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Photo from Nnedi Okorafor’s Twitter.

Nnedi Okorafor’s memoir, Broken Places & Outer Spaces: Finding Creativity in the Unexpected, was published yesterday, 18 June, by Simon & Schuster imprint TED Books. It is her first book of nonfiction and her 15th book overall in 14 years, since her 2005 debut. In February, on Twitter, she described the 112-page book as a “memoir, science fiction, lots of things,” adding that she had “been writing parts of this book for over two decades.” In recent weeks, the Nigerian American author, who has stressed that her work is Africanfuturism rather than the popular Afrofuturism, revealed that she is creating a TV company called Africanfuturism Productions Inc.

In an early review, Publishers Weekly called Broken Places & Outer Spaces “eloquent” and a “gripping account of her recovery [that] will inspire any reader,” praising her “affecting, rich descriptions” and “wonderful analysis of how personal tragedy affected the careers of Frida Kahlo and Mary Shelley.”

Here is a description by its publisher:

A powerful journey from star athlete to sudden paralysis to creative awakening, award-winning science fiction writer Nnedi Okorafor shows that what we think are our limitations have the potential to become our greatest strengths.

Nnedi Okorafor was never supposed to be paralyzed. A college track star and budding entomologist, Nnedi’s lifelong battle with scoliosis was just a bump in her plan—something a simple operation would easily correct. But when Nnedi wakes from the surgery to find she can’t move her legs, her entire sense of self begins to waver. Confined to a hospital bed for months, unusual things begin to happen. Psychedelic bugs crawl her hospital walls; strange dreams visit her nightly. Nnedi begins to put these experiences into writing, conjuring up strange, fantastical stories. What Nnedi discovers during her confinement would prove to be the key to her life as a successful science fiction author: In science fiction, when something breaks, something greater often emerges from the cracks.

In Broken Places & Outer Spaces, Nnedi takes the reader on a journey from her hospital bed deep into her memories, from her painful first experiences with racism as a child in Chicago to her powerful visits to her parents’ hometown in Nigeria. From Frida Kahlo to Mary Shelly, she examines great artists and writers who have pushed through their limitations, using hardship to fuel their work. Through these compelling stories and her own, Nnedi reveals a universal truth: What we perceive as limitations have the potential to become our greatest strengths—far greater than when we were unbroken.

A guidebook for anyone eager to understand how their limitations might actually be used as a creative springboard, Broken Places & Outer Spaces is an inspiring look at how to open up new windows in your mind.

Nnedi Okorafor with her cat Periwinkle Chukwu. Photo credit: Zbigniew Bzdak/Chicago Tribune.

Okorafor’s oeuvre comprises children’s, Young Adult, and Adult novels and novellas. She made her debut in 2005, publishing two Young Adult novels as Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu: Zahrah the Windseeker (2005) and The Shadow Speaker (2007); after which she dropped “Mbachu” from her publishing name. She has since released three children’s books: Long Juju Man (2009), Iridessa and the Secret of the Never Mine (2014), and Chicken in the Kitchen (2015); and two more Young Adult novels: Akata Witch (2011) and Akata Warrior (2017), both of which comprise The Akata Series and are published by Cassava Republic in Nigeria and the UK as What Sunny Saw in the Flames and Sunny and the Mysteries of Osisi, respectively; and the following Adult books: Who Fears Death (2010); Kabu Kabu (2013); Lagoon (2014); The Book of Phoenix (2015); and Binti (2015), Binti: Home (2017), and Binti: The Night Masquerade (2018), which comprise The Binti Trilogy. She is the recipient of numerous honours, including the World Fantasy Award, the Nebula Award, the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature, the Black Excellence Award for Outstanding Achievement in Literature, and the Brittle Paper Literary Person of the Year.

Okorafor writes comics for Marvel: Black Panther: Long Live the King (2017), Shuri (2018), Wakanda Forever (2018); and for other companies: LaGuardia (2018, Dark Horse) and Antar: the Black Knight (2018, IDW/Mirage Films).

Brittle Paper congratulates Nnedi Okorafor.

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About Otosirieze Obi-Young

View all posts by Otosirieze Obi-Young
Otosirieze Obi-Young is a writer, journalist, & Deputy Editor of Brittle Paper. He sits on the judging panels of The Miles Morland Writing Scholarships and of The Gerald Kraak Prize. He is Nonfiction Editor at 14, Nigeria’s first queer art collective, which has published volumes including We Are Flowers (2017) and The Inward Gaze (2018). He is Curator at The Art Naija Series, a sequence of e-anthologies of writing and visual art focusing on different aspects of Nigerianness, including Enter Naija: The Book of Places (2016), which explores cities, and Work Naija: The Book of Vocations (2017), which explores professions. His work in queer equality advocacy in literature has been profiled in Literary Hub. His fiction has appeared in The Threepenny Review and Transition. He has completed a collection of short stories, You Sing of a Longing, is working on a novel, and is represented by David Godwin Associates literary agency. He has an M.A. in African Studies and a combined honours B.A. in History & International Studies/English & Literary Studies, both from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He taught English in a private Nigerian university. He is currently nominated for the inaugural The Future Awards Prize for Literature. Find him at otosirieze.com, where he accepts writing and editing offers, or on Instagram or Twitter: @otosirieze. When bored, he Googles Rihanna.

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