Yes, I am totally here for open border advocacy allegories, sci-fi tales that center non-white perspectives and experiences, and sly critiques of racism, overt or otherwise! Dr Freedom Chukwuebuka is five months pregnant when she abruptly leaves Lagos to return to New York City. She leaves behind a clinic where she treated both humans and aliens, primarily the plant-based florals, as well as a fiance involved in a Free Biafra movement that has skewed from protesting persecution of the Igbo to demanding a “pure” Biafran state. While Nigeria was the epicenter of alien immigration, having benefited greatly from being the point of first contact, the United States, unsurprisingly, has been far slower to embrace these intergalactic newcomers. As expected, Freedom finds herself jumping through demeaning hoops just to get back into her own country through LaGuardia International (and now Interplanetary) Airport.
Fortunately, the standard xenophobia of American immigration officials that Freedom was counting on allows her to smuggle in an illegal alien, whom she plants in the ground behind her beloved grandmother’s apartment building where she’s staying while she figures out what to do next. With no job, an estranged fiance and a baby on the way, Freedom has to navigate a whole new chapter of life… and that’s even before taking into account the complications of her alien friend being perhaps the last of its kind.
I loved the social commentary on display in this book, tho as with Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti, I was perturbed by the absolutely blase way the author deals with bodily autonomy. At least in LaGuardia’s case the primary modification is accidental instead of deliberately inflicted. Call me old-fashioned, but I feel like you shouldn’t change another person’s physique without their informed consent.
The art worked well for the story, especially in depicting the humans, tho the caricature-esque style isn’t one I generally cotton to. My main complaint, with the full understanding that this might very well be a me-problem, is that expressions too often took on a sinister cast when they were supposed to be depicting glee or, usually, sarcasm. Also, the florals almost universally creeped me out, even when the plant life was entirely terrestrial.
That said, this was probably the worthiest of the stuff Ms Okarafor has written to date, primarily because of the sharp social commentary, but I’d really also like to read the last book in the Akata Witch series please! Especially with J.K. Rowling having recently gone full jackass, it’d be great to have a complete magic school series I can read without being distracted by the author’s awfulness.
This volume was reviewed as part of my voting slate for the Hugo Awards 2020 Best Graphic Story category.