a review of dr. nnedi okorafor's binti: home
by silk-jazmyne hindus
The second book of Dr. Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti series is a story of return and growth. Binti: Home takes places a year after the protagonist Binti experiences the death of all her classmates on their way to Oomza University. The first scene is in mathematics class, when she begins to feel intense emotions. At first she’s confused then realizes that it’s her connection to her Meduse friend, Okwu. Knowing that his rage will result in killing his professor, she rushes to his weapons’ presentation to deescalate the situation. Soon after, Binti decides to return home in order to go on pilgrimage in hopes to calibrate herself, ridding her of the conflicting emotions she’s felt for the past year. While at home, she quickly learns that not everyone is excited to see her and were angered by her leaving. Things go from bad to strange when a figure shows itself to Binti that typically only reveals itself to men. This prompts a group of people, her grandmother included, to arrive at her doorstep ready to whisk her away to destiny.
The author carries on the originality of the first book while delving deep into sensitive topics. The reader gets to see Binti’s growth while understanding her challenges. There’s an incredible amount of time spent on mental health. From instances of panic attacks to night terrors. Often times in science fiction when disasters occur, the protagonist is sad for a moment then goes on to save the day. The reader is able to see her strength through moments of pain.
“For the first few weeks, I was okay, but eventually I started having nightmares, day terrors, I’d see red and then Heru’s chest bursting open.”
There’s even a moment when Binti challenges her own preconceived notions.
“I felt a sting of shame as I realized why I hadn’t understood something so obvious. My own prejudice. I had been raised to view the Desert People, the Enyi Zinariya, as a primitive, savage people plagued by a genetic neurological disorder. So that’s what I saw.”
During the first book, the reader is only given a glimpse of familial ties and man does she give the whole picture in this one. We get to see Binti’s siblings exactly how they are and how their bond has been shaken by her leaving and near death experience. There was a moment I was so angry and sad for the protagonist because the moment was so real and raw. Okorafor gives us such strong fiction, we can’t help but feel the human truths.
With one hundred sixty two pages to work with, the author uses simple, concise sentences for the majority of the book until she deems it absolutely necessary to expound. She slows the narrative down in the big moments to allow the reader to fully soak up what’s happening.
“In one sentence, she explained something that had been bothering me for a year. That’s all it was. The random anger and wanting to be violent, that was just Meduse genetics in me. Nothing is wrong with me? I thought. Not unclean? It’s just … a new part of me I need to learn to control? I’d come all this way to go on my pilgrimage because I’d thought my body was trying to tell me something was wrong with it.”
The plot progresses quickly. There’s quite a bit of movement in this book, especially compared to the first which took place mostly in one location. This book goes from university, to ship, to home, to desert, to the priestess, back to Binti’s home. Entire days are covered in a few pages but never does the journey seem rushed; the element of urgency and plot occurrences keeps the reader from feeling hurried.
This book is an ode to growing up, letting go and evolving. The first book was about leaving home and the second is about returning. A navigation of balancing who you were raised to be and becoming who you are and want to be. Coming home after being on your own is very hard (ask any college grad who’s had to move back in with their parents after graduation). This book was about how moving forward doesn’t mean forgetting the past but also not being afraid of becoming who you were meant to be, even if it makes people uncomfortable.
Binti: Home is the story of every golden child who has fallen from grace. It’s about family and culture. How following your dreams can feel like turning your back on a collectivist home. I found myself genuinely tearing up at some of the more pivotal moments. There’s a level of beauty in the rawness. The author doesn’t shy away from giving you a complete view of Binti in her strength and weakness. This book is an encouragement to anyone scared to branch out from their traditional family. When I finished, I couldn’t wait to get into the third book to see how this character’s story ends.
MISSED THE FIRST BINTI REWIEW? READ IT HERE!
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