The Carl Brandon Society, an organization that seeks to increase ethnic and racial diversity in Speculative Fiction, announced the 2010 Awards.
Karen Lord won the Carl Brandon Parallax Award for an outstanding work of speculative fiction by a writer of color. Nnedi Okorafor won the Carl Brandon Kindred Award for an outstanding work of speculative fiction dealing with race and ethnicity.
I read both of them two years ago and loved them both, for very different reasons. Digging through my notes, I unearthed mini-reviews of both of them.
A charming retold Sengalese folktale, very lighthearted and magical. A whiff of Tutu0la, a sprinkle of Okri, a dash of LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE, told in a witty, wise storytellers voice. Tricksters and magic and morality tales abound in this colorful story.
I really wanted to enjoy this book–but I couldn’t. And perhaps that was the point. Okorafor uses the trappings of fantasy–a young sorceress, her training, a prophetic quest–to discuss dark subject matters, particularly, the matter of sub-Saharan Africa. So it’s an oddly compelling mash-up of Chinua Achebe and a J.K. Rowling coming of age novel. Issues, like weaponized rape, genocide, slavery, color-caste racism, genital mutilation, and sexism exist along side casual magic (shape-shifting, teleportation, and other dimensions). The characters do go through hell, but the author does manage to inject warmth and humor into the tale. While the first person narrative is engaging, the reader (or this reader) noticed that the text was in conversation with other texts, both literary and political. It made for a richer read, but I fear that other readers might miss the significance and be left in the dark. In short, this is not escapist fantasy literature, though the magic here will transport you to another world. Allegory enrobes this story.
Who Fears Death reminds one of The Unconquered Country, by Geoff Ryman and Ben Okri’s tales of Azarro the Spirit Child. This is a brave book, full of some horrific images.
Congratulations to both authors!