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Black fantasy author talks desert inspiration for new book while attending UArizona

Posted at 2:27 PM, Mar 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-02 16:27:35-05

TUCSON, AZ — Wrapping up our Black History Month coverage we highlight a University of Arizona graduate carving out his career as a published author.

The next chapter in Okungbowa's personal journey continues in Canada, where he has signed on as a professor of Creative Writing at the University of Ottawa.

Suyi Davies Okungbowa writes epic fantasy novels, a genre associated with mythical worlds and magical powers. Okungbowa says he draws much of his inspiration from his home country in Africa.

"I'm Nigerian," he said. "I grew up in Nigeria."

His latest book is entitled "Son of the Storm."

Okungbowa based the overall look of the world in the book off a time in history when 15th Century West African Empires ruled the land.

"It follows three people," Okungbowa said. A scholar, a fixer's daughter, and a warrior," he said.

Each of the characters goes on a long quest, to discover they have magical powers along the way.

But, it's Okungbowa's real-life journey that's now inspiring others. He moved to Tucson in 2018 to attend UArizona and earned a Master's Degree in Creative Writing.

He says he chose Tucson for college, thinking the climate would be similar to Africa.

He says it wasn't, but he still found the area fascinating.

If in fact Tuscon's locale and landscape produced key themes for his book, like the division that comes from being a border town, and climate issues.

"Water is drying up in certain parts of the continent," Okungbowa recalls about the setting of Son of the Storm. "So people move and gravitate to where there's water," he says. "That came from my experience in Tucson."

Cultural themes and stereotypes are addressed in the book as well. For example, certain powers are tied to Black hair styles, and the darker the skin, the higher social status you hold in society.

"All of my stories draw from my experience as a black person, being Nigerian, being West African, being from the African continent, and engages with blackness and how blackness as a construct engages with the rest of the world," Okungbowa said.

He adds that he's honored to enlighten the path for future fantasy writers to come.

"You have to redefine failure," he said about the ups and downs of getting a book published. "Get on a journey. Try everything you can. Go wild with your ideas and pretty much just keep at it, and you will eventually get to the version of success that you have defined for yourself."