Tomi Adeyemi, a Nigerian-American novelist, has shared the inspiration behind her bestselling book, ‘Children of Blood and Bone’.
The novel, based in Yoruba tradition, was released in March as part of the Legacy of Orïsha series.
Fox has acquired the film rights to the novel which has received critical acclaim.
Adeyemi, who was born to Nigerian parents in the US, said she incorporated the Yoruba culture into the novel despite not being able to speak the language.
“The first inspiration came when I was in a gift shop in Salvador, Brazil,” Adeyemi said in an interview with BBC.
“Salvador, Brazil has the most Nigerians, I think, outside of Nigeria so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that all the cool things I was discovering came from Nigeria.
“I was in this gift shop and I saw a picture of the Orïsha for the first time and that was mind-blowing because I’d never seen that, I never imagined that we could have African gods and goddesses.
“So it blew open my imagination and the world of the book came to me.
“So when I found out that the Orïsha were not only West African, but Nigerian, and not only Nigerian but Yoruba which is what my heritage is, I was like this is amazing.”
Adeyemi compared her novel’s impact on cultural representation to that of Marvel’s ‘Black Panther’, a blockbuster film with a predominantly black cast.
“We don’t have these stories. We can now just think of ‘Black Panther’,” she said.
“Yes it’s steeped in Nigerian culture, yes when they use magic they’re speaking Yoruba, but those are more of the details.
“It’s more of a fact that you pick up this book and you see a magical dark-skinned black girl on the cover. When you open the pages, you see blacks of all shades on the cover.
“You see us celebrated as the hero, you see us get these epic battles, you see us get these big twisted romances.
“We have this story for all of us to celebrate because even all Nigeria isn’t Yoruba. Igbo, Hausa, but Zélie is still for all of us.”
Adeyemi also shared her glee that the fictional world in her novel was inspired by her roots.
“I feel very grateful that this world comes from my world,” she said.
“Like working on translations with my mum for hours and hours. I always tease my parents because they didn’t teach me Yoruba.
“I have an older brother and a little sister and they didn’t teach us Yoruba because they wanted to talk about us when we were in the room. So they used Yoruba as a secret language.
“When you grow up as the daughter or son of first generation immigrants, you are one nationality in the house and one nationality outside of the house.
“For me, I was Nigerian inside the house and when I went outside I was African-American. So my thanksgivings have jollof rice, we don’t do turkey.”
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