Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

A story about intersecting cultures, fear of the ‘other,’ leaving home, and overcoming fear. There’s more. A lot more. This little novella packs so much into so few pages.

Binti is the first of her small minority on Earth to be chosen to enter the best university in the galaxy. She steals away from her family with several pieces of her culture to keep her connected to the land and her people: A pot of ceremonial soil used for ritual cleansing. An ancient mechanical device that has had no known purpose, but Binti is drawn to it and its seemingly simple power.

Stepping away onto the transport for the first time is treacherous and a feat that she doesn’t take lightly, but when they are away, rocketing toward their destination, she can start to relax and meet her classmates. The peace is short lived as the vessel is attacked by a alien species who abhor the elitist group who govern the university. All are killed on the ship except for Binti. She has a way of warding off the invaders. Will she find a way to survive? What are the goals for attacking the ship?

Seamless integration of character development, worldbuilding, and plot. I found myself rereading many passages, not because I didn’t understand them the first time, but because I felt I needed to slow down and enjoy the moments. Whether it was the workings of Binti’s quick mind or the recollection of a memory of her father, Okorafor’s writing is captivating.

I know the awards it has garnered, and it has been highly recommended to me in the past. I am so happy that I took everyone’s advice. You should too!

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