LeVar Burton Reads is a freaking treasure. When I’m heading out on a long walk with Max, I cue up a story or two, and then off I go. I always enjoy the stories he picks, and quite often end up finding out about new-to-me authors or anthologies I’d somehow missed being released. When the story was “The Baboon War,” by Nnedi Okorafor, I was excited since she wasn’t new-to-me and I’d loved her Binti stories, but then I got to be even more excited because I learned she had an anthology available, Kabu-Kabu.
So I stopped walking the dog, paused LeVar, bought Kabu-Kabu on my phone, hit play, and kept walking.
“The Baboon War,” is this perfect mix of a grounded, simple narrative about three smart (and brave) girls walking to school, alongside a beautifully understated piece of magical realism (or science fiction, or something other, anyway, but pleasantly undefined beyond a few hints). These three girls find a shortcut to school that seems impossibly able to get them there earlier than it should, but find it guarded or patrolled by baboons. They have to decide if this path is worth fighting for.
“The Baboon War” is also told in a style I love: an older sister is shocked when her younger sister comes home bedraggled, wet, cut, bleeding, and somehow triumphant, and then that younger sister tells her the story of what’s been going on over the last little while. That one-step-removed adds a lovely fuzzy aura over the tale, and allows that magic to seep a little bit deeper.
Nnedi Okorafor is brilliant, and as a storyteller, her ability to weave place and character and that otherness with so few words is at a skill level I can only sit back and admire for the sheer amount of time and effort it must have taken to achieve. I’m so freaking glad her stories exist, and if you’ve never checked her out, I implore you to do so.