Right at home

Alumna speaks at Homewood Library on her journey as an author


Adekemi Kasali

An inspiration: Dr. Nnedi Okorafor (left) being interviewed by librarian Kelly Campos on Jan. 11 at the Homewood Library. Parents, students and community members alike attended the event.

“Stephen King, horror, and moomins.”

This is how Hugo and Nebula Award winning author and H-F alumna Dr. Nnedi Okorafor described what she read as a child.

Okorafor discussed this and much more at the Homewood Library on Jan. 11. Members of the community, both young and old, gathered at the library to hear her speak about her life and career as an author.

In October, the Shuri comic book series, written by Okorafor, was published and attendees of the event at the library had the opportunity to buy the comics, as well as Okorafor’s other books, and have them signed.

This event introduced Okorafor to new readers like Dr. Richard Aspell, an H-F alumnus, who bought the first Shuri comic after seeing Black Panther.

“I happened to stop in a comic book store in my hometown and they had a copy of the first comic,” Aspell said. “That was all I knew about her and when I found out she was an H-F graduate it was all the more cool.”

Other attendees of the event like Iyabo Williams have been a fan of Okorafor for years and were excited at the opportunity to meet the author.

“This event was wonderful, it was my first time coming to something like this for an author whose books I’ve read,” Williams said. “I first read Zara and the Windseeker and after that I just kept reading whatever I found.”

A number of H-F students also came to the library. Sophomore Khadeejah Ryan said she found it inspiring to see how far Okorafor’s career has taken her.

“It was really nice to hear about how she came up with ideas for her stories and her background. How far she has come makes me feel like I could doing something really big too,” Ryan said. “I’ve only read one book of hers, but after today I’ll read a lot a more because she really persuaded me with everything she talked about.”

Okorafor discussed her beginnings as a writer, what made her the person she is today, and her inspirations, a lot of them coming from her home country of Nigeria.

“[The event] was super refreshing and comfortable. I do a ton of events like this and it is only in my community where I can talk about the specifics of where I grew up and how those things played into what I’d become without worrying about giving context. I loved that,” Okorafor said.

She also talked about how, when she first started writing, she loved it so much that she didn’t try to publish her work for eight years.

“I wrote four or five completed novels. I would go back and edit and polish each one of them and when I was done I would move on to the next one. I just loved storytelling and it wasn’t about getting published,” Okorafor said. “At some point a creative writing teacher looked at one of my stories and told me I should try to get published. This never dawned on me until this happened.”

This event came about when Kelly Campos, a librarian at the Homewood Library, went to the American Library Association Conference last summer in New Orleans, where Okorafor was a guest speaker. She made it her mission for Okorafor know she was from the Homewood Library.

“I went to the panel early and sat right in front and as soon as they asked for questions I jumped up and introduced myself,” Campos said. “Afterwards, when she was signing books and I asked her to come to the library and she gave me her business card.”

Ashley Sander, event coordinator at the Homewood Library, said this is the biggest event the library has done outside of the annual summer reading kick off.  

“It’s really exciting and encouraging for her to speak here. You hear about all of these famous people who come from regular towns, and when they’re someone from your town you feel some sort of connection with them,” Sander said.

Okorafor gave some advice to H-F students about enjoying their high school years.

“Focus up. High school is only four years. It flies by. However, it’s also an absolutely pivotal four years. So enjoy yourself, definitely, but also, keep a foot in the future because it’s coming whether you like it or not,” she said.