WHO FEARS DEATH by Nnedi Okorafor

Book Quote:

“You have to jump!” someone yelled.

My father and some boy holding a basket over his head were below. I gnashed my teeth and grasped the branch more tightly, angry and embarrassed.

Papa held his arms out. “Jump!” he shouted.

I hesitated, thinking I don’t want to die again. I whimpered. In order to avoid my subsequent thoughts, I jumped. Papa and I tumbled to the wet iroko fruit-covered ground. I scrambled up and pressed myself to him trying to hide as he took off his shirt. I quickly slipped it on. The smell of the mashed fruits was strong and bitter in the rain. We’d need a good bath to get the smell and purple stains off our skin. Papa’s clothes were ruined. I looked around. The boy was gone.

Book Review:

Review by Ann Wilkes (JUN 3, 2010)

Who Fears Death is a supernatural odyssey set in an alternate, post-apocalyptic Africa. The unnamed event that devastated this alternate Earth destroyed most of its technology.

Onyesonwu spent her first several years leading a nomadic life with her mother in the desert. The product of a brutal rape, Onye is half Okeke and half Nuru. Her obvious physical traits from her mixed blood brand her as an ewu. The word means born of pain, and many people believe that those born of violence will themselves become violent. They are despised and shunned.

One day, when she was eleven, she studied the feathers left by a sparrow an eagle had just killed. After feeling strange and wretching, she blacks out and wakes up in a tree, with no idea how she got there. She learns later that she had transformed into a bird and flown miles away.

Onye defies her mother and loving step-father to undergo the rite of circumcision. She feels that bucking tradition would make her even more of an outcast, bringing them more shame. One of the most compelling aspects of this novel is the close relationships that form between the eleven-year-old girls who share the ritual. Finally, Onye, the pariah, has friends, peers with whom she can confide and count on.

Onye’s abilities continue to manifest. She can heal wounds and even briefly animates her dead step-father on his funeral pyre when she is sixteen. Mwita, an ewu himself, works for the only person who can help Onye understand the changes happening to her. He tries to get his master to teach Onye, but Mwita’s arrogant master refuses to teach a girl.

Okorafor’s characters are ultra-real with hauntingly intimate thoughts and inner conflicts. Onye journeys through the desert while journeying from helpless outcast to powerful adversary and reluctant savior of her people. Mwita, whom she cannot help but love, provides perspective, balance, support and strength to her when she needs it.

The novel’s alternate Africa is shackled by tribal warfare, genocide, oppression and the subjugation of women. Who Fears Death speaks to all of these issues and more with an engaging tale that will stick with you long after you’ve read its last page.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-5from 63 readers
PUBLISHER: DAW Hardcover (June 1, 2010)
REVIEWER: Ann Wilkes
AUTHOR WEBSITE: Nnedi Okorafor
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June 3, 2010 В· Judi Clark В· No Comments
Tags: , ,  В· Posted in: Africa, Reading Guide, Speculative (Beyond Reality), y Award Winning Author

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