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In Nnedi Okorafor’s captivating fantasy novel Akata Witch, first published in 2011, knowledge takes center stage. Sunny Nwazue, the main protagonist, grapples with her dual identity as an albino girl born in America but living in Nigeria. Her unique physical appearance makes her a subject of ridicule and a victim of bullying. At the beginning of the book, she sees a vision inside a candle: the end of the world. Without a full understanding, this vision only confuses and scares her. She soon discovers that she belongs to magical Leopard People and begins to read the “Fast Facts for Free Agents” book. Through the book and various adventures, she is awakened to a part of herself that was unknown to her previously. She later joins three other Leopard people to bring down Black Hat Otokoto, a corrupt serial killer whose misuse of knowledge led to his demise.

I like Akata Witch because of its portrayal of knowledge: it enlightens and empowers people to achieve great things. However, it can also lead to self-destruction if used with evil intentions, such as greed for wealth and power. Knowledge, as portrayed in the book, is a double-edged sword that could be very powerful if used properly but can also cause great harm.

The theme of knowledge weaves throughout the story. Sunny’s journey is one of empowerment and self-discovery. As she delves into magical texts and faces life-altering challenges, she learns to embrace her unique identity. Her physical appearance, once a source of ridicule, becomes a powerful tool. The narrator uses a series of events to describe how she becomes more confident and courageous. For example, the first time she sees the slippery bridge to Leopard Knocks, she is too scared to cross. Her later crossing of the bridge comes naturally and liberating, summoning her spirit face and accompanying music. With the newfound confidence, she stands up for herself and wins a fight against Jibaku, a school bully. She goes from a bullied, shy, pathetic, and isolated child with low self-esteem into a confident warrior.

The best illustration of how knowledge empowers Sunny to garner the inner strength to defeat the most powerful evil enemy occurs in the battle with Ekwensu at the climax of the novel. In this final battle, Sunny has an epiphany – a sudden complete understanding of her calling and destiny – that knowledge from all her experience empowered her with courage and unimaginable power to defeat Ekwensu.

While knowledge is powerful, it does not equate with wisdom and making the right choices. When used for personal vengeance or greed, knowledge leads to severe negative consequences. Both Sunny and her friend Chichi have faced discipline after they misused their knowledge and spiritual capabilities for petty vengeance. Black Hat Otokoto, the murderous and psychotic main antagonist of the book, is exceedingly hungry for wealth and power. Otokoto’s abuse of knowledge turns him into a twisted serial killer, which leads to his own destruction.

As a reader, I connected with Sunny’s struggles. Like her, I have questioned my own identity: Am I Asian? Am I American? The book resonated with my dual heritage, emphasizing the importance of embracing both sides. It deepened my empathy for marginalized kids who navigate complex identities and face special challenges.

Akata Witch invites us to explore our own calling and hidden strengths. While defeating supernatural enemies might not be our reality, the journal of self-discovery remains universal. So, my fellow readers, open Akata Witch, dive into its magical world, wield knowledge wisely, and uncover our inner magic!

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor. Speak, 2017. Buy the book here and help support Stone Soup in the process!

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