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Literature: Akata Witch
2011 book by Nnedi Okorafor. 12-year-old Sunny lives in Nigeria, but she was born in New York City. She looks West African, but is so sensitive to the sun that she can’t play soccer during the day, due to her albinism. She doesn’t seem to fit in anywhere. Her classmate Orlu and his friend Chichi reveal that they have magical abilities—and so does she. They are all "Leopard People", or people with magical abilities. Sunny is a “free agent", or someone who has magical powers without a relative having them. And she has a lot of catching up to do.

Orlu and Chichi have been working with their teacher for years. Sunny needs a crash course in magical history, spells, juju, shape-shifting and dimensional travel. Her new world is a secret from her family, but it’s well worth all of the silence, exhaustion and sneaking around. Still, there is a dark side. After she’s found her footing, Sunny, Orlu, Chichi, and their American friend Sasha are asked by the magical authorities to help track down a criminal. Not just a run-of-the-mill bad guy. A real-life hardcore serial killer-with abilities far stronger than theirs.

Received overwhelmingly good reviews for bucking the traditional Medieval European Fantasy norm and the Monochrome Casting of most Western fantasy books. A sequel called Breaking Kola is expected to be published in 2014.

Akata Witch uses the following tropes:

  • Abusive Parents: While both of Sunny's parents use corporal punishment, her father is excessive. He is also never emotionally supportive of her.
  • All Myths Are True: According to Sunny's guidebook Fast Facts for Free Agents.
  • All of the Other Reindeer: Sunny's life in a nutshell, due to being both albino and American.
  • Aloof Big Brother: Chukwu and Ugonna towards Sunny. Chukwu in particular likes to hold himself above his little sister, but they also taught her how to play soccer and how to fight.
  • Alpha Bitch: Jibaku.
  • Ambition Is Evil: Black Hat went very, very wrong because he aspired for material wealth.
  • The Apprentice: Anatov sends the children to meet different scholars so that they can, essentially, be apprenticed. Kehinde picks Sasha, Taiwo picks Orlu, Anatov picks Chichi, and Sugar Cream picks Sunny.
  • Because Destiny Says So: Why a bunch of inexperienced kids are the ones sent after Black Hat.
  • Berserk Button: Whenever Sunny does something that resembles her maternal grandmother, Sunny's father takes it very, very badly.
  • Big Bad: Black Hat Otokoto
  • Black Sheep: Sunny, being the only albino and the only Leopard Person in her family.
  • Blood Magic: The reason Black Hat kills.
  • Broken Ace: Black Hat is not only a Leopard Person, he's Oku Akama, the final level that people rarely graduate to. For a sense of scale of how great his talent is, there are only eight such scholars in Nigeria, and Black Hat passed the test several years before he should even have been able to study for it since the university for third level students wanting to advance doesn't take anyone under forty-two.
  • Bullying a Dragon: The kids at school who pick on Sunny. Of course, she's not allowed to use magic on them, but she could take all of them out easily.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Nimm women are known for being this.
  • Coming of Age Story: Sunny and her friends are on the cusp of puberty.
  • Continuity Nod: Ginen, the planet featured in Zahrah the Windseeker and The Shadow Speaker, is mentioned. Sunny's juju knife also appears to be made of the same material as Sarauniya Jaa's sword.
  • Cool Aunt: Sunny's aunt Chinwe. Her sisters, one of them being Sunny's mother, both became doctors. Chinwe was also supposed to become a doctor because that was their father's ambition for them, but instead she became a professional dancer and married an American. Sunny looks up to her aunt because she is the only other person in the family who doesn't quite fit.
  • Cool Big Sis: Chichi takes this role with her friends, even though for all they know, she might be the youngest.
  • Cue the Sun: Sunny has a moment the morning after her initiation where the sun is rising and she realizes it isn't burning her skin.
  • Disappeared Dad: Chichi's dad is a famous musician who walked out on her and her mother years ago. He never sees them or sends money, but they honestly don't care.
  • Double Standard: Sunny is often treated worse than her brothers because she is a girl.
    • She also has to do a harder tryout for the Zuma Nationals soccer game because she is a girl.
  • Everyone Calls Him Barkeep: Junk Man, who sells a random variety of things at his market stall.
  • Four Philosophy Ensemble: A little bit, with Sasha as the cynic, Sunny as the optimist, Orlu as the realist, and Chichi as the apathetic.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: Sunny and her friends.
    • Chichi is sanguine. She is optimistic, cheerful, impulsive, and easily the most lustful of the four.
    • Sasha is choleric. Ambitious, charismatic, and one to take charge, he is proud and has a quick temper.
    • Orlu is melancholic. Courteous, analytical, and hard-working, he acts as a moral compass and voice of reason.
    • Sunny is phlegmatic. She is the peacemaker of the group, but also the most insecure because she's new. Incidentally, her nose runs often.
  • Game Face: A non-evil example. All of the Leopard People have their "spirit face" that they can conjure up, which is seen as a very personal thing and seeing someone's spirit face is akin to seeing them naked. The face is usually a manifestation of their personality or powers. Sunny plays this trope straight when she gets into a fight with a schoolmate.
  • Gender-Blender Name: Sunny is expecting Sasha to be a girl. Also, Orlu (male) and Chichi (female) may count because those are Igbo names that in English are kind of ambiguous.
  • Heroic Albino: Sunny. Her coloring is an indication not of her magic, but of her innate talents.
