Let me begin this review of Nnedi Okorafor’s short stories of Binti and Binti:Home (at the moment it’s only a duology, but there will be a third), with the first book, Binti. Binti tells the story Binti’s journey to the elite Oomza University. After having abandoned her family and culture, the spaceship she is traveling on undergoes tragedy, attacked by the Meduse, and she must beat practically impossible odds to survive.
I absolutely loved the premise of Binti and as a protagonist she is daring, intelligent, and bold. Defying her culture and family, she follows her heart and brain to accept her place at University. She is an Outsider in almost all respects, and this position results in not only her poor treatment but in a chance for her to assert her individuality. The world building is fascinating and the amount of depth in the novella and characterization is astonishing. This reminded me so much of Octavia Butler’s character of Lilith, that I loved it even more. Binti defies all expectations I had of a novella and of this plot as she must negotiate her place in the galaxy while coming to terms with her Outsider status.
Now on to the sequel, Binti: Home. This novella takes off where the first leaves off. Binti is now a hero, but with this status comes new challenges as she returns home with her friend Okwu. Tensions are higher than ever as Binti returns forever changed and she must figure out where her home and family truly are. What I loved about this book was that we were able to see a deeper look into the universe. The imagination runs free as each sentence paints a more vivid picture of the world. The juxtaposition between Binti’s return to Earth and her residual feeling of being ‘alien’ is described beautifully. You ache with her as her world is turned one more upside down and we are able to go on her soul searching journey together.
All in all I really loved both of these novellas, not only for their length, but for the way they are able to paint a beautiful world and compelling characters. They ask us serious questions, questions we all must ask ourselves one day. The truth we think we know changes as the borders dissolve and constantly shift until we must redefine our truth, our home, ourselves. Whether it be the pregnant ships, medusa-like hair, or the jelly-fish-like best friends, I am a true fan of Binti.
Would you defy our family to follow your dreams?
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