Photo of N.K Jemisin
N.K. Jemisin (NC ’94)
From Newcomb alumna to critically acclaimed author, N. K. Jemisin has been heralded by The New York Times as “the most celebrated science fiction and fantasy writer of her generation.”
N(ora). K. Jemisin was raised in Mobile, Alabama and New York City. Uprooted from two places, her childhood anchor was fiction; she spent hours at the local library, and ‘self-published’ her own handwritten books with cardboard covers and yarn binding.
Despite writing since childhood, she considered it to be just a hobby until her early thirties. After attending the Viable Paradise writing workshop, she began seeking publication in earnest. Although she acquired an agent in 2005, her first novel (The Killing Moon, eventually published in 2012) did not initially sell, as the fantasy genre at the time was significantly less welcoming to inclusive works and authors. Rather than giving up, she rewrote an old “trunked” novel from scratch — which sold for six-figures at auction to become The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (2010) and its sequels. In 2016, her novel The Fifth Season (2015) won the Hugo Award for Best Novel, making Jemisin the first Black person to have won in this category. In 2017, she won again for The Obelisk Gate (2016), and then a third time in 2018 for The Stone Sky, making her the first author in genre history to have won the Best Novel Hugo three consecutive times. In all, her short fiction and novels have won Hugos, a Nebula Award, and two Locus Awards, and have been translated into more than 20 languages. Her current Great Cities trilogy is ongoing, beginning with the New York Times bestselling book The City We Became.
In 2019, Jemisin returned to Newcomb as the Zale-Kimmerling Writer-in-Residence. In addition to taking part in a public reading and Q&A, she also offered her time to students, including a manuscript review for Newcomb Scholar Riley Moran (LA ’20).
“Hanging out with Nora for the afternoon was a dream. I inhaled The Broken Earth Trilogy and was as nervous as I was excited to meet her, but felt so at ease as soon as we sat down together,” Moran recalled. “Aside from being a fantastic writer and thoughtful reader, Nora is also a kind and cool person. We’ve since emailed back and forth a few times, and I’m more than grateful for her advice, stories, and general awesomeness.”
Jemisin is a 2020 recipient of the MacArthur ‘Genius’ Fellowship. Her most frequent themes include resistance to oppression, the inseverability of the liminal, and the coolness of Stuff Blowing Up. She has been an advocate for the long tradition of science fiction and fantasy as political resistance, and previously championed genre as a New York Times book reviewer. She lives in Brooklyn.