Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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Zahrah the Windseeker Kindle Edition
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Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
She’s . . . dada,” said the doctor, looking surprised. I can see that,” my mother replied with a smile. She took me in her arms and gently touched one of the thick clumps of hair growing from my little head. I had dadalocks, and woven inside each one of those clumps was a skinny, light green vine. Contrary to what a lot of people think, these vines didn’t sprout directly from my head. Instead, they were more like plants that had attached themselves to my hair as I grew inside my mother’s womb. Imagine that! To be born with vines growing in your hair! But that’s the nature of dada people, like myself.
Look, she’s smiling,” my father said. As if she already knows she’s dada.” To many, to be dada meant you were born with strange powers. That you could walk into a room and a mysterious wind would knock things over or clocks would automatically stop; that your mere presence would cause flowers to grow underneath the soil instead of above. That you caused things to rebel or that you would grow up to be rebellious yourself! And what made things even worse was that I was a girl, and only boys and men were supposed to be rebellious. Girls were supposed to be soft, quiet, and pleasant. Thankfully, when I was born, my parents were open-minded, well educated, and familiar with some of the older stories about dada people. These stories said that the dada-born were destined to be wise beings, not necessarily rebels. As a result, my parents didn’t cut my hair, and they weren’t scared by it either. Instead they let it grow and, as I got older, made sure I understood that being dada was not a curse. In fact, it was a blessing, because it was a part of me, they said. Of course I didn’t feel this way when I was old enough to go to school and my classmates called me names. Now I’m fourteen and my dada hair has grown way down my back. Also, the vines inside are thicker and dark green. Sometimes all this hair is heavy, but I’m used to it. My mother says it forces me to hold my head up higher.
A large part of the culture in the northern Ooni Kingdom where I live is to look civilized.” That’s northern slang for stylish. There’s no way the typical northerner would go outside without wearing his or her most civilized clothes and looking clean and nice. Not even for a second. We all carry mirrors in our pockets, and we take them out every so often to inspect our reflection and make sure we look good. On top of that, our clothes click with tiny style mirrors embedded into the collars and hems. They’re really lovely. I have a dress with style mirrors sewn all over it. Sometimes when I’m alone I like to put it on and dance in the sunlight. The reflections from the little mirrors look like white insects dancing along with me. My people love to use mirrors everywhere, actually. If you go to the downtown area of the great city of Ile-Ife, you’ll understand what I’m talking about. Downtown, many giant plant towers reach high into the sky. In my history class, I learned that every year, the ten tallest plant towers grow ten inches higher and five inches wider and that they’re thousands of years old. At one time, long ago, they weren’t even inhabited by human beings, as they are now. There were no elevators or computer networks or offices or living spaces inside. They were just big big plants! The Ooni Palace Tower is the tallest (standing 4,188 feet high) and oldest of them all. That’s where the chief of Ooni and his counsel reside. The top of the building blooms into a giant blue flower with purple petals. My father told me that this flower serves as a netevision transmitter for most of the Ooni Kingdom. Even this far north in Kirki, it’s a beautiful sight, especially at night. Anyway, from up in any of the plant towers, you can see the north with all its mirrors shining like a giant galaxy, especially on sunny days. Our homes and buildings are encrusted with thousands of mirrors, inside and out. And there’s always sand in the streets from those messy trucks transporting the grains to the factories to make even more mirrors.
Some like to say that northerners are arrogant and vain. But it’s just our culture. And look at the four other ethnic groups of the Ooni Kingdom. They have unique customs, too. I just find them interesting, as opposed to wrong.
The northwesterners cook all day and most of the night! Over there you can practically eat the air, and everyone is gloriously fat! The people of the southwest are as obsessed with beads as we northerners are with mirrors. People wear them everywhere: around their ankles, arms, necks, on their clothes. The people of the southeast make aall things metal. I’ve never been there, but I hear that the people always have soot on their faces and the air there is not fresh because of all the metalwork. And northeasterners are masters of architecture and botany, the study of plants. All the best books about plants are written by northeasterners, be they about pruning your office building or growing and maintaining the perfect personal computer from CPU seed to adult PC.
But despite all our diverse knowledge and progress here in Ooni, my dada nature and hair will never be truly accepted, not here in the north or anywhere else in Ooni. During the past two weeks, I’ve been doing some research, and now I’m starting to understand the reason for this prejudiced attitude. It’s not just the northern culture that made people react badly to my dada hair. It’s a general fear of the unknown that plagues the entire society of the Ooni Kingdom, a discomfort with things that may have been forgotten. And maybe my hair gives people a glimpse of memories they can’t quite remember. Have you ever tried to recall something but couldn’t and it was right on the tip of your tongue? It’s not a good feeling, is it? It’s irritating, and sometimes you’d rather not remember anything at all. That’s how it is here in Ooni, with the past, I think.
Copyright © 2005 by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company.
From School Library Journal
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
- ASIN : B008847PQW
- Publisher : HMH Books for Young Readers; Reprint edition (February 18, 2008)
- Publication date : February 18, 2008
- Language : English
- File size : 41979 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 324 pages
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #254,281 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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By Wynfrieda on November 19, 2019
I'd highly recommend it for preteens and young adults, especially for girls going through puberty. But as an adult, I really enjoyed this book as well. This is one of the most unique worlds I've ever read about. There are all sorts of details that are similar to our world, but completely different in some significant way. It was lots of fun to see the world unfold.
The story is about a girl who goes on a journey to save her friend. A large part of this involves learning about the powers she's developing, and also learning more about the forest that everyone avoids because it's considered too dangerous to approach.
This book was fun, beautiful, and creative. It's one of my default recommendations for young adult readers, and I would love to see more books set in this world!
I first encountered this author with her book Who Fears Death , which is very different from "Zahrah"; "Death" is written for adults, while this one is written with younger readers in mind. Thus, while "Death" started with a gripping bang, this one seemed to me to be less, erm, grippy, and much more simpler and a much slower pace. But I kept reading, drawn into Zahrah's world, and was glad I did. The Ooni Kingdom and its surrounding forests is lush and imaginative. I enjoyed Zahrah's character growth - from a fearful, timid child to one willing to help change the world.
This is another amazing book by this author; highly recommended.
I very much liked this book, but the e-book transfer left something to be desired. Tons of typos, some of them recurrent (Dan instead of Dari was a particular problem). There were eventually so many typos that I couldn't highlight and submit them anymore. I hope they get fixed!
The setting is truly imaginative, and I'd have liked even a bit more of the bio-techno-magic of CPU seeds and plant-buildings.
Zahrah is helped and hindered by a succession of memorable characters, including a village of talking Gorillas where we are given a glimpse of a fascinating history. There is a real depth to the supporting cast and places, helped by a device unashamedly borrowed from Douglas Adams (and the author gives an amusing nod to the source of Zahrah's fallible encyclopedia).
The Kindle version has a number of editing issues - it didn't spoil the read, but should be cleaned up.
Top reviews from other countries
This was a very enjoyable and imaginative tale by Nnedi Okorafor.