Zahrah the Windseeker
Zahrah's destiny awaits her in the Forbidden Jungle.
Amanda Hall's Original Cover Illustration for Zahrah the Windseeker
» WINNER of
the 2008 Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature
» WINNER of
the 2012 Black Excellence Award
for Outstanding Achievement in Literature (Fiction)
» finalist for the 2008 The
Garden State Teen Choice Award
» finalist for the 2005 Parallax Award
» finalist for the 2005 Kindred Award
» nominated for a Locus Award (Best First Novel) 2005
» finalist for the 2005 Golden Duck Award
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In the northern Ooni Kingdom fear of the unknown runs deep, and children born dada are rumored to have special powers. Thirteen year old Zahrah Tsami feels like a normal kid - she grows her own flora computer; has mirrors sewn onto her cloths; and stays clear of the Forbidden Greeny Jungle.
But unlike other kids in the village of Kirki , Zahrah was born with the telling dadalocks. Only her best friend, Dari, isn't afraid of her - even when something unusual begins happening to her - something that definitely makes her different.
The two friends determine to investigate, edging closer and closer to danger. When Dari's life is endangered, Zahrah must face her worst fears all by herself, including the very thing that makes her different.
Praise for Zahrah the Windseeker
Zahrah the Windseeker is a consistently compelling and provocative tale that suggests new ways of treating folkloristic material, particularly African folklore, in a science-fictional setting. This is a very promising first novel, not only in terms of YA fiction, but in terms of science fiction and fantasy.
- Gary Wolfe , Locus Magazine
Okorafor-Mbachu creates an outstanding science fiction/fantasy novel complete with exotic creatures, a magical forest, and children with superhuman abilities. The author describes the country of Ooni, its creatures, and people as if she has seen them all firsthand.
- Jonatha Masters, VOYA: Voice of Youth Advocates Journal
First-time novelist Okorafor-Mbachu braids elements of African tribal culture and speculative fantasy into a sprawling novel, in which one discerns shades of A Girl Named Disaster (1996), by Nancy Farmer and The People Could Fly (1985), by Virginia Hamilton (to whom this book is dedicated)....Okorafor-Mbachu's evocative setting will draw experienced fantasy readers with its heady mix of the familiar and the strange...A welcome addition to a genre sorely in need of more heroes and heroines of color.
You will instantly be charmed by the world of the Ooni Kingdom and reminded of heavyweight, science-fiction writers like Octavia Butler, but it is classical and absurd in the style of Lewis Carroll.
- Black Issues Book Review
A fantastical travelogue into the unknown of a young girl's fears, and the magical world that surrounds her town. Written in the spirit of Clive Barker's Abarat, with a contemporary African sensibility. Okorafor-Mbachu's imagination is delightful!
- Nalo Hopkinson , author of Brown Girl in the Ring and Midnight Robber
"Great Joukoujou!" Characters from traditional African storytelling are alive and kicking in this fantasy novel. Zahrah the Windseeker reads like an amazing dream you never want to end.
- Sefi Atta, author of Everything Good Will Come
From award winning Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Purple Hibiscus, to Chris Abani's Graceland, Sefi Attah's Everything Good Will Come, Helon Habila's Waiting for an Angel, Iwelela's Beasts of No Nation, another new Nigerian author, Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu, has joined the pack.
- Uduma Kalu, The Guardian Newspaper (Lagos , Nigeria)
Bursts of humor, exotic flora and fauna and the unusual combination of Nigerian-based culture with children's fantasy make this worth the read.
- Kirkus Reviews
A refreshingly different take on the cultural conventions of science fiction and fantasy, Zahrah's coming-of-age story introduces readers to a vibrant new world.
- the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
Zahrah the Windseeker is not your average children's book...Okorafor-Mbachu's debut novel is a must-read!
- The Star Newspapers
Zahrah the Windseeker is a most impressive debut from newcomer Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu, combining as it does an engaging, empathetic young protagonist, a rousing jungle adventure, and the weirdest fantasy world this side of The Neverending Story.
- Strange Horizons
From zahrah The windseeker
When I was born, my mother took one look at me and laughed.
"She's dada," said the doctor, looking surprised.
"I can see that," my mother replied with a smile. She took me in her arms and gently touched one of the thick clumps of hair growing from my little head. I had dadalocks and woven inside each one of those clumps was a skinny, light green vine. Contrary to what a lot of people think, these vines didn't sprout directly from my head. Instead, they were more like plants that had attached themselves to my hair as I grew inside my mother's womb. Imagine that! To be born with vines growing in your hair! But that's the nature of dada people, like myself.
"Look, she's smiling," my father said. "As if she already knows she's dada."
To many, to be dada meant you were born with strange powers. That you could walk into a room and a mysterious wind would knock things over or clocks would automatically stop; that your mere presence would cause flowers to grow underneath the soil instead of above. That you caused things to rebel or that you would grow up to be rebellious yourself! And what made things even worse was that I was a girl, and only boys and men were supposed to be rebellious. Girls were supposed to be soft, quiet, and pleasant.
Thankfully, when I was born, my parents were open-minded and well-educated, and familiar with some of the older stories about dada people. These stories said that the dada-born were destined to be wise beings, not necessarily rebels. As a result, my parents didn't cut my hair, and they weren't scared by it either. Instead they let it grow and, as I got older, made sure I understood that being dada was not a curse. In fact, it was a blessing, because it was a part of me, they said. Of course I didn't feel this way when I was old enough to go to school and my classmates called me names.
Now I'm fourteen and my dada hair has grown way down my back. Also, the vines inside are thicker and dark green now. Sometimes all this hair is heavy but I'm used to it. My mother says it forces me to hold my head up higher.
Nnedi Okorafor made her fiction debut with Zahrah the Windseeker. Her second novel is The Shadow Speaker. Her short stories have won many awards, and she
holds a PhD in English from the University of Illinois.