Binti by Nnedi Okorafor, Tor Books, 2015

I’m a bit late to the party on this one, but if you’re like me and haven’t considered it until now–I highbintily recommend this book.

I use it in my the U.S. History class I teach–not because it has anything to do with U.S. History, but because it has everything to do with identity, and when paired with the writings of James Baldwin, creates an effect that is both grounded in real life issues of oppression as well as the loss of cultural identity in a speculative world. Furthermore, Binti does a wonderful job of illustrating the different aspects of human life that make us–well, us.

Binti is 16 and the first of her people to be accepted to the international university, Oomza University. On her way to the planet, while on the spaceship, an alien race attacks. It is up to Binti to reason her way to safety and prevent more bloodshed with diplomacy.

This piece doesn’t only tackle issues of identity, but also how discourse breeds understanding and understanding breeds piece. I think it very important for students to get a sense of how contemporary authors such as Okorafor, who is the daughter of Nigerian immigrants, connect to their own history as American citizens. This is who we are as a nation, and understanding how peoples come to this country to not only be part of the United States but also represent their own cultures, is among the most important lessons one could learn.