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Tomi Adeyemi (born August 1, 1993) is a Nigerian-American novelist and creative writing coach.
She is known for her 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 and is a finalist for the 2019 Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book.
Tomi Adeyemi was born on August 1, 1993 in the United States to parents who emigrated from Nigeria. Her father was a physician in Nigeria but found employment as a taxi driver while he waited to transfer his qualifications. Adeyemi's mother worked as a cleaning woman. Adeyemi grew up in Chicago and was not exposed to her Nigerian heritage; her parents decided not to teach her or her siblings their native tongue. She would later embrace her heritage as an adult, explaining, "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 would later describe one of her novels as a love letter to her culture.
Adeyemi 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. Adeyemi was 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, Adeyemi also received the Rani Sharma scholarship. She went on to graduate from Harvard University with an honors degree in English Literature, then 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 Tomi 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'."
Adeyemi's first written novel did not yield positive feedback. She instead 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 (YA) 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.
In late March 2017, Fox 2000 Pictures purchased the film adaptation rights to the book. Reportedly the deals for the publishing and film rights were approximately seven figures. Deadline described it as "one of the biggest YA debut novel publishing deals ever."
In November 2018, Adeyemi accused Nora Roberts of plagiarizing the title of her novel, Of Blood and Bone from Children of Blood and Bone. Adeyemi later retracted the accusation saying "after talking to her, I believe our titles were created in isolation". Roberts later clarified that her book had been titled and submitted to her publisher one year before Adeyemi's. She also criticised Adeyemi's lack of fact checking and the fact that Adeyemi had not deleted the accusation a day later.
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. Adeyemi later stated on her 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, editor, and publisher agreed to give the second book more time. Children of Virtue and Vengeance became a #1 New York Times Bestseller in December 2019.
In December 2020, Fox's new parent company Disney announced that its subsidiary Lucasfilm would be adapting Children of Blood and Bone into a movie. By 2021, Adeyemi had become frustrated with the pace of Lucasfilm's film adaptation process. She asked to serve as scriptwriter, a request that Lucasfilm had declined. Since Lucasfilm had wanted to focus on its own intellectual properties Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Willow, the company had allowed its film rights to Children of Blood and Bone to lapse in late 2021. In mid–January 2022, Paramount Pictures acquired the rights for a guaranteed exclusive theatrical release, with Temple Hill Entertainment producing alongside Sunswept Entertainment. As part of the agreement, Adeyemi will write the script and also serve as executive producer.
Tomi Adeyemi lives in San Diego, California. She is of Yoruba heritage. She has two siblings. Her mother manages hospices just outside Chicago, her father is a doctor, and her brother is a musician.