Last night, here in Seattle, I attended an author reading/book signing featuring Nnedi Okorafor. Okorafor and her new book, Who Fears Death popped up on my radar a short while ago when Ken from Neth Space wrote a sweet review of the book. Since then I've had my eye out for this one, and I recently came across a used copy, so I scooped it up. Then, late last week, I discovered the author event and thought it would be worth checking out.
As far as author events go, this one was quite different. Usually, these things go one of two ways: 1) The author reads a bit of his or her novel,maybe discusses the creation process of the book, fields questions from the audience, then signs books. 2) The author is interviewed by someone, often a literature critic, people from the audience ask questions, then the author signs books. However, Okorafor played things differently.
She began by reading the first chapter of Who Fears Death, then proceeded to read other sections from deeper within the novel. I'm sure this was a pleasure for those in the audience who had read the book, as Okorafor's reading covered some pivotal moments in the novel, yet for me it was somewhat torturous as I had not read the novel yet, and her reading was speckled with plot spoilers. Okorafor read for an hour, at which time it was announced the store was closing, so only a few people lined up for autographs, and it was over. No question/answer session and a handful of spoilers for those in the audience who had not had the opportunity to read the novel yet.
I'll admit, after Okorafor's reading I was somewhat frustrated, because I felt that some of the mystery of the novel had been taken away, but then it hit me that I had also been given something pretty special: Okorafor had shared parts of her novel that she felt strongly about, and read them in her voice, the way they were intended to be read, and that is a rare thing for a reader to experience. I began the book today, and I know that having heard Okorafor read the first chapter, that I had a stronger sense of the narrator's voice thanks to her reading. I'm sure this effect will carry through for the other sections I heard, and will hopefully continue to enrich the reading experience.
I was one of the few who stuck around for autographs, and I was rewarded with a cool personalization by Okorafor, so that was a nice cap to an interesting evening.