With five starred reviews, Tomi Adeyemi’s debut novel, Children of Blood and Bone, the first book in her West African–inspired YA trilogy, the Legacy of Orïsha, was thrust into the limelight. The fantasy, about maji Zélie’s struggle to restore eradicated magic to the kingdom of Orïsha, rose to the top of the New York Times bestseller list and landed the author a movie deal with Fox 2000. Adeyemi will talk about the sequel, Children of Virtue and Vengeance (Holt, Dec.), at today’s Children’s Book & Author Breakfast.
The inspiration for the first-generation Nigerian-American’s fantasy was entirely serendipitous, she says. After graduating from Harvard, she traveled to Salvador, Brazil, on a fellowship to study West African mythology and culture. At a museum gift shop, she spotted a postcard set in the magical, mythological world of Orïsha. “I had never before seen images of black gods and goddesses—deities who were darker than I am,” she says. “In my mind, they did not exist, and that postcard was life-changing. I knew right away I had to write something set in this world.”
Though Adeyemi had her setting, she didn’t find a story to go with it until months later, when she saw a digital illustration of a black girl with bright green hair. “I knew then I had my story, and I began writing,” she says. “The girl’s story captivated me, and I knew it fit in the world of Orïsha I’d seen on that postcard in Brazil. I wrote quickly—and just kept on going.”
A driving factor in Adeyemi’s fiction, she says, is “to give people who haven’t seen themselves in books the chance to do so. But I also feel passionate about telling stories about someone who is different from the reader, to force readers to fall in love with what is different from them.”
Adeyemi sees her novels as an allegory for the black experience and “black pain” in America. “I believe that most science fiction, dystopian, and fantasy novels are about oppression—though they may replace real people with dragons or other mythological creatures,” she says. “The stories involve some entity in power abusing those without power, and that is what people across the world face every day, especially the marginalized and those of color.”
Today, 8–9:30 a.m. Tomi Adeyemi will speak at the Children’s Book & Author Breakfast, on the Main Stage.