Subscribe to Newsletter
Monthly Newsletter: Join more than 3,000 African literature enthusiasts!
Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our "Guide to African Novels."

Screen Shot 2017-02-22 at 3.48.15 PM

The jellyfish in this picture stars in the cutest behind-the-scene story ever told in the history of African literature.

We’ve always wondered why Nnedi Okorafor dedicated the first novel in the Binti Trilogy to a jellyfish she met in Khalid Lagoon. Who is this jellyfish? What so special about it? How come did it get to have this amazing, bestselling book dedicated to it?

Jellyfish

In a recent interview with Weird Fiction Review, Nnedi Okorafor cleared the mystery behind the jellyfish affair. She tells the story of their encounter and how the “utterly beautiful” sea creature completely stole her heart and inspired one of her most-beloved series.

***

There’s always a story. Everything I write is connected in some way to my own life. Binti has many beginnings. I was writing this novella series before I knew I was writing it. One of those beginnings was in the UAE. My trip there with my daughter was the first of many…adventures. I had three book festival/events in a row on three continents within 12 days. I come from a very tight knit Nigerian American family. All of my immediate family is in the Chicago area. When I told them I was taking my then ten-year-old daughter with my on a 12 day trip that jumped from Brasilia, Brazil, to Atlanta, Georgia (North America) to Sharjah, the United Arab Emirates, everyone freaked out. In the end, I had to sneak to the airport with her and call them just before the plane took off (yes, I felt horribly guilty).

This trip turned out to be one of the greatest adventures, ever (so far). But by the time I arrived in the UAE with Anya, I was changed. When you jump from a place like Brazil where people are very free with their bodies to the Middle East, where everyone is covered up, and in between you spend time with a huge group of Octavia Butler scholars and fans at a historical African American college (Spelman College) doing a reading in a room full of Hoodoo, you can’t help but be affected. From a Portuguese speaking country, to an English speaking one, to a Arabic speaking one. This was my state of mind when I was walking around the Khalid Lagoon with Anya beneath the 100-degree Middle Eastern sun.

All around me was the futuristic, but still deeply ancient city of Sharjah. I stepped up to the water and looked down. And there, pumping away like it had very important things to do, was the very first live jellyfish I’d ever seen in the wild (I’d seen a man-o-war in Trinidad, but it was dead). It was blue, strong, alien and in my state of mind at the time, utterly beautiful.

In that moment, I knew I’d write about it.

Read the full interview HERE.

 

 

Tags: , ,

I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Welcome to Brittle Paper, your go-to site for African writing and literary culture. We bring you all the latest news and juicy updates on publications, authors, events, prizes, and lifestyle. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram (@brittlepaper) and sign up for our "I love African Literature" newsletter.

Monthly Newsletter!

Subscribe for African literature news, and receive a free copy of our
"Guide to African Novels."

Archives

Demons in the Villa | Excerpt from Ebenezer Obadare’s Pentecostal Republic

pentecostal republics ebenezer obadare

Pentecostal Republic takes a hard look at the influence of pentecostalism in Nigerian politics. Prof. Obadare is a sociologist, who […]

Yasmin Belkhyr, Romeo Oriogun, Liyou Libsekal, JK Anowe Featured in Forthcoming 20.35 Africa Anthology Guest-Edited by Gbenga Adesina and Safia Elhillo

20.35 africa contributors

In February, we announced a call for submissions for a new poetry project. The anthology, 20.35 Africa: An Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, […]

On Black and Arab Identities: Safia Elhillo’s Arab American Book Awards Acceptance Speech

Safia Elhillo - tcb book club (2)

Safia Elhillo has won the 2018 Arab American Book Award, also known as the George Ellenbogen Poetry Award, for her […]

Attend the Second Edition of the Write with Style Workshop with Oris Aigbokhaevbolo

Oris Aigbokhaevbolo (2)

Following the first edition of the Write With Style Workshop, the award-winning writer, critic, and journalist Oris Aigbokhaevbolo is hosting […]

Ngugi’s Novel, Matigari, Is Being Adapted to Film by Nollywood Director Kunle Afolayan

Kenyan author Ngugi wa ThiongÕo, Distinguished Professor of English and comparative literature at UC Irvine, is on the short list for the 2010 Nobel Prize in literature, for xxx(add phrase or blurb here from award announcement; 

Chancellor quote? Christine writing and getting approved quote).

Ngugi, whose name is pronounced ÒGoogyÓ and means Òwork,Ó is a prolific writer of novels, plays, essays and childrenÕs literature. Many of these have skewered the harsh sociopolitical conditions of post-Colonial Kenya, where he was born, imprisoned by the government and forced into exile.

His recent works have been among his most highly acclaimed and include what some consider his finest novel, ÒMurogi wa KagogoÓ (ÒWizard of the CrowÓ), a sweeping 2006 satire about globalization that he wrote in his native Gikuyu language. In his 2009 book ÒSomething Torn & New: An African Renaissance,Ó Ngugi argues that a resurgence of African languages is necessary to the restoration of African wholeness.

ÒI use the novel form to explore issues of wealth, power and values in society and how their production and organization in society impinge on the quality of a peopleÕs spiritual life,Ó he has said.

Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s 1987 novel Matigari is being adapted to film by Nollywood director Kunle Afolayan in a co-production with yet undisclosed Kenyan […]

Safia Elhillo Makes a Fashion Statement at the Arab American Book Awards

Safia Elhillo - tcb book club (2)

From Taiye Selasi’s dreamy designer collections and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s flayed sleeves and Dior collaboration to Alain Mabanckou’s dapper suits […]

Thanks for signing up!

Never miss out on new posts. Subscribe to a digest, too:

No thanks, I only want the monthly newsletter.