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Broken Places & Outer Spaces: Finding Creativity in the Unexpected (TED Books)

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  605 ratings  ·  107 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
Kindle Edition, 128 pages
Published June 18th 2019 by Simon & Schuster/ TED
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David Schaafsma
“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.
Britta Böhler
Some interesting thoughts on creativity but the book was way to short (112 pages) to develop any of them in depth.
Vanessa Halls
Mar 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
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
Aug 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"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,
Jul 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, aoc, 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 ...more
Julianne Vantland
Jan 09, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.

A brief look into her struggles with learning to walk again after being temporarily paralyzed from surgery and how it spurred her creativity.
Jul 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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.
Oct 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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?
Nov 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Lekeisha The Booknerd
Jul 03, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 17, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Jun 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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).
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
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.
Jun 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Charlotte Jones
Dec 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Brief, focused memoir on the author's botched surgery that led to paralysis. Okorafor describes how this hardship led her to become a science fiction writer. She prefers the term Africanfuturism to Afrofuturism to emphasize that the SF has its base in Africa itself and African lore rather than in the African diaspora.
Jul 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you’re a fan of Nnedi Okorafor’s fiction then you NEED to read this! It’s add such a deeper understanding to her work and her story is so inspiring. She is an awesome woman and author. Loved this and I was even okay with the fact that I was so short!
Sep 02, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Short TedTalk inspired book about the author's life, which I found interesting as I have read some of her fiction and heard her speak on SDCC panels.
Nov 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent, moving, inspiring. Can’t wait to get into her fiction!
4.5 Audio is great. Nnedi is amazing as usual.
Nov 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Powerful story, I just wished it was longer and took us more though her journey
Jun 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Love it.
I don't think I knew what this was about going in, as most of the nonfiction I've been reading and adding lately has been decluttering books or full biographies. This is an autobiography in a way, but, it's very focused--it's a snapshot of Nnedi's life when she went to her lowest and climbed her way out, and the role that Science and Science Fiction played in that. I read it all in one night, pretty quickly. It was good.
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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 ...more