On the Same Page: Who Fears Death

January-February 2018
 book cover   Who  Fears Death 
Nnedi Okorafor

The novel Who Fears Death is set in post-apocalyptic Sudan and mixes fantasy with magical realism. (In the book, one region’s genocide between tribes still bloodies the land.) After years of enslaving the Okeke people, the Nuru tribe has decided to follow the Great Book and exterminate the Okeke tribe for good; the dark-skinned Okeke people live as second class citizens oppressed by the lighter-skinned Nuru. An Okeke woman, who has survived the annihilation of her village, wanders into the desert hoping to die but lives. She gives birth to an angry baby girl with hair and skin the color of sand. Gripped by the certainty that her daughter is different—special—she names her child Onyesonwu, which means “Who Fears Death?”

Onyesonwu possesses a variety of magical abilities. As a child, her singing attracts owls. By the age of eleven, she can morph into a vulture. But these amazing abilities are merely the first glimmers of a remarkable unique magic. As she grows, so do her abilities—soon she can manipulate matter and flesh and travel into the spiritual world. During an inadvertent visit to this other realm she learns something terrifying: someone powerful is trying to kill her.

Who Fears Death has been optioned by HBO to be turned into a television series, with Game of Thrones' George R.R. Martin as executive producer.

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