Organic Science Fiction: The Works of Chicago Author Nnedi Okorafor

Nnedi Okorafor's work straddles the mundane and the fantastical. In one story, children are born with hair in magical dada locks that allow them to fly. In another, a cab ride starts in Chicago, makes a pit stop at a supernatural parade and ends in Nigeria. Connecting different cultures and different worlds is Okorafor's specialty.

Okorafor was born in America, but she visited her parents' native Nigeria often. She grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, where she enjoyed her science classes and played sports. Her love of reading inspired her to become an author. She was a professor of English at Chicago State University for many years, but she recently left to join the faculty at University of Buffalo.

Her love of science is evident in her work. Ginen, a world that mixes magical plant life with technology, features prominently in several stories. Okorafor also brings a rare perspective to speculative fiction, and her inventive worlds are like nothing I've ever read. While some of her work takes place in the United States, she also features Nigeria, not only as a location but as a character in its own right. Okorafor's first book, Zahrah the Windseeker, won the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa.

I love short stories, so I grabbed Kabu Kabu as soon as I saw it on the shelf. The title story, which I mentioned above, reminds me of a Hayao Miyazaki movie. The main character, on her way to the airport with little time to spare, is taken around Chicago, meeting a host of strange creatures and people, until she ends up right where she is supposed to be. Some of the stories refer back to other books Okorafor has written, which completes the feeling of a new universe to explore.

Binti, which won both the Hugo and Nebula awards for best novella, follows a young girl who's invited to attend the most prestigious university in the galaxy. But first she has to get there. And once she arrives, will the knowledge available be worth the cost? The sequel, Binti: Home, came out in 2017, and the last book in the trilogy, Binti: The Night Masquerade, has been nominated for the 2019 Hugo Award for Best Novella.

At the beginning of Lagoon, a strange yet familiar creature crashes into the sea near Lagos, Nigeria. It changes the composition of the water and causes monsters to appear under the surface. As people from all walks of life are drawn to this strange occurrence, they work together to figure out what is happening and how it will affect the future of Nigeria.

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