June 2010 Indie Next List
“Okorafor's latest novel, her first for adults, is a sharp, evocative story of a woman born of rape into a post-apocalyptic African landscape. Okorafor brings her considerable talent for ambiguous characterizations and grappling with difficult questions of morality and power in an unjust world. Her prose is musical and emotionally raw, and Okorafor's imagery brings the novel's rich magic and religion into vivid relief. Onyesonwu is a protagonist whose clear voice and brutally memorable story will stay with you long after you've finished.”
— Gretchen Treu, A Room of One's Own Feminist Bookstore, Madison, WI
International award-winning author Nnedi Okorafor enters the world of magical realist literature with a powerful story of genocide in the far future and of the woman who reshapes her world.
In a post-apocalyptic Africa, the world has changed in many ways, yet in one region genocide between tribes still bloodies the land. After years of enslaving the Okeke people, the Nuru tribe has decided to follow the Great Book and exterminate the Okeke tribe for good. An Okeke woman who has survived the annihilation of her village and a terrible rape by an enemy general wanders into the desert hoping to die. Instead, she gives birth to an angry baby girl with hair and skin the color of sand. Gripped by the certainty that her daughter is different--special--she names her child Onyesonwu, which means "Who Fears Death?" in an ancient tongue.
From a young age, stubborn, willful Onyesonwu is trouble. It doesn't take long for her to understand that she is physically and socially marked by the circumstances of her violent conception. She is Ewu--a child of rape who is expected to live a life of violence, a half-breed rejected by both tribes.
But Onye is not the average Ewu. As a child, Onye's singing attracts owls. By the age of eleven, she can change into a vulture. But these amazing abilities are merely the first glimmers of a remarkable and unique magic. As Onye grows, so do her abilities--soon she can manipulate matter and flesh, or travel beyond into the spiritual world. During an inadvertent visit to this other realm she learns something terrifying: someone powerful is trying to kill her.
Desperate to elude her would-be murderer, and to understand her own nature, she seeks help from the magic practitioners of her village. But, even among her mother's people, she meets with frustrating prejudice because she is Ewu and female. Yet Onyesonwu persists.
Eventually her magical destiny and her rebellious nature will force her to leave home on a quest that will be perilous in ways that Onyesonwu can not possibly imagine. For this journey will cause her to grapple with nature, tradition, history, true love, and the spiritual mysteries of her culture, and ultimately to learn why she was given the name she bears: Who Fears Death?