Book Reviews

Book Review: Home (Binti #2), by Nnedi Okorafor

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Home (Binti #2)

By: Nnedi Okorafor

Published: January 31, 2017 by Tor.com

Page Count: 164, paperback

The Rundown: “It’s been a year since Binti and Okwu enrolled at Oomza University.  A year since Binti was declared a hero for uniting two warring planets.  A year since she left her family to pursue her dream.  And now she must return home to her people, with her friend Okwu by her side, to face her family and face her elders.  But Okwu will be the first of his race to set foot on Earth in over a hundred years, and the first ever to come in peace.  After generations of conflict can human and Meduse ever learn to truly live in harmony?”

Don’t Get Strung Out by the Way I Look: Binti, clad in a blue dress, stands before her friend, the Meduse Okwu.  Binti wears a blue dress; this is significant in that it is not a color worn by her tribe, the Himba.  The dress thus symbolizes Binti’s alienation from her people, an alienation that was knowingly brought about when she decided to accept a scholarship from Oomza University.  Binti’s okuoko—tentacle-like appendages that have replaced her hair—writhe above her head, indicating her internal turmoil.  Okwu’s presence has multiple meanings.  It indicates the spiritual closeness shared between it and Binti.  The way it looms behind her signifies Binti’s continued terror of the Meduse (including Okwu), who massacred her classmates.

What a Wonderful World: In the Binti series, aliens from all over the galaxy travel in living spaceships to study at the prestigious Oomza University.  Despite being extremely selective, the university is so large that different departments are located in different towns.  Oomza is a representation of the connectivity of all sentient races.  However, provincial prejudices remain in full force, as Binti discovers when she travels from the university to her home in the Namib Desert.

The Good Guy: Binti is a math prodigy who disobeyed her parents’ wishes to become a student at Oomza University.  She knew when she left that she was disobeying Himba customs, and that she would be branded an unmarriageable outcast.  Nevertheless, she is hurt to find her worst suspicions confirmed when she returns home to undergo her peoples’ traditional religious pilgrimage.  Binti must reconcile who she has become with her family’s expectations of what a proper Himba girl should be like.

A+: This novella acknowledges that just because a group experiences systematized oppression does not mean that said group is free of prejudices.  In Home, the Himba are shown to be just as prejudiced as their Khoush oppressors.  They view Binti as one corrupted because she dared to subvert societal expectations by travelling away from her home.  She is treated with hostility by both family and friends, who view her decision to leave as disturbing the peace of their community.  The Himba are also prejudiced against the nomadic people Enyi Zinariya, whom they derisively call Desert People.  Due to their unusual mannerisms, the Himba assume all the Enyi Zinariya have a crippling mental disorder.  They never make an effort to know or understand their behavior, similar to the way the Khoush never try to understand the Himba otjize.

F-: Home doesn’t bother informing us that Binti is biracial, having a Himba mother and an Enyi Zinariya father, until literally the moment when the Enyi Zinariya show up on her doorstep.  Given the centrality of race in the novel, and the prevalence of Himba prejudices, one would think Binti would have some thoughts about her heritage.  Nope!

Does it Represent…

Women: The central character of Home is a female math prodigy who travels across the galaxy to seek knowledge.  Female family dynamics are examined.  Binti’s relationship with her mother, who accepts her, is contrasted to that with her sister, who violently rejects her.  When Binti travels with the Enyi Zinariya, it is a prominent female member of their tribe who explains the tribe’s culture.

People of Color: Both the Himba and the Enyi Zinariya are native Africans.  The Himba are a real ethnic group, by the way.

LGBT People: A transgender woman named Haifa helps Binti transport her luggage to the station at Oomza University.  Haifa’s decision to modify her body is contrasted to Binti’s situation; Binti did not consent to have her hair turned into tentacles.

The Disabled: After the Meduse attack on her ship, in which Binti saw all of her classmates killed, Binti develops post traumatic stress disorder.  She frequently experiences flashbacks and uncontrollable rage.  Her condition is severe enough that she wants to return home, hoping that a religious cleansing will solve her mental health problems.

Memorable Quote: “Change was constant.  Change was my destiny.”

Recommended for: People who like space operas that deal with racial politics head on.

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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