speaker, a novel for Hyperion Books scheduled for publication in 2007.

SIDELIGHTS: Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu is a writer, journalist, playwright, and novelist. She is a frequent contributor of articles and short stories to magazines and anthologies. A graduate of the prestigious Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers' Workshop, Okorafor-Mbachu often writes in the science fiction, fantasy, and magical realism genres. She is also a reviewer for the Black Issues Book Review and a technology columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times' sister paper, the Star. She has also won a number of awards for her work, and was a finalist in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future contest.

Zahrah the Windseeker is Okorafor-Mbachu's debut novel. Protagonist Zahrah Tsami is a thirteen-year-old "dadagirl," so named because she was born with "dad-alocks," special dreadlocked hair naturally entwined and growing with living plant vines. People in the Ooni kingdom, where Zahrah lives, combine technology with organic matter—computers are grown from CPU seeds, flower bulbs serve as sources of illumination, and a benign force of nature provides plenty for all. Though she is told that the dadalocks signify great strength and wisdom, to Zahrah they are a stigma since they cause her to be scorned by her peers. As she grows older, Zahrah discovers that her unusual hair isn't the only gift that the world has bestowed upon her. She is also a windseeker, an adept capable of calling and controlling the wind, upon which she can also fly. Afraid that her wind and flight abilities will only ostracize her further, Zahrah conceals her talents and does not practice. Finally convinced by her friend Dari to explore her powers, the two enter the Forbidden Greeny Jungle, a taboo area where they will not be seen but where they risk running into danger. When Dari is bitten by a poisonous snake, only Zahrah can save him—if she uses her powers to speed the acquisition of an elgort egg, the only known antidote. Heedless of additional danger to herself, Zahrah sets off on a series of greater adventures, determined to save her friend and, in the process, learn about herself.

Kliatt reviewer KaaVonia Hinton observed, "Teachers, scholars, and students who are interested in fantasy influenced by African culture and the theme of flight that permeates much African American literature by black women will appreciate" Zahrah the Windseeker. The author "has a fluid writing style that is filled with rich descriptions and vivid details," commented Stacey Seay in Rawsistaz Reviewers online. "Okorafor-Mbachu does an amazing job of thrilling, exciting and delivering a fantasy novel, and her pacing is superb," commented Arphelia K. Cabell in the Black Issues Book Review. The book is "a welcome addition to a genre sorely in need of more heroes and heroines of color," observed Booklist contributor Jennifer Mattson.

Okorafor-Mbachu told CA: "My father was a sort of storyteller. He was always telling these wild tales about when he was young and in Nigeria. And my father had a love of the nature's unknown that he definitely passed down to me; this plays a major role in what drives me write about something. My father's brother, my uncle, Moses, was also a sort of storyteller. The first Stephen King book I ever became familiar with was Cujo but not by reading it. When my uncle came from Nigeria to visit, he'd read Cujo. One evening, he sat my siblings and I down and told us the entire story. I read the book years later; my uncle's telling was much better.

"My mother used to talk about wanting to write books and that always stuck in my head, too. She's a good writer and is attracted to literature. Since she still hasn't written a book, I think that in a way, I'm finishing her task. My trips to Nigeria are one of the greatest influences on my work. My parents have been taking my siblings and me there to visit family since we were very young. Zahrah the Windseeker is highly inflected by these trips in several ways. The story basically takes place in a world built from Nigeria.

"I get an idea or the idea gets me and I start writing. And I won't stop until the draft is done. Period. This can often be a breathing experience because my schedule isn't often ready for a novel to hit me. However I find ways to get the story out (which usually involves no TV for months, friends not seeing or hearing from me for a while, and getting less sleep). I like to write in the early morning until my daughter wakes up or I have to go to work. I rarely write at night; I used to but once I had my daughter, this wasn't an option.

"I've only had one book published. But I'm working on the final edit of my second, have two on the market right now, and have written several. I don't have a favorite. As most writers will say, they are like my children and I love them equally, though they are all different. I can say that of all my novels, Zahrah the Windseeker was the one that came to me the fastest and the most complete.

"A friend of mine once told me that the best way to learn a language is to start by learning how to read and write it. There is something that the written word does to ideas that makes people better able to grasp them. I think the same goes with stories. And there are characters and places and ideas that I wish to pass on.

"My goal is also to achieve the effect that attracted me to books in the first place. I am as much a reader as I am a writer and I love when a book is able to make the world around me fall away completely and put me into its amazing world, in the heads of its amazing characters. We only are given one life but books especially, good ones, allow us stretch that rule. Through books, you can live hundreds and hundreds of other lives. This is what I seek. To create that effect of sucking a reader in so thoroughly into what I've written that he or she is there; to help multiply the lives one lives."



Black Issues Book Review, January-February, 2006, Arphelia K. Cabell, review of Zahrah the Wind-seeker, p. 61.

Booklist, November 15, 2005, Jennifer Mattson, review of Zahrah the Windseeker, p. 60.

Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2005, review of Zahrah the Windseeker, p. 980.

Kliatt, September 2005, KaaVonia Hinton, review of Zahrah the Windseeker, p. 11.

School Library Journal, December, 2005, Karyn N. Silverman, review of Zahrah the Windseeker, p. 151.


African Writer.com, http://www.africanwriter.com/ (April 14, 2006), biography of Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu.

Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu Web log, http://nnedi.blogspot.com (April 14, 2006).

Nnedimma Web site, http://www2.uic.edu/?nokora1/ (April 14, 2006), biography of Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu.

Rawsistaz Reviewers, http://www.therawreviewers.com/ (January 31, 2006), Stacey Seay, "In Due Time," review of Zahrah the Windseeker.

Strange Horizons, http://www.strangehorizons.com/ (June 2, 2006), review of Zahrah the Windseeker.

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