The short story "How Nnedi Got Her Curved Spine" by Nnedi Okorafor details a story about a woman named Nnedi, who, while in the woods, was taken in by intelligent baboons and taught their first written language, which she then took back to her people, thus introducing writing to them.

Nnedi Okorafor writes at the end of the story:

Many years later, while considering all this and just before I wrote what would become my first published novel Zarah the Windseeker, I wrote this short piece of “creative nonfiction”. I call it nonfiction because it is a true story. I call it creative because it is told through the lens of fantasy.

But while looking up the term "creative nonfiction", I found this definition, on CreativeNonfiction.org:

The words “creative” and “nonfiction” describe the form. The word “creative” refers to the use of literary craft, the techniques fiction writers, playwrights, and poets employ to present nonfiction—factually accurate prose about real people and events—in a compelling, vivid, dramatic manner. The goal is to make nonfiction stories read like fiction so that your readers are as enthralled by fact as they are by fantasy.

I took this to mean stories such as Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prairie series - a true story told in a way that reads like a novel. "How Nnedi Got Her Curved Spine" doesn't seem to fit that.

Am I missing something here? Misunderstanding the definition of creative nonfiction? Or what?


1 Answer 1


This strikes me more as referencing Tolkien's attitude towards myths and Christianity in particular:

Now what Dyson and Tolkien showed me was [... that] the story of Christ is simply a true myth: a myth working on us in the same way as the others, but with this tremendous difference that it really happened.

(From a letter to Arthur Greeves in October 1931 by C.S. Lewis.)

Tolkien argued that myth was more than just a story. It is much as when he argued in Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics that "We do not deny the worth of the hero by accepting Grendel and the dragon." Just because the story of Nnedi has talking baboons doesn't mean it doesn't have worth.

Interestingly, I looked up Nnedi Okorofar. She has severe scoliosis, and had to have her vertebrae fused together - according to Wikipedia:

She was diagnosed with scoliosis at the age of 13, a condition that worsened as she grew older. At age 19, she underwent spinal fusion surgery to straighten and fuse her spine; a rare complication led to Okorafor becoming paralyzed from the waist down.

(She did eventually relearn to walk through intensive physical therapy, but only with the use of the cane.) There's truth in the story she wrote - that's the nonfiction - but there's also talking babooons. There's the myth.

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