Book Club: Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
Book Club: Binti by Nnedi okorafor
It's 2018 and I think we all saw enough of Black Panther to know that an African nation doesn't mean a helpless one. I love books like Binti because it not only stars an African cast of characters who are the epitome of progress, they lead the charge. I was exposed to it a lot this year with movies like Black Panther and books like Artemis so I'm glad that more authors are getting the hint that we like our entertainment with a healthy dose of equality and diversity. I am so glad that Jen chose to review Binti because it's just the kind of book we need right now.
Her name is Binti, and she is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But to accept the offer will mean giving up her place in her family to travel between the stars among strangers who do not share her ways or respect her customs.
Knowledge comes at a cost, one that Binti is willing to pay, but her journey will not be easy. The world she seeks to enter has long warred with the Meduse, an alien race that has become the stuff of nightmares. Oomza University has wronged the Meduse, and Binti's stellar travel will bring her within their deadly reach.
If Binti hopes to survive the legacy of a war not of her making, she will need both the gifts of her people and the wisdom enshrined within the University, itself - but first she has to make it there, alive.
Related post: Book Club: Astrophysics for People in a Hurry
Binti is a short, sweet, and fascinating ride into sci-fi-fantasy story, which focuses on Binti, a young lady who has recently been accepted to the elite and intergalactic Oomza University. The book opens with Binti running away from her tribe to join the transport shuttle to take her spaceship that will take her to the university. While on the way to the university, the ship gets attacked by aliens and Binti must survive. What makes Binti unique among both her people and main characters in sci-fi books is the fact that she hails from a tribe of the Himba people.
The Himba Tribe is based on a real tribe of people near Nambia and Angola, in South Western Africa, who in reality are mostly hunter-gathers and nomadic types. In the book, the Himba people do not travel and do not leave their villages, but are mathematical geniuses and are master harmonizers. Harmonizers in the book are people who are so skilled at math they see the world in mathematical equations and can understand what makes the world tick.
A main point in the book focuses on Binti’s otjize, a special clay mixture she brings with her from Earth. The otjize is used by the Himba tribe to bathe because water is so scarce and precious where they live. Fresh water is only used to drink, so they mix red clay and oils together to create the special reddish clay mixture the rub into their skin and hair. The otjize that Binti brings with her seems to have special healing powers for the aliens that abduct the ship.
An additional item Binti brings with her when she leaves here tribe is an edan, a small stone she found in the desert that she keeps as a good luck charm, but also turns out to be a mysterious piece of technology that allows her to communicate with the aliens.
Binti is a short novel, under 100 pages, and as an audiobook under a four-hour binge read. I read the audiobook, which was narrated by Robin Miles. Miles narrates with incredible agility and poise, bringing to life to her speech, regional dialect, intelligence, and all the insecurities of a teenage girl leaving the planet and her tribe for the first time.
While I truly enjoyed this book and will definitely read the following books, I wanted more! I wish this story fleshed out the secondary characters and building blocks of the story more. So much time is spent building introducing us to Binti and her tribe, but the writer glosses over the other humans and characters in the story. Likewise, at the end of the novel, it read a bit like bullet points rather than a good conclusion to the story.
As I researched this story, I ran across the blog Black Girl Nerds, who described this Binti as a must read novella for anyone whose interested in Afrofuturism. I would definitely agree. I am inspired to read the next book in the series and I would recommend reading this book to anyone interested in the book by diverse authors about diverse characters. If you’re interested in a quick read, this plot is exciting and feels very fresh.