Book Review of Nnedi Okorafor’s WHO FEARS DEATH

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Book Review of Nnedi Okorafor’s

Who Fears Death

by Dan Watt

Nnedi Okorafor, PhD. is a multi-award winning author including a Wole Soyinka Prize, The World Fantasy Award, Nebula Award, Hugo Award, and more.

Her current book: NOOR was released late November

However, this is about a book published eleven years ago by Daw Books, Inc. called:


Okorafor’s description of sand reminded me of Barry Lopez’s description of the many types of snow and ice in his Arctic Dreams (Vintage Publ. 1986, 2001).  Always shifting and changing.  Something to hide within during the night, or run from when the wind is so strong the granules tear gashes like tiny knives. 

Her writing felt so real it brought back memories of reading Elenore Smith Bowen and Laura Bohannan’s: Return to Laughter: An Anthropological Novel (Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 1965).  Both Return to Laughter and Okorafor’s: Who Fears Death creates natural interactions that could happen anywhere in the world.  Throughout Who Fears Death, Okorafor deals with the very real emotions of desire, fear, jealousy, and misunderstanding. 

Where Okorafor’s Who Fears Death becomes more mythological is her use of JuJu for both violence and healing and her very realistic description of physical transformation.

The main character is written in first person.  Her name is Onyesonwa, a girl born of rape between a Nuru and Okeke.  The child of a Nuru and Okeke is called an Ewu.  Here, Okorafor includes in her narrative, the conversation of how humans treat children of rape, and biases based on appearance and gender that can lead to slavery, war, and perhaps genocide.

Eventually Onyesonwa will head into the desert to fulfill what she believes is her destiny with a group of friends.  While journeying through the desert, we as readers, will learn that camels and other creatures are much wiser than most of us realize.

The natural way Okorafor writes the spiritual connection both the Nuru and Okeke have to the goddess Ani; her use of ju ju; and the connection Onyesonwa has with the animal kingdom in such a clear way, has me wondering.  Did she sleep to wake in the Wilderness, and upon returning, remember what happened?

This is a story that will pull you in so that the soles of your feet press against the warm sand.  You will feel, hear, and smell what Onyesonwu and the other main characters do; until the very end.

I won’t say more because I want you to experience Nnedi Okorafor’s: Who Fears Death for yourself.

To learn more about Nnedi Okorafor and her books:

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