Nnedi Okorafor (Nnedimma Nkemdili Okorafor; previously known as Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu was born April 8, 1974) is a Nigerian-American writer of fantasy, science fiction, and speculative fiction.
The American-born daughter of Igbo Nigerian parents, she has been visiting Nigeria since she was very young. During her years attending Homewood-Flossmoor High School in Flossmoor, Ill., Okorafor was known for being a star athlete tennis player and dominant in science studies, regarding the academic material as an engaging hobby more than a task. Upon discovering her diagnosis of scoliosis and the consequent surgery to resolve it, Okorafor’s student athletic career was ultimately impeded along with her ability to walk. It was during this time that Okorafor redefined herself, as her condition prevented her from continuing her previous athletic career, let alone being able to excel in it until after recovery. Thus, during this phase of recuperation, she spent her time writing as a hobby. Her novels and stories reflect both her West African heritage and her American life. Okorafor is a 2001 graduate of the Clarion Writers Workshop in Lansing, Michigan, and holds a PhD in English from the University of Illinois, Chicago. She is an associate professor of creative writing and literature at the University at Buffalo (SUNY) and lives between Buffalo and Olympia Fields, Illinois with her family.
Works and critical reception
Okorafor received a 2001 Hurston-Wright literary award for her story “Amphibious Green.” 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. Her science fiction novella “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).
Okorafor’s short stories have been published in anthologies and magazines, including Dark Matter: Reading The Bones, 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.
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.
Gary K. Wolfe wrote of her work: “Okorafor’s genius has been to find the iconic images and traditions of African culture, mostly Nigerian and often Igbo, and tweak them just enough to become a seamless part of her vocabulary of fantastika.”
In February 2014, it was announced that Okorafor would be 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.
Young Adult—writing as Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu
Zahrah the Windseeker (2005, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; paperback 2008, Graphia/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
The Shadow Speaker (2007, Hyperion/Disney)
Children— writing as Nnedi Okorafor
Long Juju Man (2009, Macmillan Africa)
Iridessa and the Secret of the Never Mine (2012, Disney Books)
Young Adult—writing as Nnedi Okorafor
Akata Witch (2011, Viking/Penguin) (Published as What Sunny Saw in the Flames in Nigeria and the UK by Cassava Republic Press)
Akata Witch 2: Akata Warrior (2017, upcoming)
The Man (to be published in Nigeria)
Adult—writing as Nnedi Okorafor
Who Fears Death (2010, DAW/Penguin)
“Hello, Moto” (2011, A Tor.Com Original short story)
“Moom!” short story in “AfroSF: Science Fiction by African Writers” (2012, Storytime)
Kabu Kabu (2013, Prime Books)
Lagoon (2014, Hodder & Stoughton Ltd.) (2015, Saga Press/Simon & Schuster)
The Book of Phoenix (2015, DAW/Penguin/PRH) (prequel of Who Fears Death)
Binti (2015, Tor.com)
Binti 2: Home (2017, Tor.com)
Brave New Souls: Black Sci-Fi & Fantasy Writers of the 21st Century (2013) – Herself