Tomi Adeyemi is a Nigerian American author known for her young adult novel Children of Blood and Bone, published in March of 2018. Henry Holt Books for Young Readers reportedly acquired the debut novel for a seven-figure advance. Shortly after, movie studio Fox 2000 purchased the film rights to the novel. Adeyemi planned to turn the story into a trilogy titled the Legacy of Orïsha.
Tomi Adeyemi was born in the United States to Nigerian parents who had immigrated to America before Adeyemi was born. Her father worked as a physician in Nigeria, but his qualifications took some time to transfer to the United States. For several years, he worked as a taxi driver, while Adeyemi’s mother worked as a housekeeper. Growing up in Chicago, Illinois, Adeyemi’s parents struggled financially for many years but hid the worst of it from their daughter. The young Adeyemi was not very familiar with her Nigerian heritage, only taking an interest in it 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,” she told the Sydney Morning Herald. “You’re just trying to fit in. You don’t realise how cool your culture is until you get out of that phase of trying to fit in.”
Adeyemi began writing stories around age seven, and she enjoyed reading young adult novels such as The Hunger Games while growing up. She graduated from Hinsdale Central High School in 2011. She then attended Harvard University, where she studied English literature and graduated with an honors degree in 2015. After college, she was awarded a fellowship that allowed her to study West African mythology and culture in Salvador, Brazil. She eventually relocated to Los Angeles, California, where she took a job as a data analyst. Adeyemi wanted to be a writer, however, and had been working on a novel for several years. She reduced her hours at her job so she could focus on writing, working on the side as a creative writing coach.
Adeyemi’s first novel did not receive much interest from publishers, and she abandoned the project after some time. She decided to give herself one year to write a new book. Adeyemi focused on writing a young adult novel in which almost all the characters are black. The main reason for this decision came from an observation Adeyemi made back in 2012 following the release of the film adaptation of The Hunger Games. A number of Hunger Games fans reacted negatively to the casting of black actors in roles described in the book as white. A number of comments disparaged the film studio’s decision to make all the “good characters” black. When Adeyemi heard of this, she made it her mission to write a book that was “so good and so black that everyone’s going to have to read it even if you’re racist,” as she stated to Entertainment Weekly.
Adeyemi put all her effort into her writing, learning everything she could about the process and how to get published. She spoke with published authors, read any book she could find about writing, and went to multiple writers’ conferences. By July of 2016, she had completed two drafts of her next novel, which she titled Children of Blood and Bone. She submitted her draft to Pitch Wars, a program in which new writers submit their work to be revised by editors and authors. She was eventually signed by a literary agent and continued revising the book through 2017. Publisher Henry Holt Books for Young Readers later acquired the book for a rumored seven-figure sum, one of the largest deals ever made for a young adult debut novel. Shortly after, movie studio Fox 2000 obtained the film rights to the novel, reportedly for a similar amount.
Children of Blood and Bone tells the story of Zélie Adebola, a young girl who embarks on a journey to restore magic to the fictional land of Orïsha. In Orïsha, the light-skinned classes control the dark-skinned population, and they have eliminated magic from the world to subjugate the naturally magical dark-skinned peoples. Adeyemi cited other young adult series such as Harry Potter as well as her experience studying African mythology in Brazil as inspirations for her writing style. Although the novel is a fantasy, Adeyemi said the book was inspired by real-life events, such as the Black Lives Matter movement. “Fantasy is such a wonderful lens because every obstacle in the book is tied to an obstacle that black people are facing as recent as today or as recent as 30 years ago,” Adeyemi told the Sydney Morning Herald. The novel topped the New York Times best seller list upon its release in March of 2018, debuting at number one on the Young Adult Hardcover list. She followed Children of Blood and Bone with Children of Virtue and Vengeance in December of 2019. Upon its release, Children of Virtue and Vengeance made the New York Times bestsellers list. Paramount Pictures purchased the film rights to Adeyemi’s popular series, announcing that it would be fast-tracking a film adaptation.
“About,” Tomi Adeyemi, http://www.tomiadeyemi.com/about (June 8, 2018).
“Allow Me to Introduce Myself,” Tomi Adeyemi, http://www.tomiadeyemi.com/new-page-2 (June 8, 2018).
“How Tomi Adeyemi Became a Literary Rockstar before Her First Book Even Came Out,” Refinery29.com, https://www.refinery29.com/2018/03/192699/children-of-blood-and-bone-tomi-adeyemi-author-interview (June 8, 2018).
“Interview: Tomi Adeyemi and Her Fantasy Novel Inspired by Black Lives Matter,” Sydney Morning Herald, https://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/books/interview-tomi-adeyemi-and-her-fantasy-novel-inspired-by-black-lives-matter-20180220-h0wd3h.html (June 8, 2018).
“Meet Tomi Adeyemi, the YA Breakout of 2018,” Entertainment Weekly, http://ew.com/books/2018/03/05/tomi-adeyemi-children-of-blood-and-bone/ (June 8, 2018).
“New Author Tomi Adeyemi Visits Her Alma Mater,” Hinsdale Central Devil’s Advocate, https://www.hcdevilsadvocate.com/news/2018/03/21/bestselling-author-tomi-adeyemi-visits-her-alma-mater/ (June 8, 2018).
“Nothing Wasted: Interview with Tomi Adeyemi, Author of ‘Children of Blood and Bone,’” Writer’s Digest, http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/breaking-in-writers-digest/interview-tomi-adeyemi-author-of-children-of-blood-and-bone (June 8, 2018).
“Paramount Pictures Lands Rights to Tomi Adeyemi Best-Selling YA Book Series ’Children of Blood and Bone,’” Deadline, https://deadline.com/2022/01/paramount-pictures-tomi-adeyemi-children-of-blood-and-bone-1234908812/ (June 8, 2022).
“Tomi Adeyemi: ‘We Need a Black Girl Fantasy Book Every Month,’” Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/mar/10/tomi-adeyemi-interview-children-of-blood-and-bone-sarah-hughes (June 8, 2018).
“Young Adult Hardcover: March 25, 2018,” New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/books/best-sellers/2018/03/25/young-adult-hardcover/ (June 8, 2018).