Book Review: Broken Places & Outer Spaces by Nnedi Okorafor

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Title: Broken Places & Outer Spaces: Finding Creativity in the Unexpected

Author: Nnedi Okorafor

Genre: Memoir

Number of Pages: 112

Rating: B

Recommended?: Yes



At first I was hesitant about reading this book because of the subject matter. The author was left paralyzed after a botched surgery meant to treat her scoliosis, and my younger sister is going to Johns Hopkins in less than a month to receive a similar surgery. I thought this might induce some anxiety for me, but I ended up deciding not to worry about it and just not to tell my sister about the book.


    Broken Places & Outer Spaces portrays the enigmatic and sometimes euphoric nature of the creative process in a way that I immediately related to, even though I’ve never had to deal with being physically disabled or being the target of racism. In fact, Nnedi Okorafor and I have practically nothing in common except our passion for writing.


Like her, I use writing as a distraction from my issues even though she writes fantasy and science fiction and my writing is character-driven and honestly has my issues written all over it. Okorafor writes about how she was originally focused on succeeding as an athlete and she didn’t start writing until her surgery left her paralyzed and strung out on heavy drugs that were making her hallucinate and warped her perception of time.


She realized that science fiction as a genre was almost entirely dominated by white male authors writing about white male characters and there wasn’t anything that represented the experiences of someone like her, the black daughter of immigrant parents. So she started to write her own stories to help her cope with her painful rehabilitation and the realization that her body was never going to work like it used to.


I can’t say this book had a huge impact on me and even though I sympathized with the multitude of difficulties in the author’s life, I didn’t have a strong emotional reaction to it either. I found it more to be ‘interesting’ in a more emotionally distanced sense. Maybe it was because it was so short and so I didn’t get a strong sense of the author’s personality, and only got fleeting bits and pieces of her life.


Note: I read one of Okorafor’s novellas (Binti) shortly after I finished this book and I will write a review in the near future.

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