  • Initiation Ceremony: Sunny's is fairly uncomfortable, and there are implications it could have killed her.
  • Intangible Man: Sunny can do this.
  • KidAnova: Chukwu, to the point that Sunny wrote an essay about it. He struck out hard with Chichi, though.
  • Living a Double Life: Said verbatim multiple times.
  • Magical Society: Leopard People, also called witches, warlocks, sorcerers, and any other title for the magical, depending on where in the world you are. There are Leopard centers all over the world. Nigeria's is in Leopard Knocks, by Aba.
  • The Masquerade: The Leopard world and the Lamb (human) one. A Leopard Person must never tell a Lamb what they are. Sort of averted, in that most Leopard People come from families where everyone is a Leopard Person.
  • Meaningful Name: Several.
    • Sunny's name is initially ironic because the sun burns her very easily. It turns out to be a clue as to her spirit face and spirit name, Anyanwu. Anyanwu itself means "eye of the sun." She is also the only member of her family to have an English rather than an Igbo name, reflecting her different place of birth.
    • Sunny's brother Chukwu, meaning "supreme being." It's not a direct translation, but essentially his name is God. His ego drives Sunny nuts.
    • Sunny's brother Ugonna, meaning "father's pride." Possibly a hint towards their father's preference towards his sons.
    • Twins Taiwo and Kehinde have names given to older and younger twins respectively.
  • Mentor Occupational Hazard: This is what happened to Sunny's grandmother, Ozoemena. Only it was Black Hat himself who killed her.
  • Mixed Ancestry: Chichi's mother is Efik and her father is Igbo.
    • Sunny's grandmother was a Leopard while her other three grandparents were Lambs.
  • Muggles: Called Lambs.
  • Muggle Foster Parents: Averted, her parents are actually her biological parents, but they have no abilities.
    • Her maternal grandmother did, though
  • Mundane Utility: Juju can be used, among other things, to keep mosquitoes away.
  • Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Black Hat. Also Ekwensu.
  • Omniglot: Sunny and her friends all speak more than two languages. Sunny, Orlu, and Chichi all speak Igbo, English, and Nigerian Pidgin English. Chichi also speaks Efik. Sasha speaks English, Spanish, Hausa, Igbo, and Arabic.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Chichi. Her full name is Chijioke.
    • Sugar Cream, at least as far as anyone can tell.
    • Jesus's General.
  • Only the Knowledgable May Pass: You need to be initiated to enter Leopard Knocks.
  • Our Spirits Are Different: Masquerades, which are not to be confused with Masquerade or Masquerade Ball. They are spirit creatures, and they will hurt you.
  • Parental Abandonment: Sugar Cream was found in the woods when she was three or so. She was found and raised by a seventeen-year-old.
  • Photographic Memory: Both Sasha and Chichi have this, which is why neither of them goes to school.
  • Renowned Selective Mentor: Sugar Cream has never mentored anyone, but she's been considering, just this once, taking a student.
  • Reward from Nowhere: Chittim is the currency of Leopards, and it comes out of nowhere after one learns something new.
  • Secret Test: Anatov is very fond of doing this.
  • Serial Killer: One of these is killing and mutilating children throughout Nigeria It is found out that he is a Leopard Person and is using the children to work juju.
  • Shown Their Work: Since Okorafor is actually of Nigerian descent, all of the Nigerian mythology and culture depicted in the book are actual myths. The detail is shown in this review.
  • Silver Has Mystic Powers: The handle of Sunny's juju knife is silver.
  • Sink or Swim Mentor: This is how learning works in the Leopard world. All the teachers are this, but we see the most of Anatov.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: Jesus's General, according to the narrator.
  • Stealth Pun: The African American Leopard headquarters is called Tar Nation, likely in reference to both the word "tarnation," a light variant of "damnation," and the racial slur "tar baby."
  • Superpowerful Genetics: Leopard abilities are specifically stated not to be this. It's a matter of spirit, not genes.
  • The Tease: Chichi at times.
  • Tell Me About My Father: Sunny desperately wants to know about her maternal grandmother, who may have been a Leopard Person.
  • True Companions: Sunny, Orlu, Chichi, and Sasha make an Oha coven.
  • Twofer Token Minority: Sunny sort of feels like this in Nigeria, since she was born in New York City but moved to Nigeria when she was 9, and she is an albino.
  • The Unfavorite: Sunny's father doesn't like her.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: With Sasha and Chichi. Eventually resolved when Sunny catches them making out multiple times. This happens to a lesser extent between Sunny and Orlu as well.
  • Vague Age: Chichi deliberately invokes this. She refuses to tell anyone how old she is, except when she's teasing an older man. After she gets him excited, she tells him she's twelve (or whatever age she feels like being), laughs at their horror, and runs off.
  • Waif Prophet: Sunny has the potential to become one. At the beginning of the book, she sees the end of the world in a candle flame.
  • Wham Line: Sugar Cream reveals that Sunny's grandmother was Black Hat's teacher, and that he murdered her.
  • What the Hell, Mom?: In a rare mother/daughter example, Chichi and her mother.
  • The Worf Effect: Sunny and the others ask why older, more experienced sorcerers aren't going after Black Hat. Well, they did. It didn't end well.
Sonny's BluesLiterary Works by African-American AuthorsDhalgren
AirmanYoung Adult LiteratureAlcatraz Series
Age of SteamFantasy LiteratureAlcatraz Series
The Abandon TrilogyUrban FantasyAlex Verus
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alternative title(s): Akata Witch
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