Binti Summary & Study Guide
SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature. This 59-page guide for “Binti” by Nnedi Okorafor includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis covering 24 chapters, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 25 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like The Social Construction of Gender and The Intricacies of Race.
Binti: The Complete Trilogy is a series of science fiction novellas written by Nnedi Okorafor, author of the Akata Witch series. First published in 2015, Binti has won multiple prestigious literary awards, including the 2016 Hugo Award, the 2015 Nebula Award, and the 2016 British Fantasy Award for Best Novella. The 2019 omnibus publication includes the three novellas Binti, Binti: Home, and Binti: The Night Masquerade, as well as the bonus inclusion of the debut short story “Binti: Sacred Fire.”
Binti, the first novella, introduces the readers to the protagonist of the series. Binti is a young woman of an ethnic group on Earth named the Himba. The Himba are a traditional group and rarely stray from home. Binti is thus the first of her people to attend the renowned Oomza University, an intergalactic academic institution. When Binti discovers that the university has accepted her, she runs away from home and boards a ship headed for Oomza without alerting her friends or family. Despite the prejudice she faces from another ethnic group known as the Khoush while onboard the ship, Binti finds kinship amongst many academics and scholars. Then, the Meduse attack the living ship, known as Third Fish, while in transit to Oomza. The Meduse are a jellyfish-like alien race that is known for their aggression and warmongering tendencies. The Meduse and the Khoush have been at war for years. The Meduse kill everyone on board the ship except for Binti and the pilot.
Binti discovers that her edan, an ancient artifact she discovered when she was a child, allows her to communicate with the Meduse. The edan also protects her from their attacks. Binti realizes that her otjize, mixed clay that women of her people apply to their body and hair, can heal the Meduse. Binti manages to convince a young Meduse named Okwu that she would be able to broker a truce between the Khoush scholars at Oomza and the Meduse. Binti is taken to the chief of the Meduse, and the chief reveals that Khoush scholars stole its stinger and exhibited it at the Oomza museum without consent. When a Meduse stings Binti, she can now communicate with them without her edan.
Upon their arrival at the university, Binti brokers peace between the Khoush and the Meduse. The stinger is returned to the chief of the Meduse, and Okwu joins Binti at the school as a student. Binti realizes that her hair has become a mass of tentacles. She is now part Meduse. The short story included in the omnibus publication, “Binti: Sacred Fire,” elaborates on Binti’s experiences when at Oomza, as a precursor to Binti: Home.
The second book in the series, Binti: Home, paints a picture of Oomza University. Binti has settled into her life at Oomza. Although she has a few friends, she feels alienated by the other students. Binti has become close friends with Okwu and is able to feel his emotions from the opposite side of campus. Binti has begun having flashes of intense rage that interrupt her mathematical meditations. Binti has also been suffering from panic attacks after the massacre onboard the ship. After a year of studies at Oomza University, Binti wishes to return home to Earth to complete a traditional rite of passage for the women of her people. Binti believes that she is “unclean,” that the Meduse have tainted her somehow. Binti resolves to return home so that she may complete her pilgrimage and hopefully cleanse herself of the fury she has begun to feel. Binti brings Okwu with her as a sign of peace between the Khoush and Meduse. When they both return to Binti’s home, Khoush soldiers, the press, and Binti’s family greet them. After narrowly sidestepping the start of another war, Binti must reckon with her family’s disapproval of her departure. Binti’s childhood best friend, Dele, no longer wants anything to do with her; most of her people seem to blame her for their community’s misfortune.
Binti sees the Night Masquerade, a creature of legend in her community that supposedly shows itself only to deserving Himba men. The night she sees the Night Masquerade, the Desert People, whom the Himba look down upon as savages for their darker skin and primitive ways, arrive to take Binti away. The Desert People, rightfully known as Enyi Zinariya, are a highly advanced civilization that had encountered an alien species named the Zinariya that gave them microbes that allowed for the community to communicate long distances with their mind. Binti is part Enyi Zinariya, on her father’s side, and she struggles with her prejudice as she too awakes the microbes inside of her. Throughout her journey, Binti befriends Mwinyi, a member of the Enyi Zinariya and another master harmonizer. Binti is figuring out her place in the world as a Himba, Meduse, and Enyi Zinariya hybrid, when she feels Okwu’s distress. The Khoush have attacked Okwu and Binti’s childhood home. She hurries towards her burning home and is convinced that her family has perished.
In the third and final installment of the trilogy, Binti: The Night Masquerade, Binti negotiates a peace between the elders of her Himba community, the Khoush general, and the chief of the Meduse. As a master harmonizer, Binti calls upon the old Himba culture, one of peacemaking, to settle the argument. The Himba elders have forsaken Binti and choose to hide, instead of helping her to broker peace. Dele, already an apprentice to the chief, disagrees with the elders’ decision; he steals the Night Masquerade costume and appears to Binti to encourage her. Binti learns that the Night Masquerade is composed of a secret council of individuals who decide who is worthy of seeing it. Binti manages to summon old culture, and both the Khoush and Meduse prepare to depart.
Someone shoots Binti, and she loses an arm and both her legs. Binti dies; her family mourns her and the Khoush and Meduse wage war in space above them. Binti’s family members are still alive because the Undying Tree that their home was built upon saves them. They prepare Binti’s body, and Okwu and Mwinyi prepare to bring her to the rings of Saturn. The last time Binti had found the ball of mysterious metal in her edan, she had a vision of voices speaking to her in the rings of Saturn. Okwu and Mwinyi want to deliver her to her next destination.
The living ship, Third Fish, has given birth. Her daughter, New Fish, flies Okwu, Mwinyi, and Binti’s body to Saturn. After a few days in New Fish’s breathing room, both Mwinyi and Okwu discover that Binti has been resurrected. They discover that all the microbes that were strong in New Fish, due to its recent birth, have healed her. Binti, now connected with New Fish, cannot be further than five miles away from her. Binti is, however, able to inhabit New Fish’s body and can thus fly in space without a space suit. When they arrive in the rings of Saturn, Binti speaks to an alien race who have summoned her to simply ask for a recommendation; they want to know how she likes Oomza University.
Binti tells them how much she admires Oomza University, and they return to the school. Binti waits to tell her family that she is alive. She goes to the doctor and discovers that she will likely pass on her tentacle hair to her children, and that they will also probably be connected to New Fish. All the different parts of herself overcome Binti and she is conflicted; she has to accept the Enyi Zinariya, Meduse, New Fish, and Meduse parts of herself. Mwinyi comforts her, and Binti kisses him. The trilogy ends with a group of Binti’s friends, including Okwu, Mwinyi, New Fish, and her classmates going to sightsee around Oomza University.