Author Profile: Tomi Adeyemi “Children of Blood and Bone” …. the healing and critical power of fantasy fiction

……..surely you have heard of Black Panther which is now one of the high-grossing films in history and Ava DuVernay’s A Wrinkle in Time, which casts, among other Hollywood stars, Oprah Winfrey and Reese Witherspoon. Image credit: Tomi Adeyemi_photo Elena Seibert (5)

If you live on this planet, you surely have heard of Harry Potter’s infamous scar and Game of Thrones’ Red Wedding, and you probably know about the sacrifice of Katniss Everdeen in Hunger Games.

In a couple of years, your children and their friends will know everything about an incredible young Black girl, Zélie Adebola, and her quest to return magic to her people in the fictional West Africa-inspired world of Orïsha.

Zélie is the white-haired, dark-skinned, turbaned protagonist of Children of Blood and Bone, the first book of 24-year-old debut novelist Tomi Adeyemi’s projected fantasy trilogy. She is brave, but not impervious to fear; she is intelligent, but prone to impulsiveness; she is a complex and layered character, as intriguing and enchanting as the world she travels in.

Starting from a picture she found on Pinterest and growing thanks to her Fellowship in Salvador, Brazil, where she encountered the religious elements of her story, Adeyemi’s saga encompasses numerous religious elements, as she explains to Refinery29 .

“I discovered [the Orisha] on complete accident, but as soon as I saw them I knew I had to do some story with them. I just didn’t know what the story was. Just seeing these beautiful and sacred Black gods and goddesses, I thought, this is so magical.”

Though the book takes place in a fictional West African nation, Adeyemi has soaked it in the problematic racial dynamics that are omnipresent in our world.

“It’s an allegory for the modern black experience,” says Adeyemi in an interview with Mashable

“So even though we are in a fantasy world and they have a very specific fantastical goal, you’re going to see references to police brutality, and racism and colorism and general oppression.”

Like Angie Thomas’s YA novel The Hate U Give, Adeyemi portraits racial violence by translating it for her young audience. “The power of fantasy is that you can make people understand the deeper realities of our world in a way that they wouldn’t normally be able to because of all the things in our world that closes them off.”

In the midst of a rich and long overdue debate about representation and appropriation, Zélie Adebola stands tall in the pantheon of the amazing heroines who nurture the imagination of millions of young Black girls all over the world. Kids need to see themselves and their realities, emotions and feeling reflected in mainstream culture. Black girls need to see their hair, their bodies and dreams portrayed in a story. They need to be protagonists of their own supernatural and daily magical quests.

Talking with The Guardian about the distressing experience of reading racist comments against  Black characters in the Hunger Games saga in 2012, when she was studying English Literature at Harvard University, the author points out “I had a lot of different reasons for writing the book, but at its core was the desire to write for black teenage girls growing up reading books they were absent from.”

Inspired by her love for anime such as Naruto, Death Note and Attack on Titans rather than fantasy sagas, there’s a dark element in Adeyemi’s writing, an incredible ability to combine imagination and social commentary, a fluid credibility in her imaginative effort, and an empowering element of visibility.

Currently in development the book is going to be adpated into a movie of Children of Blood and Bone. It is being developed by Fox 2000/Temple Hill Productions with Karen Rosenfelt and Wyck Godfrey (Twilight, Maze Runner, The Fault In Our Stars) producing it. Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orisha) Paperback Author Tomi Adeyemi  on sale now. http://www.amazon.co.uk

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