Profile: Nora Keita Jemisin (1972-)

Nora Keita Jemisin is an American science fiction and fantasy writer. She has also worked as a counseling psychologist. Her fiction includes a wide range of themes, notably cultural conflict and oppression. She has won several awards for her work, including the Locus Award. As of her August 2018 win, the three books of her Broken Earth series have made her the first author to have won the Hugo Award for Best Novel in three consecutive years or for all three novels in a trilogy.

In 2009 and 2010, Jemisin’s short story “Non-Zero Probabilities” was a finalist for the Nebula and Hugo Best Short Story Awards. Her debut novel, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, the first volume in her Inheritance Trilogy, was nominated for the 2010 Nebula Award, and short-listed for the James Tiptree Jr. Award. In 2011, it was nominated for the Hugo Award, World Fantasy Award, and Locus Award, winning the 2011 Locus Award for Best First Novel. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms also won the Sense of Gender Awards in 2011. It was followed by two further novels in the same trilogy – The Broken Kingdoms in 2010 and The Kingdom of Gods in 2011.

In October 2020, Jemisin was announced as a recipient of the MacArthur Fellows Program Genius Grant.

Early life

Jemisin was born in Iowa City, Iowa, and grew up in New York City and Mobile, Alabama. She lived in Massachusetts for ten years and then moved to New York City. Jemisin attended Tulane University from 1990 to 1994, where she received a B.S. in psychology. She went on to study counseling and earn her Master of Educationfrom the University of Maryland.

Career

A graduate of the 2002 Viable Paradise writing workshop, Jemisin has published short stories and novels. Jemisin was a member of the Boston-area writing group BRAWLers, and is a member of Altered Fluid, a speculative fiction critique group.

During her delivery of the Guest of Honour speech at the 2013 Continuum in Australia, Jemisin pointed out that 10% of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) membership voted for alt-right writer Theodore Beale (also known as Vox Day) in his bid for the SFWA presidential position. She went on to call Beale “a self-described misogynist, racist, anti-Semite, and a few other flavors of asshole” and noted that silence about these issues was the same as enabling them. Beale responded by calling her an “educated but ignorant savage”. A link to his comments was tweeted on the SFWA Authors Twitter feed, and Beale was subsequently expelled from the organization.

In January 2016, Jemisin started writing “Otherworldly”, a bimonthly column for The New York Times. In May 2016, Jemisin mounted a Patreon campaign which raised sufficient funding to allow her to quit her job as a counseling psychologist and focus full-time on her writing. In the following year, Bustle called Jemisin “the sci-fi writer every woman needs to be reading”.

In November 2019, Jemisin criticized a Northern State University graduate named Brooke Nelson after Sarah Dessen complained because Nelson had stated in an interview to Aberdeen News that she had advocated for the inclusion of civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson’s memoir, Just Mercy, over one of young adult literature author Dessen’s novels in the university’s undergraduate ‘Common Reads’ program. Jemisin later apologised for her remarks, stating that the ensuing online harassment of Nelson had been unfair, and the media and Dessen had been responsible in “amping controversy”

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