Who Fears Death
Let me say it up front: this is not an easy novel to read. But it is still one of my top novels of 2018 and I think it’s worth reading.
Nigerian-American author Nnedi Okorafor’s Who Fears Death is set in post-apocalyptic Sudan. Her protagonist is Onyesonwu – a daughter of genocide. Her dark-skinned mother of the Okeke people is brutally raped by her pale-skinned father, a Nuru. His people believe they are the chosen ones. Onyesonwu’s father hopes that the son born out of this rape will help him annihilate all of the Okeke people. What he doesn’t bank on is that Onyesonwu (whose name means “who fears death” in Igbo) is a girl who will grow into a fiery-tempered woman with magical powers. Her mission will be to cut off “the head of the snake”. Her father unwittingly creates the tool for his own destruction.
Who Fears Death is a mix of science fiction and magic realism. There are shapeshifters and sorcerers alongside some pretty high-tech stuff.
It’s a fierce novel grappling with burning themes like genocide, rape, brutality and privilege.
It is not a comfortable read and it pulls no punches.
Who Fears Death had me gasping for breath at the violence it unleashes on its pages, but the beauty of the writing and the underlying heart-rending story must be told. It must be heard. It must be acknowledged.
Nnedi Okorafor’s Who Fears Death is published by HarperCollins
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