6.12.18 Pick: Children of Blood & Bone

When I discontinued posting book reviews and hosting book club gatherings earlier this year, I was not so sure that I would resume doing either. I allowed low turnout  to discourage me from carrying on with the Book Club. Despite this reservation, I missed sharing the books I read with you.  That, combined with my belief that reading is one of the most enriching practices we can engage in, has persuaded me to jump back unto the proverbial horse. As 2018 draws to a close and I reassess my involvement on social media and the relevance of maintaining a blog, being an advocate for reading is something that I feel passionate using these platform for. Together with my friend Assata, I cofounded the Book Club to help nurture a community celebrating literature written by people of color, whose diverse stories reflecting myriad personifications and experiences are still underrepresented. Given how I feel about this issue, I'm particularly excited to reveal my first Pick since the hiatus, - Children of Blood and Bone, written by Nigerian America author Tomi Adeyemi.

Children of Blood and Bone is the first part of a young adult trilogy and has been categorised as part of the fantasy genre. It also falls under the umbrella of Afrofuturism (defined here). Set in a land named Orisha, the story follows Zelie - a warrior girl with super human abilities who leads a movement to reawaken magic and restore power to her people. With the help of a runaway princess, Zelie confronts a  monarchy fiercely opposed to respecting her ethnic group. She also faces the no less daunting challenges of sexism, elitism and a complicated love affair.  Throughout the book, Adeyemi addresses issues that exist in real black communities including colourism, police brutality, and social resistance etc. The author presents these topics through the lens of fantasy, science fiction and mythology. 

Apart from the Afrofuturism aspect, the other enticement for my reading Children of Blood and Bone was the suggestion that Yoruba mythology inspired the story. I thought it would be wonderful to experience a written world that shines light on indigenous African spirituality. Adeyemi has explained how spending time in the midst of Brazil's Yoruba heritage provided the impetus for the story. I should place a disclaimer here though, if you are someone who is quite knowledgeable about the Yoruba spiritual tradition and culture or Nigerian society in general, you may end up feeling disappointed by how Adeyemi treats these subject matters. I enjoyed how these Nigerian/Yoruba elements inspired the plot, setting, characters and so on but my perspective is based on a considerably limited understanding of the aforementioned. Reading the feedback of a few Yoruba Nigerians reminded me of this and made me realise that there were certain inconsistencies and inadequacies in the book that probably went over my head. It makes sense that those who truly know the world(s) that provided the basis for the story would feel that the book did no justice. Yet, it is also possible to view the alleged inauthenticity as Adeyemi embracing creative license. Either way, I do  think that Children of Blood and Bone is a valuable contribution to the landscape of contemporary black literature. Joining the ranks of D.O. Fagunwa's and Amos Tutuola's novels, Adeyemi's trilogy may inspire a deeper dive into African spirituality, mythology and folklore within the literary world. Post Colonial and present day African fiction for the most part have shied away from depicting pre European/ pre Christian spiritual philosophy and imagination  unapologetically and thoroughly. Even if, as some rightfully believe, the Children of Blood and Bone has barely scraped the surface of these complex topics, it may encourage a greater exploration that has been missing among published works of fiction and Afrofuturism is a suitable vehicle for doing so.

Speaking of Afrofuturism, parallels have been drawn to the Black Panther movie. I think this was inevitable. There are several similarities but differences too, naturally. It will be interesting to observe what new comparisons are made once the film adaption of Children of Blood and Bone is released. I usually frown upon books I like being turned into movies but this is an exception. Adeyemi's trilogy is made for film. I feel giddy imagining about what the cinematography, costume design and casting will look like. As much as I liked The Black Panther, I hope that those behind the CBB movie do something completely fresh. In the meanwhile, go ahead and read the book. I believe that it's always better to read the books before the adaptations. There's also the fact that I am eager to hear your thoughts, particularly if you are Nigerian or someone from elsewhere in the Yoruba Diaspora. I will be doing a live review on Instagram on Saturday, the 5th and Sunday, the 6th of January on the @ancestral_memory and @papyrusbookclub pages respectively as well as posting an edited one on YouTube. Please join me for what will be an enjoyable discussion. 

Photography Credit: Acqueldon Burns


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