Who Fears Death
In a far future, post-nuclear-holocaust Africa, genocide plagues one region. The aggressors, the Nuru, have decided to follow the Great Book and exterminate the Okeke. But when the only surviving member of a slain Okeke village is brutally raped, she manages to escape, wandering farther into the desert. She gives birth to a baby girl with hair and skin the color of sand and instinctively knows that her daughter is different. She names her daughter Onyesonwu, which means "Who Fears Death?" in an ancient African tongue.
Reared under the tutelage of a mysterious and traditional shaman, Onyesonwu discovers her magical destiny—to end the genocide of her people. The journey to fulfill her destiny will force her to grapple with nature, tradition, history, true love, the spiritual mysteries of her culture—and eventually death itself.
Author: Nnedi Okorafor
This book will change the way I see the world forever. It is a genre so different and yet so similar to those I have read before, but it made such an impression on me. I am going to read everything Nnedi Okorafor has ever written, because it will make my world better and deeper. How many books can you say have done that for you? Few for me. I cannot recommend it to you highly enough. Who Fears Death had just enough fantasy, just enough feminism, just enough social justice, and just enough beauty to leave me in awe of every word. Okorafor has won a ton of awards for a reason—I couldn't believe her talent.
Onyesonwu is a formidable human being. She is strong and angry. She has power. She is not particularly feminine, and yet also incredibly woman. She is both good and bad, but mostly good. It is hard to wrap your head around her character, but she also finds it hard to wrap her head around her own self, so this isn't surprising. The result is that even though she is magical and powerful, she is also extremely human, and very beautiful.
The other characters in the story begin as very two-dimensional, but as it progressed, I found myself surprised by how much I either loved or hated them. This helped reinforce the theme that all people are human, that no one deserves to be treated a specific way based on superficial impressions, and that the world can always use more compassion.
If you take only one of my recommendations ever, let it be this one. Read this book.