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Broken Places & Outer Spaces: Finding Creativity in the Unexpected

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  1,078 ratings  ·  179 reviews
A powerful journey from star athlete to sudden paralysis to creative awakening, award-winning science fiction writer Nnedi Okorafor shows that what we think are our limitations have the potential to become our greatest strengths.

Nnedi Okorafor was never supposed to be paralyzed. A college track star and budding entomologist, Nnedi’s lifelong battle with scoliosis was just
Hardcover, 112 pages
Published June 18th 2019 by Simon Schuster/ TED
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Average rating 4.09  · 
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 ·  1,078 ratings  ·  179 reviews

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David Schaafsma
Sep 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places”—Ernest Hemingway

A short memoir by Afro-futurist science fiction writer and Chicagoan Nnedi Okorafor (Akata Warrior, Binti, The Shadow Speaker, and also writing comics for Marvel out of the Black Panther universe) who writes of Africa, science and technology, strange creatures, with magical realism and strong black feminist commitments, with strong young black women main characters who overcome adversity. And what are
Gretchen Rubin
I love Okorafor's fiction, and was always curious to learn more about her life, so I was thrilled to get the chance to read this memoir. Short and powerful.
Dannii Elle
This was a combined personal history of Nnedi Okorafor's paralysis, an account of the discrimination she received due to the colour of her skin, and a hopeful message on how to persevere through the dark times and use them as your fuel to greatness.

I really liked the format for this short autobiographic piece. Snippets from Okorafor's time in hospital are interspersed with segments from her early years, before the reader gets to journey through to her eventual progression beyond these times.

Britta Böhler
Some interesting thoughts on creativity but the book was way to short (112 pages) to develop any of them in depth.
Mar 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A quick and inspiring read. Okorafor's lush literary style is on full display, and every page packed a punch. It's not everyday you get such a brutally honest and intimate offering from one of your favorite authors, and not every author can produce nonfiction this lovely. I feel very privileged to have gotten to read this arc. It only cemented my certainty that Nnedi Okorafor is one of my favorite human beings on this planet.
Jun 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non_fiction
I love Nnedi Okorafor's novels and I found the same power of personality in this autobiography of her. A short, but powerful narration about the fact that sometimes being broken can be the beginning of something new and good. Very uplifting and in her wonderful raw and authentic voice.

Now I'd love to go back to reading the Binti books and the Who Fears Death? books with this knowledge in my mind, seeing the autobiographical touch.
A Ted talk memoir of how the author coped with being paralyzed.

Just based on her fiction, I knew Nnedi Okorafor was an amazing person. I enjoy her way of looking at living with a different slant, partially based on her background and visits with her family to Nigeria, and partially (I see now) due to the difficult fight she had to regain the use of her legs when a scoliosis surgery leaves her paralyzed.

I don't feel the short Ted talk format let this memoir breathe enough to really reach a grea
Jul 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: aoc, nonfiction, 2019
This book speaks to me on so many levels. As a disabled woman who didn't receive a diagnosis until more than a decade after my health problems surfaced, it's been a process of looking back to see where and how my life changed--became broken and rearranged. Because Okorafor's disability occurs so suddenly and dramatically, she's able to make connections that I hadn't thought to make about myself. Despite my almost thirty years of living with this disability, I now see it differently. I highly rec ...more
Aug 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"What we perceive as limitations have the potential to become strengths greater than what we had when we were “normal” or unbroken. In much of science fiction, when something breaks, something greater often emerges from the cracks." pg 5
Nnedi Okorafor's works are a tour de force. When I found out she would be publishing a memoir I didn't even read the blurb. Okorafor recounts paralysis from the waist down as a result of a "simple" operation for scoliosis, which runs in her family. Ultimately,
Julianne Vantland
Jan 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
Okorafor’s characters have captivated me over the last year, and I love getting lost in the worlds she weaves. It was fascinating to learn more about her own journey into writing, and her inspiration for her characters. I would love to read a longer memoir someday - this one stops just as her writing career is beginning.
Jul 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
A short little peek into the head (and body) of a favorite writer. Would love to see more of these long-format essays in book form.
Aug 05, 2019 rated it liked it

A brief look into her struggles with learning to walk again after being temporarily paralyzed from surgery and how it spurred her creativity.
I am always interested in the struggles of people who have gone through medical or mental issues. I might be reading her sci fi books, we'll see.
Mitch Karunaratne
Feb 03, 2020 added it
Shelves: 2020
A hopefully, inspiring journey of Okorafor's from teenage athletic star to award wining sci fi writer, via surgery, paralysis, physical therapy and pain.
Jun 25, 2020 rated it it was ok
Very quick read involving a surgery gone bad, science and science fiction. I heard about this book from The Happier Podcast.
Oct 22, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: sick-girl-lit
I considered not leaving a review for this one but the more I read the 5 star reviews the more I feel like it's necessary for me to express what upset me about this book.
I'm physically disabled and owe a lot to online disability communities. They helped me understand the social model of disability, which comes down to the idea that "people are disabled by barriers in society, not by their impairment or difference." It does not seem like Nnedi Okorafor subscribes to this same way of thinking.
Lekeisha The Booknerd
Jul 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I've long since said that Nnedi isn't from this world. She is a creative goddess from some unknown dimension. I love her Binti trilogy, and am slowly acquiring her other titles so that I can go on a binge read. I wanted to read this to get to know an author that I love.

This Ted Talk is short but filled with inspiration. Nnedi goes deep into her brush with paralysis and finding her space. I've often read about when people are at their worst that they find creativity from that pain. Nnedi disclose
Oct 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
It always feels weird to evaluate a memoir — it can feel like criticizing the person even when you are focusing on the writing.

