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

Bernardine Evaristo, Chigozie Obioma, & Oyinkan Braithwaite Make 13-Strong Longlist for the 2019 Booker Prize

chigozie obioma, bernardine evaristo, oyinkan braithwaite

The 2019 Booker Prize longlist was announced hours ago, and on it are Bernardine Evaristo for her eighth book Girl, […]

SynCity NG Releases Anniversary Anthology, Introduced by Tendai Huchu, and Announces Prize Winners, Judged by Mukoma wa Ngugi & Leye Adenle

Feast 3D (2)

In celebration of its one-year anniversary, the Nigeria-based African literature blog SynCity NG announced a prize and a call for […]

Ellah Wakatama Allfrey to Lead New Project for Artistic Partnership between University of Manchester and HOME

Ellah Wakatama Allfrey

As part of their three-year artistic partnership, the University of Manchester and the Manchester-based arts venue HOME have created a […]

ReWrite London Calls for Short Fiction Submissions from Black Women & Women of Colour

rewrite london - graph

ReWrite, the London-based platform for Black women and women of colour, founded in 2017 by the Congolese-British writer and facilitator […]

Sunday Times Announces Shortlists for South Africa’s Alan Paton Award & Barry Ronge Fiction Prize

panashe chigumadzi - book - graph - wix.com

Sunday Times has announced the shortlists for the prestigious South African literary prizes: the Alan Paton Award, in its 30th […]

Patrice Nganang’s When the Plums Are Ripe, the Second in His Historical Fiction Trilogy, Tells the Story of Cameroon’s Forced Entry into World War II

patrice nganang

The Cameroonian writer and Stony Brook literature professor Patrice Nganang, who in 2017 was arrested for criticising the country’s 37-year-ruling […]

Thanks for signing up!

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

No thanks, I only want the monthly newsletter.