Elise (TheBookishActress)'s Reviews > Binti

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
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really liked it
bookshelves: ze-read-in-2017, genre-scifi-dystopias, favorite-friendships, marked-as-new-genres, books-released-2000-2015, 4-star
Recommended for: fans of theme-focused scifi
Read 2 times. Last read September 17, 2019 to September 20, 2019.

When I first read Binti in 2017, I enjoyed it fine, but I don’t think I understood it as being particularly radical. Reading it again in 2019, after reading far more fantasy and science fiction (and a significant amount of postcolonial literature), I think I got a lot more from these 85 pages.

Binti is a young black woman on her way to the premier institution in the galaxy; her people, unlike their sometime-rivals sometime-allies the Kush, almost never leave. She has broken this tradition (an absolute first-generation college student) through being extremely smart, and she has done something perhaps more revolutionary: she has chosen to take her chance and leave home. Though her parents love her, they don’t approve of her choosing to go somewhere where she will not continue their traditions. She knows from the time she leaves that she may very well be disowned. She herself isn’t entirely confident either; she self-doubts multiple times in the first twenty pages, despite her joy.

On her journey to her new university, however, her ship is attacked by a race known as the Meduse. These creatures are murderous, of course, but Binti, and the audience, eventually learn to look at them with empathy. Their stinger has been stolen and placed in a Kush museum, in something akin to the colonial appropriation perpetuated by the British museum today. The Meduse have been violated, and thus they want to recapture and reclaim their lost territory.

The growth of the friendship between Okwu and Binti is at the center of Binti — and the ensuing novella series, though to a lesser degree — and though it forms due to necessity, the strength of this relationship comes in their mutual understandings of each other. Their hair, like her hair, is considered alien; their bodies, like hers, are considered other.

Binti’s journey, however, is what is most revolutionary about this book. Instead of following traditions, she breaks boundaries; she has a place in the universe, and yet she steps out into a whole new world. In a subversion of the typical outsider-leaves-to-find-themselves narrative, she is not in any particular way an outsider to her initial community; she is simply brilliant and quietly ambitious and brave enough to risk all she has ever known for a future she hopes will be for her. Throughout the story, as a harmonizer, she must symbolically give up pieces of her old identity, yet she keeps her old rituals as a part of herself. Her strength comes in her ability to embrace both her old identity and her new identity and build herself into a whole person, stronger than ever.

A black woman, and a young black woman, is front and center, and she is front and center because of her inner strength and her empathy. And that's just really neat.

I really struggled to be engaged with this the first time around, something that I attributed to "not liking novellas," which I thought I "struggled to be engaged in before the end". I am no longer a boring sad person who hates everything she doesn't get (I was 16, let me live) and I now love novellas. However, this problem of lacking engagement persists, and it is because of the lack of description. I love this world — the ideas of sentient ships and Oomza Uni both slap so hard — but I don't feel like I have any perception of what it looks like. I believe this must have been a purposeful decision for symbolic reasons, because it feels... very conscious.

However, I did really like this on reread. Score one for the team!

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Reading Progress

June 7, 2017 – Shelved
June 7, 2017 – Shelved as: tbr-series-adult
July 5, 2017 – Shelved as: tbr-long-series
July 6, 2017 – Shelved as: tbr-2-adult-series
July 6, 2017 – Shelved as: tbr-b-adult-series
July 6, 2017 – Shelved as: tbr-d-adult-series
July 19, 2017 – Shelved as: tbr-d-next-series
July 19, 2017 – Shelved as: tbr-d-later-series
July 19, 2017 – Shelved as: tbr-d-2018-series
July 19, 2017 – Shelved as: tbr-d-2019-series
July 19, 2017 – Shelved as: tbr-c-2018-series
July 21, 2017 – Shelved as: tbr-d-2019-series
July 31, 2017 – Shelved as: tbr-e-2019-series
August 7, 2017 – Shelved as: on-my-shelf
August 12, 2017 – Started Reading
August 12, 2017 – Shelved as: genre-scifi-dystopias
August 12, 2017 – Shelved as: ze-read-in-2017
August 12, 2017 – Finished Reading
October 2, 2017 – Shelved as: favorite-friendships
January 9, 2018 – Shelved as: marked-as-new-genres
May 27, 2018 – Shelved as: books-released-2000-2015
September 17, 2019 – Started Reading
September 20, 2019 – Finished Reading
September 30, 2019 – Shelved as: 4-star

Comments Showing 1-2 of 2 (2 new)

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Aleksandra Saaaame! I did enjoy the book but I can relate to "never seem to get engaged in novellas before they end". I think I'd like the story more if it was a full novel.

I'm thinking about waiting till the last novella in the trilogy comes out so I can binge them.


Elise (TheBookishActress) @Aleksandra I think I'm going to do the same. this took me less than a hour to read so it should be easy 😄


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