An Alien World
In my quest to find great f&sf books published in 2010 I’ve taken up the Nebula Award nominees. Often those are excellent picks.
“Who Fears Death” by Nnedi Okorafor is the story of Onyesonwu (her name translates as the story’s title), a young woman living in a future version of the Sudan. Some things haven’t changed, and so it is that Onyesonwu is the product of weaponized rape, and has to survive in a climate of intense racism directed at her and her parents, while towards the west a war of ethnic cleansing is brewing.
Onyesonwu is by no means an ordinary person, but she struggles as much as anyone else - perhaps more, because of her unique burden. She does learn to use her strengths, and in the end she goes to confront her father, the man who raped her mother.
The story’s makes use of African folk tales and beliefs, alongside of remnants of technology that indicate this is all happening at some future time. Magic and technology, side by side, create a vivid backdrop for the story, told by Onyesonwu to her biographer.
Younger readers ought to have some guidance while reading the story, as it deals not just with issues of rape and racism, but it also talks about female genital mutilation, a practice carried out in large parts of Africa, even though most governments there have outlawed it. In Okorafor’s narrative most young girls undergo the procedure voluntarily, albeit under a great deal of social pressure. I have no idea to what extent that reflects reality.
“Who Fears Death” is one of my favorite stories published in 2010.