Interview with Nnedi Okorafor

Over at Amazon’s blog, Omnivoracious, Matthew Cheney interviews Nnedi Okorafor. Here’s an excerpt: Sure, that makes a lot of sense. Now, to completely change topics, I’d like to talk about a particular section of the book. The Red People live in the eye of a perpetual storm — it’s an extraordinary image, and it conveys a lot about both the attraction and peril of a group sealing themselves off from the world. How did the concept of the Red People occur to you?

Okorafor: Honestly, I don’t know. I do know that once in Nigeria — no twice, at two different times — I saw a woman walking down the road who was African looking but her skin was just…red. I don’t know if these two women had rubbed palm oil on their skin or something but their brown skin had this very strong tint of red. Both women were really beautiful. Over the years, I’ve thought about these two random women a lot. I’ve asked relatives and Nigerian friends if they’ve ever seen such women, the only person who had was my sister Ifeoma (who was there when we saw the first red woman). When something fascinates me it almost always makes it into my stories.

As for the culture of the Red People, that just came as I was writing. That’s one of those writer things where the story blows in from some other place and you just write it down. Even the giant sandstorm they live within, I don’t know where that came from (though I do have a fascination with violent winds- tornadoes, hurricanes, sandstorms, etc) but once it was there, the metaphor made so much sense to me.

Nevertheless, I believe that much of the Red People’s culture came from some of my own views. I believe our society has too many labels that are rigid and cause problems for families. I feel like we focus more on fitting labels than cultivating and nurturing love. And I also believe that those who are different, those who are “other” often have to hide, “contain” and separate themselves in order to survive.


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