Tomi Adeyemi Talks About the Real Life Inspiration Behind her New Fantasy Novel, “Children of Blood and Bone”

Nigerian-American author Tomi Adeyemi, 24, was inspired by west African mythology. (Photograph: Elena Seibert)
Nigerian-American author Tomi Adeyemi, 24, was inspired by west African mythology. (Photograph: Elena Seibert)

Author of Children of Blood and Bone says her debut novel was a response to genre fiction in which the characters were always white.

It has been called the biggest fantasy debut novel of 2018, drawing comparisons with everything from Game of Thrones to Black Panther, and has netted a movie deal reported to be worth seven figures.

But Tomi Adeyemi, the 24-year-old Nigerian-American author of Children of Blood and Bone, says that such success was the last thing on her mind when she sat down to write her epic tale of an oppressive world where magic has been outlawed.

“For the past 10 months I’ve spent a lot of time thinking, is this for real?” she says. “I had a lot of different reasons for writing the book but at its core was the desire to write for black teenage girls growing up reading books they were absent from. That was my experience as a child. Children of Blood and Bone is a chance to address that. To say you are seen.”

Adeyemi is the middle child of three – her brother is a musician and her younger sister still at college. Her father is a doctor, while her mother runs a group of hospices outside Chicago. She studied English literature at Harvard before heading to Brazil on a fellowship to study west African culture and mythology. It was in South America that the seeds of Children of Blood and Bone, the first in a trilogy, were sown.

“I was in a gift shop there and the African gods and goddesses were depicted in such a beautiful and sacred way … it really made me think about all the beautiful images we never see featuring black people.”

She describes the story – which follows fisherman’s daughter Zélie and an unlikely band of allies and enemies on a quest to reawaken magic in the country of Orïsha – as “an allegory for the modern black experience”. It draws inspiration from both west African mythology and the Black Lives Matter movement.

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SOURCE: Sarah Hughes
The Guardian