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Nnedi Okorafor Tells the Story of How Publishers Once Tried to Whitewash Her Book Cover

Science fiction novelist, Nnedi Okorafor, took to Twitter yesterday to share her experience with whitewashing in the literary world.

The Shadow Speaker is a 2007 novel by award-winning science fiction writer, Dr. Nnedi Okorafor—who we recently honored on OkayAfrica's 100 Women list.


The book is set in  Niger and its protagonist is a black, Muslim girl named Eji. Depite this description of the book's main character, Okorafor's publisher, at the time, thought it made sense to put an image of a white character on the book's cover.

Okorafor shared this story, yesterday, during a discussion on Twitter about racism in the literary world. She posted a photo, comparing the suggested cover image with the one that she ended up using.

"I described Ejii as "black skinned" and subsaharan African," she wrote. "Story set in NIGER and that left cover was proposed to me. WTF."

But it's not only the publishing companies who contribute to the whitewashing of narratives in science fiction, it's readers too, says Okorafor. In 2016, the author won the Hugo Award for her book Binti. Her win was heavily contested by an anti-progressive group aptly called the Sad Puppies, who basically exist to make sure that women, people of color, and members of the LGBTQ community remain underrepresented in science fiction. To combat this, Okorafor says that change needs to come from readers.

Interview

Malian Rapper Ami Yerewolo Rises Against All Odds

Ami Yerewolo reflects on her hard-won rap career, new album AY and why she insists on creating support spaces for young female rappers in Mali and beyond.

"No one is a prophet in his or her own land!" This is an accurate way to describe Ami Yerewolo's career to a tee. The Malian rapper's music has not always been popular in her home country, where female rappers are generally frowned upon. Instead, it has taken off abroad. Yerewolo's upbeat sound mixes traditional Malian elements with fast drums, contemporary beats and significant lyrics that compel listeners to reflect on life — all of which makes her songs carry a universal appeal. Her new album, AY (titled after the rapper's initials) has just been released by the label Othentiq.

Yerewolo shares her frank thoughts below...

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