Tomi Adeyemi Has Changed The YA Landscape Forever

Even before her debut novel, Children of Blood and Bone, came out in March 2018, people called Tomi Adeyemi the next J.K. Rowling. But the 25-year-old writer isn’t the “next” anything; she’s a firebrand of her own. The first drop in a riveting YA fantasy trilogy, the title sparked a heated bidding war between major book publishers that ended in a seven-figure deal, and Fox 2000 has already snapped up the movie rights. The Harvard graduate's tome has also been on the New York Times' best seller list for a whopping 52 weeks. If Rowling’s Harry Potter was a precursor to the current boom in YA fiction, then Children of Blood and Bone is a harbinger of another prominent movement: Afrofuturism, fantastical stories rooted in African culture and myth.
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Welcome to Orïsha, a fictional West African nation where magic once flourished. Zelie, the 16-year-old protagonist of Children of Blood and Bone, has never known such a world. When she was a girl, the despotic King Saran wiped out magic from the land by killing all the people who possessed magic, known as majis, who had come of age and awakened to their abilities. But when Zelie learns that she may be able to restore magic to Orïsha, she joins forces with her brother and a runaway princess to make an odyssey across her land in an attempt to fulfill a near-impossible quest.
Refinery29 had the pleasure of interviewing Adeyemi in February 2018, a few weeks before her debut came out. Many of us wondered which of the 10 maji clans we’d belong to, were we from Orïsha. But we had more important things to talk about, because while Children of Blood and Bone is a masterpiece in world-building and story, it’s also an exploration of extremely pertinent issues. Zelie and fellow diviners are the victims of race-based acts of violence at the hands of law enforcement, which have real-world parallels all over the news in America.

Zelie and fellow diviners are the victims of race-based acts of violence at the hands of law enforcement, which have real-world parallels all over the news in America.

Adeyemi’s writings are part of a much-needed arrival of an increasingly inclusive YA landscape. Children of Blood and Bone and the forthcoming trilogy offer a vision for a future in which Black children and teens can see themselves reflected back in books. They also offer a future where all young readers can have windows into different experiences.
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“Imagine if Harry Potter had been a Black boy,” Adeyemi told us. “The world might actually be a different place because the boy who everybody was obsessed with would be this Black boy with an afro.”
DESIGN AND ILLUSTRATIONS BY TRISTAN OFFIT. ART DIRECTION BY ISABEL CASTILLO GUIJARRO. PRODUCT BY LEE MISENHEIMER.
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