Sunday, August 19, 2012


Who Fears Death, Nnedi Okorafor, Daw Books, 2010, 386 pp

Onyesonwu, the heroine of Who Fears Death, is an African young woman, engendered through the rape of her mother by a fierce soldier from an enemy tribe. Thus she is part of a generation of outcasts called Ewu who are half-breeds with light skin and hair, rejected by both tribes. Her heritage is one of anger and violence but she is no victim. Instead, due to a strong will and fearless nature she becomes a rarity: a female sorceress. Her name means "Who Fears Death?"

The novel is dark, exciting, dangerous and feminist. In a quasi-postapocalyptic setting (computers and handheld devices in the African villages) with added magical elements, it fits into that elusive category called slip-stream. 

I was held captive on every page by the heady brew of the characters, the setting, and some of the best plotting I have read in a while. Ms Okorafor's feminism is soundly embedded in humanism and she writes about love, passion, sex, loyalty, friendship, and violence with an astounding degree of competence, even wisdom.

Not since I first read books such as The Secret Garden, The Mists of Avalon, The Left Hand of Darkness, or The Robber Bride, have I been so completely seduced by an author. She leaps nimbly across the great divides of race, men/women, material/spiritual, and politics. I think she is probably a genius. There is no one I admire more than a female genius.

I proposed this book to one of my reading groups in another dastardly attempt to bust my fellow reading women out of their comfort zones. You know what? They were dubious but like good sports they all read it AND loved it. We discussed for almost two hours!

(Who Fears Death is available in several formats including paperback and eBook by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)

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