Award-winning author Nnedi Okorafor to join ASU as professor of practice

This fall, critically acclaimed sci-fi and fantasy writer Nnedi Okorafor will join The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences humanities division and the Interplanetary Initiative at Arizona State University as a professor of practice. 

Okorafor is the author of award-winning Africanfuturism and Africanjujuism, including dozens of novels, novellas and comics for children and adults. Some of her most well-known works include “Who Fears Death,” “LaGuardia,” “Remote Control” and “Wakanda Forever.” Her novella trilogy “Binti” is currently in development with Hulu as a TV series.

Her work has garnered myriad prestigious awards including a World Fantasy Award, Nebula Award, Hugo Award, Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book, Locus Award, an Eisner Award and a Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa.

“Nnedi is a visionary and will be a wonderful addition to our faculty,” said Jeffrey Cohen, dean of humanities in The College. “I had the pleasure of getting to know her a few years ago when she spoke at the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment conference, where she gave an amazing talk about how nature inspires and gets refigured in her writing. She has a passion for more capacious imaginings of what the present and the future hold. As humans are beginning to create livable environments far from the planet that is their origin and home, they are going to need artists and writers as much as scientists to imagine the best ways to build this future.”

Okorafor is no stranger to ASU, having worked with the university on more than one occasion. She was the 2020 Distinguished Visiting Writer for ASU’s Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing and the featured speaker at the Global Medievalism into Africanfuturism: An Evening with Nnedi Okorafor event.

“I've done a handful of speaking events at ASU in the recent past and I fell in love with the university and Phoenix. Each time I came here, it was such a positive experience and I'd always go home talking about it. In 2016, I came to ASU as part of the A Year Without a Winter retreat, which brought science fiction writers and scientists together through ASU's Center for Science and the Imagination. That retreat spurred me to write one of the best short stories I'd written in a long long time, called ‘Mother of Invention.’ 

“I love the desert and the heat. I'd met and really liked several faculty members at ASU and ASU's programs that brought scientists and creatives together greatly appealed to me. I knew I'd come here eventually. Then my daughter applied to ASU's School of Earth and Space Exploration, without me even knowing, and got in! It all just came together.”

Okorafor’s appointment is the first to bring together the humanities and the Interplanetary Initiative. As a professor of practice, she will work directly with students and faculty — fostering creativity and bridging disciplines. 

“What I'm most looking forward to in my role is interacting with students and faculty,” she said. “I have a lot to impart to students and I'm really looking forward to exchanging and growing ideas with faculty members. The way all this happened so organically is pretty amazing.”

As the daughter of two Nigerian immigrant parents, Okorafor has visited family in Nigeria since she was a child. Her dual Nigerian and American heritage is the foundation and inspiration for much of her work.

“Nnedi Okorafor has one of the most important and freshest voices out there about inclusion in our collective future, and that's central to our purpose at ASU's Interplanetary Initiative. I am so excited to have her join us,” said Lindy Elkins-Tanton, vice president of the Interplanetary Initiative.

Okorafor received a PhD in English from the University of Illinois in 2007, a master’s degree in English from the University of Illinois in 2002, a master’s degree in journalism from Michigan State University in 1999 and a bachelor’s degree in rhetoric from the University of Illinois in 1996. 

Prior to coming to ASU she served as an associate professor at the University of Buffalo and Chicago State University as well as an adjunct professor at Governors State University and a teaching assistant at the University of Illinois. Before moving into academia she was a freelance writer and editor. She is currently working on a number of forthcoming projects including several TV and film projects, books and a graphic novel.

Emily Balli
eballi@asu.edu