While very powerful, the brevity means her discussion of creativity mostly focuses on the moments of inspiration, with references to being able to go the long haul because of the lessons learned from living with disability. That’s fine but I wanted a bit more. Does she have creative moments like the physical moments that led her to screaming ‘damnit’ over and over? Do/d
Nov 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
I recently became aware of this memoir by one of my favorite authors and realized that it was short enough to allow me to fit it in on October 31.

Earlier in October I had read an essay in Uncanny Magazine Issue 24: Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction! Special Issue called "My Genre Makes A Monster of Me" by teri.zin . Zin was born with scoliosis like Nnedi Okorafor, but Zin's parents refused to allow her to have the surgery that ended up paralyzing Okorafor. Zin's pelvis shifted and she was
May 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
When Nnedi Okorafor was a teenager, she had surgery for scoliosis, and was left temporarily paraplegic, with a lot of pain and some permanent damage. She had been a fervent athlete, and had to change her life plans and outlook. This horrible experience triggered major creativity, and she became the amazing writer that she is.

This very short book puts you right inside Nnedi's head, from hallucinating after surgery to how it feels when she creates the stories that she writes. It also touches on he
Oct 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
Though I have not yet listened to the TED Talk which this targeted memoir follows, I did hear Okorafor speak about the "accident" that changed the course of her life and ignited her creativity. During that talk she did not specify the nature of the accident, so this focused, detailed account is exceedingly helpful in understanding the themes and power of her writing. Okorafor's contention that brokenness is necessary to create the cracks through which growth and creativity can emerge is evident ...more
Jun 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I fell in love with Binti last year. I honestly knew nothing about the author other than I should really read more of her stuff. I really enjoyed hearing Ms. Okorafor's stories of how and why she began telling her stories. I also appreciated the reference to related TED talks at the end of the book.

This is a great story about resilience. Bad things happen to everyone, some things worse than others. Some things more lasting than others. I truly had never thought about how I know where my body is
Jan 17, 2020 rated it it was ok
This is a slow-motion, descriptive personal history that rang disingenuous to be recalled in such minute detail, and that I found tedious though I respect that others may find poetic. It's as if she wrote for her own creative, cathartic purposes vs. imparting lessons learned. Her few points didn't seem to come from inside her, from her own evolving per se, but rather pulled from outside, inspiring references that she's found helpful along her journey. I'm fortunate to have traversed my own somew ...more
I listened to the audiobook version (read by the author) and I was actually shocked by how short it was: even shorter than novellas like Binti.

If you are familiar with Nnedi Okorafor's fiction, there are lots of Easter eggs in here, - including the concept of treeing. For everyone else, in addition to a personal memoir about finding one's new calling (and college major!) against the backdrop of botched surgery, there are also references to pop culture like Kill Bill.

I passed this one along to my
Jul 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: z_2019, non-fiction
I know Nnedi said she'd written and rewritten and edited down this book - but I for one would have read three times as much. Her story was written so engagingly and I loved how it jumps in time from her accident to 2029 - I for one look forward to that year much more now that I might have otherwise.

This is a mini-biography around how Nnedi started writing and I found it fascinating as well as her decision around what kind of Science Fiction she was going to write. (And boy is that SF excellent).
Read this in one sitting and cried A LOT (maybe just needed to cry...) It's about Nnedi Okorafor's experience becoming paralyzed by a routine spinal surgery, and the way this "breaking" and her journey back to being able to walk again led her to becoming a writer. It was very intense, very inspiring, and in true Okorafor fashion-- very good at illustrating a point in as few words as possible. I love how she just jumps into her narratives, worldbuilding enough to give a sense of place but not bot ...more
Jun 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arc-paper
Acclaimed author Nnedi Okorafor's moving account of her experience with paralysis following scoliosis surgery at nineteen sheds insight into so much of her work. From her love of insects to her frightening experiences with racism while growing up in Chicago, you can find traces of her experiences in her Akata Witch series and her Binti novella trilogy. A fascinating and poignant account of a life-defining, if terrifying, experience.
Laura Hoffman Brauman
Nnedi Okorafor is an auto-buy author for me -- I love her work. This is a TED talk she did regarding her personal experiences when she was a college student and athlete and a surgery for scoliosis left her paralyzed. During the grueling experience of learning how to walk again and how to adapt to the reality of continuing issues with proprioception, she began to write as a way to cope -- and out of her broken place, she worked hard and developed an incredible ability to tell riveting stories.
Charlotte Jones
Dec 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
I had only read Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor before picking up this one on audiobook, and I thoroughly enjoyed this reading experience. The audiobook is narrated by the author herself and it tells the story of her paralysis and recovery. She explains how this led her to becoming an author and how her triumphs throughout the process were influenced by her Nigerian ancestry.

Overall I would highly recommend giving this a read if you are interested in creative writing. It is an inspiring read and extrem
Sphinx Feathers
Mar 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir, culture, yes
This is a quick audio book and well-worth the listen, especially because it is narrated by the author herself. I loved hearing how she was able to regain herself and reign in her creativity. Some of the lines were just shatteringly beautiful.

What a satisfying book to hear. I can't recommend this enough.
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Nnedi Okorafor is a Nigerian-American author of African-based science fiction and fantasy (Africanfuturism and Africanjujuism). Okorafor has won a Hugo, a Nebula, a World Fantasy Award, and a Locus Award, and her many fans include Neil Gaiman, Rick Riordan, John Green, and Ursula Le Guin. She is writing a series for Marvel about Shuri, Black Panther’s sister, and has a number of book-based project ...more

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“What we perceive as limitations have the potential to become strengths greater than what we had when we were ‘normal’ or unbroken…when something breaks, something greater often emerges from the cracks.” 0 likes
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