Repository logo

Audacious black female heroes in speculative and Afrofuturist fiction from the Nigerian diaspora.

Thumbnail Image



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



In four recent speculative novels from the Nigerian diaspora, The Icarus Girl by Helen Oyeyemi (2013 [2005]), Who Fears Death (2018 [2011a]) and The Book of Phoenix by Nnedi Okorafor (2015), and Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi (2018), the main characters are represented as displaying audacity and courage. These qualities have aspirational value for young black women in particular. The genre of feminist Afro-Gothic and Afrofuturist fiction has extended the repertoire of its relevant womanist concerns since its origins, demonstrating the developing emancipatory potential of the genre, as portrayed in the analysed novels. Speculative fiction generally allows the reader to imagine a future where oppressive structures are overturned, and more specifically, Afro-Gothic fiction foregrounds the predicament of the black protagonist overcoming otherworldly dark forces, while Afrofuturism liberates the black protagonist by presenting her as the hero; in the selected novels she is represented as the literal and metaphoric bringer of light. The thesis employs close textual analysis in applying its focal theories of speculative fiction and womanism, based on Alice Walker’s emphasis on the audacity exhibited by young womanists. The womanist hero in Afrofuturist texts paves the way for a future when the young readers of these novels are encouraged to become the strong, audacious leaders of tomorrow through engaging with narratives exploring such possibilities. Similarly, Afro-Gothicism has expanded the genre of the Gothic, which originally presented Africa one-dimensionally as a dark continent being conquered by a white male hero, to explore the experience of young people of colour in the diaspora, navigating and reconciling the tension between African and Western cultural conventions that create cultural dissonance. A just ending is evident in each novel, with the womanist hero emerging as redeemed, and as the saviour or hero figure. Encountering these novels enables young black women to see themselves as heroes, and overthrows the single story that the literary canon often perpetuates, not just for these young women, but for other readers as well.


Doctoral Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg.