On Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
Tara Campbell’s post gives a great overview of Okorafor’s life, writing, and thematic interests, but here, I’ll be looking more closely at Binti.
In Binti we are introduced to our series protagonist, Binti, the first of her people to be offered admission to Oomza University. This university is considered the best in the galaxy. Binti lives on Earth and her people are called Himba. They are people who live in the deserts and worship/respect the Earth. In doing so the Himba cover their bodies in otjize which means red land.
On Binti’s journey she comes across many obstacles, including other people on Earth who do not accept her culture and members of another species called the Meduse who are seeking vengeance against Oomza University.
Okorafor constructs this fastical/sci-fi world in a unique way. We aren’t told exactly how Binti‘s Earth differs from our own. Instead we are given the beliefs of the different types of humans who inhabit it, and information about the advancements in technology (such as space travel) and skills in those societies.
This book was also assigned reading for my literature class “The Global Novel,” and Binti is the first novel we read in which the author is able to cover ideas of identity, mixing cultures, and Afrofuturism in the fantasy/sci-fi genre. Okorafor is able to make new conflicts and unique plots that are literally out of this world. This opens up fresh discussions on current conversations about conflicting cultures in our world, and potential ways of resolving them.
The Binti series is a trilogy. After reading this first one, I feel fully immersed in the world and characters Nnedi Okorafor constructed. I will definitely be reading the next two books soon.
Nick Chhoeun is a staff editor at Café MFA and a first-year candidate in American University’s Creative Writing MFA program.