Well, obviously Harvard is not all about Business, Law and Economics, and here is someone to prove it: Nigeria’s own Tomi Adeyemi studied English Literature there, and is waltzing into Hollywood, literally.
Following in the footsteps of now world-acclaimed Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Nnedi Okorafor (another immensely successful US-based fantasy and science fiction writer of Nigerian extraction), Tomi has announced her arrival on the literary scene in a big way.
The 24-year-old Nigerian-American author has released her critically acclaimed Young-Adult Fantasy book, entitled ‘Children of Blood and Bone’, the first in a trilogy to be published by Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group.
Released on March 6, the novel (described as a “Black Lives Matter-inspired fantasy novel a year ago”) has already clinched a seven-figure (in dollars!) book-and-movie deal with Hollywood Fox Studios.
Fox 2000 purchased the film adaptation rights to the book at approximately seven solid figures in dollars. Deadline (an influential and authoritative online magazine on Hollywood) described it as “one of the biggest YA (Young Adult) debut novel publishing deals ever.”
The film company was said to have been so impressed by Tomi’s writing style that they tagged the project as being as successful as their other YA franchises, Twilight and Maze Runner.
In fact, The Guardian has acknowledged the novel as the biggest fantasy debut novel of 2018, drawing comparisons with everything from Game of Thrones to Black Panther.
But Tomi says such success was the last thing on her mind when she sat down to write.
“For the past 10 months, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking, is this for real? 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,” she told The Guardian.
The daughter of a Nigerian medical doctor and hospice trader, Ms Adeyemi was born in the U.S. and currently lives in San Diego.
Tomi, who has been described as the next J.K. Rowling (writer of the successful Harry Potter series), created an epic tale of an oppressive world that a lot of black people can relate with, drawing her characters, conversations and habitats from the rich culture and traditions of her indigenous Yoruba culture.
The novel features the protagonist, Zélie Adebola, who fights a monarchy to return magic to her people.
Adeyemi had said she wanted to write a fantasy novel set in West Africa so that “a little Black girl [could] pick up my book one day and see herself as the star…I want her to know that she’s beautiful and she matters and she can have a crazy, magical adventure even if an ignorant part of the world tells her she can never be Hermione Granger.
She told The Guardian that her debut novel was a response to genre fiction in which the characters were always white.
As the story goes, ‘Zelie’, at six years old watched the king’s guards hang her mother on a tree outside her home. She never forgot it.
In the beginning, every Orïshan was a magi: born with dark skin, stark white hair and the blessing of the god’s magic once they reached adulthood.
Yet over time, their population dwindled and they became Orïshan’s minority. Magic became a thing to loathe, dark skin transformed into a thing to hate.
Ten years after the raid that killed her mother and took away magic forever, Zélie Adebola has one chance to bring magic back.
Tomi graduated from Harvard with an honors degree in English Literature, then studied West African Mythology and Culture in Salvador, Brazil, on a fellowship.
According to her, it was in Brazil that the seeds of Children of Blood and Bone 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 said further about her book: “Every moment of violence in the book is based on real footage,” explaining that an early scene in which Zélie (the protagonist) is attacked by a guard was inspired by the notorious video of a police officer pushing a teenage girl to the ground at a pool party in Texas.
“It’s not my intention to be gratuitous but I want people to be aware that these things are happening and that the actual videos are much worse,” she said.