YA Afrofuturist dystopian fantasy.
For Zuberi, Uzochi, and Lencho, Nubia is a mystery. Before they were born, a massive storm destroyed their ancestral homeland, forcing their families to flee across the ocean to New York City. Nubia, a utopic island nation off the coast of West Africa, was no more, and their parents’ sorrow was too deep for them to share much of their history beyond the folklore.
But New York, ravaged by climate change and class division, is far from a safe haven for refugees, and Nubians live as outcasts, struggling to survive in the constantly flooding lower half of Manhattan, while the rich thrive in the tech-driven sky city known as the Up High.
To many, being Nubian means you’re fated for a life plagued by difficulties and disrespect. But Zuberi, Uzochi, and Lencho are beginning to feel there might be more. Something within them is changing, giving each of them extraordinary powers. Extraordinary and terrifying powers that seem to be tied to the secrets their parents have kept from them.
And there are people Up High watching, eager to do anything they can to become even more powerful than they already are. Now Zuberi, Uzochi, and Lencho will be faced with the choice—do they use their inheritance to lift their people, or to leave them behind. The fate of their city, and their people, hangs in the balance.
I picked this up from a Target store in the US while we were there for Christmas, after I had run out of books to read; a rare occurrence, but I hadn’t packed enough books in my suitcase!
Nubia: The Awakening was released in the US at the same time as the Black Panther: Wakanda Forever movie, no doubt to make the most of the Afrofuturism that links the two.
Set in New York in 2098 after the world has suffered flooding from rising sea levels due to climate change, Nubia was one of the African nations that disappeared under the sea, forcing its citizens (Nubians) to move to the US as refugees. Nubians live in the poorest area of New York, which is known as the Swamp in the book, because it regularly gets flooded and is perilously close to the sea wall, which is the only defence against the risen sea levels.
Here’s Omar Epps discussing the book on American radio:
Although set in the future, the themes running through the book are relatable to today’s society: racism, poverty, displacement, climate change, class divides, the haves vs the have nots.
It’s an enjoyable fantasy story, but there are a lot of characters that get introduced during the first half which can make it seem a little heavy-going; I found myself trying to get a grasp of each character and how they are connected to each other. However, stick with it and you will be rewarded when magical powers start to appear…
(Nubia: The Awakening is not yet available in the UK)