Thursday, May 8, 2008

Zahrah the Windseeker Nnedi Okorafor

Zahrah the Windseeker by Nnedi Okorafor This book was first published in September 2005. The paperback edition was released earlier this year. I only heard of Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu after her second novel, Shadow Speaker was a finalist for the 2008 Essence Magazine Literary Award. In February in honor of Black History Month, The Brown Bookshelf blog, interviewed 28 black authors. Okorafor-Mbachu was one of the authors. Her interview was my favorite. Last month I finally ordered Zahrah the Windseeker. I love the cover of the paperback, cover design by Sheila Smallwood and Carol Chu. I went back and forth about whether or not to include the cover designers. I finally decided to, illustrators are mentioned all the time why not cover designers. Besides the cover is the reason why I stopped straddling the fence and brought the book. I definitely made the right decision. I really enjoyed Zahrah the Windseeker. It was a visual treat. Its not often I get to picture scholarly baboons, trees as tall as The Empire State building, a talking compass with an attitude or spiders big enough to trample a 14 yr old girl. My ears got a treat as well. Hip-Pocalypso and Tree Rhythm are just two types of Ooni music. Hip-Pocalypso sounds cool as hell and I can almost hear the smooth melodies of a Tree Rhythm song.
Zahrah was born with the mark of dada upon her head. Vines intertwined inside her locks. (dadalocks) Dada are rear and believed to have powers. Zahrah lives in northern Ooni on planet Ginen where nature and technology are one. The planet is overrun with vegetation rather then fight it Ooni people embrace it. Everything is cultivated from seeds including computers and buildings. I love how the author explains it.

"My father had given me the cpu seed when I was seven years old, and I had planted and taken care of it all by myself. It was my first responsibility. My flora computer had grown nicely because of my care."

When the story begins Zahrah is 14, since her parents never feared the mark of dada, she has never had to cut her dadalocks. On any planet, if a teenager is marked as different they will be teased. Zahrah starts off as a shy quiet girl teased by classmates and feared by others. Dari, her only friend was a born intellectual. He is a very good influence on Zahrah, challenging her to question why, pushing her to face her fears. About a chapter into the book Zahrah begins her menstrual cycle. That evening she begins to float off her bed. Zahrah can fly. This new ability scares her silent. Finally she confides in Dari.
Zahrah's people embrace nature but they are afraid of Greeny Jungle, known as the forbidden Greeny Jungle. The forbidden Greeny Jungle is an untamed wilderness that no one from Ooni will enter. Everyone happily pretends the jungle does not exist. Ooni adults fear of the forbidden Greeny Jungle is ingrained, their days of exploring have long past. Children are born hearing the stories and warnings of the Forbidden Greeny Jungle, and thus will not enter. The unknown will remained just that until a child refuses to expect stories as truth without evidence. Dari, is that child. He will not allow fear to stop his desire to explore and learn. Though Zahrah is afraid, she goes with Dari. Their friendship is that strong. They don't go just to go, they need a private place so Zahrah can practice flying.
At first everything goes well, then Dari is bitten by a war snake and goes into a coma. The only thing that can save him is the yolk of an unfertilized elgort egg. Elgorts are vicious animals that live deep inside Forbidden Greeny Jungle. To save her friend Zahrah will enter the Forbidden Greeny Jungle alone. Let the adventure begin. Okorafor-Mbachu created a very colorful, entertaining, enjoyable read with Zahrah the Windseeker. I'll leave you with a taste of the books goodness.

"After I screamed I could only gawk as the giant tortoise cracked the scorpion's hard head with its powerful jaw and began to feast on its now limp body with both of its heads! The wet meaty sound and inky color of scorpion's blood, which covered the tortoise's mouths and oozed out of the scorpion's body made me gag with disgust."

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