Tomi Adeyemi is a Bestselling Nigerian-American novelist and creative writing coach. She is known for her #1 NY Times bestselling book Children of Blood and Bone, the first in the Legacy of Orïsha trilogy published by Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, which won the 2018 Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy, the 2019 Waterstones Book Prize, and the 2019 Hugo Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book. In 2019, she was added to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list.
She was born in the United States to parents who emigrated from Nigeria when she was a child. Her father was a physician in Nigeria but found employment in Chicago while he waited to transfer his qualifications. Her mother worked as well. She grew up in Chicago and was not exposed to her Nigerian heritage early enough but that only piqued her curiosity further; her parents decided not to teach her or her siblings the Yoruba language.
She would later embrace her heritage as an adult, “I didn’t think too much of it and I think that is the kind of an experience of the first generation. You’re just trying to fit in. You don’t realize how cool your culture is until you get out of that phase of trying to fit in.” She later described one of her novels as a love letter to her culture.
Tomi wrote her first story when she was five years old, and continued to write throughout her teenage years. She graduated from Hinsdale Central High School in Hinsdale, Illinois in 2011. She qualified into the Hinsdale Central High School Foundation’s Young Scholar Program in 2008 and went on to win their “Young Scholars” scholarship in 2010–2011. During her senior year, Tomi also received the Rani Sharma scholarship.
She graduated from Harvard University with an honors degree in English Literature, She also studied West African mythology and culture in Salvador, Brazil, on a fellowship. It was this experience that inspired her to write Children of Blood and Bone, the breakthrough novel that would launch her career
After Adeyemi moved to California, she worked at a Los Angeles film production company. When she decided to reduce her hours there to write a book, her parents, who had uprooted their lives in Nigeria to give her a better life, were not entirely accepting of this idea. Adeyemi says, “I’m first-generation Nigerian so I came out of my mother’s womb and I was supposed to be a doctor, a lawyer or engineer, and I was like ‘oh hey, I’m quitting my very well-paying job at a very stable company that has many future job opportunities for me’ … I’m so lucky that my parents were like, ‘obviously we’re not crazy about this but we love you’.”
While working on her first novel Adeyemi worked as a creative writing coach. Her first written novel did not yield positive feedback. She went on to set herself a year to write another book that became Children of Blood and Bone, and she entered it into Pitch Wars, a competition program in which emerging writers are matched with editors and authors to revise their work before they submit it to a literary agent.
Adeyemi’s debut novel, Children of Blood and Bone, was released in March 2018, and debuted at number 1 on The New York Times Young Adult Hardcover Bestseller List. It is a young-adult fantasy novel, featuring protagonist Zélie Adebola, who fights a monarchy to return magic to her people.
Adeyemi has said she wanted to write a fantasy novel set in West Africa so that “a little Black girl [could] pick up my book one day and see herself as the star…I want her to know that she’s beautiful and she matters and she can have a crazy, magical adventure even if an ignorant part of the world tells her she can never be Hermione Granger.”
Children of Blood and Bone was awarded the 2018 Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy and is a finalist for the 2019 Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book.
Fox 2000 has purchased the film adaptation rights to the book. Reports have it that the deals for the publishing and film rights were approximately seven figures. Deadline described it as “one of the biggest Young Adult debut novel publishing deals ever.”
Adeyemi made a guest appearance in the final episode of Hermione Granger and the Quarter Life Crisis. For reasons unclear, her second novel, Children of Virtue and Vengeance was pushed back from its initial release date of March 2019 to June 2019. According to Amazon users, the book was pushed back again from June 2019 to December 2019.
The young author disclosed via Instagram that her publisher offered her two choices: June 2019 and December 2019, but she chose the former so fans would not have to wait. Unfortunately, the workload was too much and the author, editors, and publisher agreed to give the second book more time. Children of Virtue and Vengeance became a #1 New York Times Bestseller in 2019.
In addition to her success as a novelist, Tomi teaches creative writing through her online course, The Writer’s Roadmap. Her website has been named one of the 101 best websites for writers by Writer’s Digest.
She was recently named the TIME 100 Most Influential People Of 2020.
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