Nnedi Okorafor was born in the United
States to two Igbo (Nigerian) immigrant parents. She holds a PhD in English and
is a professor at Chicago State University. She resides in the
suburbs of Chicago with her daughter
Though American-born, Nnedi's muse is Nigeria. Her parents began taking her and her siblings to visit relatives there when she was very young. Because Nigeria is her muse, this is where
many of her stories take place, either literally or figuratively.
Because she grew up wanting to be an
entomologist and even after becoming a writer maintained that
love of insects and nature, her work is always filled with
startlingly vivid flora and fauna.
And because Octavia Butler, Stephen King,
Philip Pullman, Tove Jansson, Hayao Miyazaki, and Ngugi wa
Thiong'o are her greatest influences, her work tends to be...on
the creative side.
Her first novel, Zahrah the Windseeker (published in 2005 by Houghton Mifflin and an illustrated version
was published in Nigeria in 2008 by
Kachifo Ltd.), takes place in a highly technological world based on Nigerian myths and culture.
Zahrah the Windseeker was the winner of
the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature, shortlisted for the Parallax Award and Kindred Award, a finalist for
the Golden Duck and Garden State Teen Choice awards and
nominated for a Locus Award (Best First Novel).
Nnedi Okorafor and Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka
at the Wole Soyinka Prize ceremony in Lagos, Nigeria.
second novel, The Shadow Speaker
(Hyperion Books, 2007) has characters from and takes place in
the countries of Niger and Nigeria.
The Shadow Speaker is the winner of the CBS Parallax
Award. It was a Booksense Pick for Winter
2007/08 and a finalist for the Essence Magazine Literary Award
Award. It is also an NAACP Image Award nominee, a
Tiptree Honor Book and a
Locus Magazine Recommended Book.
Nnedi is the winner of the 2007/08
Prize for Africa. Her winning unpublished children's book,
Long Juju Man, a story about a girl's
encounters with an irritating crafty ghost, will be published by
Macmillan UK in 2008.
Her young adult novel, Akata Witch
(2011, Penguin), is about teenage albino Nigerian
girl who learns that she is part of a secret magical society.
Her adult novel, Who Fears Death (DAW Books), is
a magical realist novel that evenly combines the African literature
and fantasy/science fiction. It won the 2011 World Fantasy Award for Best Novel
and was a Nebula and Locus Award nominee. The Washington Post
said that Who Fears Death is , "Both wondrously magical and
Nnedi has had several short stories published and win awards. Her short story,
"How Inyang Got Her Wings" is about a young Efik girl with amazing powers in a remote southeastern Nigerian village. It was shortlisted for the 2006 Olaudah Equiano Prize for Fiction. Her award winning short story Biafra was a magical story about Nigeria 's Civil War which took place in the late 60s.
"The Popular Mechanic" (to be published by InterNova in 2007) is a story that touches on a very serious problem in Nigeria today: Oil. Over 80 percent of the country's revenue comes from oil sales. Nigeria is American's 5th largest oil supplier. Yet, Nigerians continue to suffer from shortages of gasoline and the country's most oil rich areas are some of the most poverty stricken places in the world. Who wouldn't set a story in this quagmire?
Nnedi also wrote the critical essay, Stephan King's Super Duper Magical Negroes, which published in Strange Horizons in October 2004. The essay was the first place winner of the 2005 Strange Horizons Reader's Choice Award for non-fiction. Her short story, the Magical Negro, originally published in Dark Matter: Reading the Bones, was a finalist for the 2005 Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award.
Her short story, "The Awakening", was 2003's winner of the Chicago Bar Association Goodnow Entertainment Award. Windseekers , a fantasy story based on Nigerian myth and culture, was a finalist in the 2002 Writers of the Future Contest and was published in the Writers of the Future Anthology XVIII. In 2001, Nnedi won third place in the 2001 Hurston/Wright Awards for her story
"Amphibious Green" and received an honorable mention in The Year's Best Horror and Fantasy (14th Ed) for
"The Palm Tree Bandit" (originally published in Strange Horizons).
Her first full-length play, Full Moon, (directed by A. Damani Harris ) was produced by the Buxville
Theater Company at the Chopin Theatre in Chicago in 2005. Her
screenplay Wrapped in
Magic was filmed in Nigeria in 2011 by
award-winning Nollywood film director, Tchidi Chikere.
Nnedi earned her BA in Rhetoric from the
University of Illinois, C-U. Her MA in journalism from Michigan
State University. And her MA and PhD in English at the
University of Illinois , Chicago. She is also a graduate of the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers' Workshop (2001).