Thursday, September 8, 2016

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

Binti (Binti, #1)  Winner of the 2016 Hugo Award for Best Novella, Binti is the story of a woman who leaves her family and her homeland to attend the prestigious Oomza University. She is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a position at the university. With an insatiable curiosity and an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and learning, she can't say no to the offer although that is what her family would have her do. Himba people don't ordinarily leave their homeland. Binti boards the ship bound for the university anyway. Along the way the ship is attacked and Binti finds herself in the middle of a conflict between the Meduse and the university.

In Binti author Nnedi Okorafor may be telling many stories and one of them is clearly about race and outsiderness. At the transportation hub where Binti goes to catch her shuttle (spaceship?) women come up to her and start grabbing her hair without asking. They comment about and insult her appearance and customs in front of her as if she were an inanimate object. This is just one example of the indignities Binti endures as she travels to the university. She is made to feel unwelcome and different at every turn. Once upon the ship with her fellow classmates things improve. She is intelligent and curious and fits in well. Then disaster strikes.

I liked this a lot. This is third short piece of writing I've read in the past two weeks. As with Folding Beijing and We the Animals, I liked this but ultimately was left unfulfilled and wanting more. Maybe short fiction just isn't my thing. Then again, maybe wanting more is a good sign. I am honestly not sure.

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