I am SO excited for this novel to hit shelves. Okoye has been one of my favorite characters in the Marvel Universe; played by actress Danai Gurira, who also plays Michonne, one of my favorite characters from The Walking Dead. Now that I’ve got my fangirling out of the way, let’s get to it.
Many readers and MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe!) fans have come to know Okoye over the last several years, thanks to her role in the Black Panther and Avengers movies. She’s a Wakandan general and member of the Dora Milaje, the elite, all-female, group of warriors that protect the King of Wakanda and serve as the country’s special forces. Okoye to the People begins when Okoye is a new member of the Dora Milaje, chosen for her first assignment: join Captain Aneke and King T’Chaka (father of T’Challa, the Black Panther from the MCU and comics) on a trip to New York to meet with the head of a nonprofit organization, No Neighborhood Left Behind. Arriving in Brownsville, Brooklyn, Okoye realizes that Wakanda means nothing to New Yorkers, but she also sees gentrification all around her and a group of people struggling to keep their way of life. Drawn to a group of teens in Brownsville, she learns that No Neighborhood Left Behind isn’t everything the head of the organization claims it is, and that her secret plans for Brownville could extend to Wakanda, if left unchecked.
Ibi Zoboi brilliantly writes about problems faced in communities of color within the scope of a Marvel Black Panther novel: gentrification and the history of colonization; race; economics, and the African Diaspora. Her characters are real; they reach out from the page and demand to be seen and heard, and the action is incredible, entwined with sinister intrigue thanks to an all-too familiar storyline about an organization whose good intentions are skin-deep. Ibi Zoboi’s existing body of work, the popularity of Black Panther and the MCU, and the novel’s empowered teens and strong female characters make this a do not miss.