Read an Excerpt of Ibi Zoboi's 'Okoye to the People'
The YA novel arrives March 22, 2022!
What happens when a young Dora Milaje, Okoye, is sent on her first assignment outside the borders of Wakanda accompanying her King and Captain Aneka on a trip to America?
In Okoye to the People, New York Times best-selling author and National Book Award Finalist Ibi Zoboi helps the young Dora navigate her first adventure that defies her established way of life as the respected warrior of the Wakandan court in a high-stakes fish-out-of-water story. Okoye to the People arrives on shelves on March 22, everywhere books are sold. Pre-order now!
Before she became a multifaceted warrior and the confident leader of the Dora Milaje, Okoye was adjusting to her new life and attempting to find her place in Wakanda’s royal guard. Initially excited to receive an assignment for her very first mission and trip outside Wakanda, Okoye discovers that her status as a Dora Milaje means nothing to New Yorkers.
When she meets teenagers not much younger than herself struggling with the gentrification of their beloved Brooklyn neighborhood, her expectations for the world outside her own quickly fall apart. As she gets to know the young people of Brownsville, Okoye uncovers the truth about the plans of a manipulative real-estate mogul pulling all the strings―and how far-reaching those secret plans really are. Caught between fulfilling her duty to her country and listening to her own heart urging her to stand up for Brownsville, Okoye must determine the type of Dora Milaje―and woman―she wants to be.
Read an excerpt of Okoye to the People, below, thanks to our friends over at Disney Publishing/Marvel Press!
Okoye catches a girl nudging Tree. They all start to step back.
The girl steps forward. She’s a bit shorter than Tree, stocky with a head full of thick, curly hair. A septum ring and dark red lips lets Okoye know that she’s a tough one. But she recognizes her as the girl the group was hiding the other day. The one they had formed a semicircle around: Mars. The one who Lucinda described as being strung out. “Look, sis,” she says with a deeper, raspier voice. “I don’t know what you and Lucinda got going on, but it’s too late to be paying her a visit anyway. And we don’t know about that pyro whatever. We’re just out here chilling.”
“I am Okoye. Nice to meet you,” Okoye says.
“Mars. Mars Cooper.”
“I already know.”
“Then run and tell whoever sent you. Now go and mind your own business,” she says.
But as soon as an SUV with blacked-out windows approaches them, the kids move toward it. The truck stops and a back seat window rolls down just as the trunk pops open. Mars quickly runs over to grab a big green duffel bag from out of the trunk and closes it. The kids step away from the SUV as the window rolls up, and it starts to drive off.
Okoye remembers what Lucinda had told her about Stella Adams. She and her husband are responsible for bringing PyroBliss into Brownsville. But how? In a duffel bag?
“Nonsense,” Okoye whispers to herself. Then she calls out, “Ey!” and starts running toward the vehicle.
She picks up speed, but her sneakers are useless compared to her Dora Milaje combat boots designed specifically to give her a little more boost. Nonetheless, Okoye can run in anything and on any terrain, so she is getting closer to the SUV even as it turns a sharp corner. It picks up speed and runs a red light. Another car is approaching the intersection. It is about to hit Okoye, but she thinks quickly, even as her heart races, and she leaps over the car so high and with such force that when she lands, she feels her bones and organs rattle. She breaks her fall with both hands and one knee on the ground. Okoye pauses to quickly grab a Kimoyo bead from her bracelet and holds it in the palm of her hand to survey her body for any injuries or broken bones. The bead sends waves throughout her body, and she feels the tingling sensation on her skin. The result is negative. She is fine. She discreetly snaps the bead back onto the bracelet.
The SUV is gone, and Okoye immediately worries that she has done too much. She has shown too much of her true self here in Brownsville, so far from Wakanda.
“Yo! Did you just straight up jump over that car?” a voice calls out in the distance.
Slowly, Okoye gets up and wipes herself down. She turns to see Tree, Mars, and their crew running toward her with their mouths agape and eyes wide. She thinks of something to divert the attention away from what they might have just seen. “Where is the bag?” she asks.
“Hold up, girl. You don’t get to ask the questions. We do. Who are you really, and why are you here?” Tree asks. “And why in the world did you run after that car like that? Who do you think you are?”
They are all panting and out of breath.
Okoye blinks and bites her bottom lip. She will be honest. “I am from Wakanda. I am a member of the Dora Milaje, a special group of women trained and charged with keeping our king safe.”
Tree steps forward. “We get that you’re from Wakanda and all, and that y’all are supermodel bodyguards or whatever. But you’re supposed to keep the king safe? It’s like me being part of the president’s secret service or something. That doesn’t make any sense.”
“Besides, Wakanda is poor with nothing but elephants, giraffes, grass, and mountains,” a boy in the group says.
“Hmph,” Okoye says. “I do not think they teach you the truth about Wakanda in your schools, or about anywhere in Africa for that matter. Now, who was in that big car?”
“If you don’t know who was in that car, then why were you chasing it?” Tree asks.
Okoye looks around at the small crowd of kids who are all staring at her suspiciously. The group is smaller now and in the distance, Okoye spots Mars turning a corner into a dark alley. “I think it was Stella Adams.”
The kids all shift—some exhale, some cross their arms, some move their weight from one foot to the other. Okoye’s question has touched a raw nerve with them. “It’s okay, y’all,” Tree says to her friends. “She already knows.” Then she turns to Okoye, licks her lips, and says, “She does real estate and runs this big company. But she’s not coming all the way out here. Can’t you see gentrification hasn’t reached this part of Brooklyn yet? And are you also some kind of undercover cop for the United Nations or something? What’s with the questions?”
“Gentrification?” Okoye asks. “Is that a drug like PyroBliss?”
The kids laugh, but Tree holds up her hand to make them stop. “You know what? I guess you can say that,” she says. “Gentrification is when a neighborhood doesn’t get the help that it needs from the government, and things fall apart until people with more money and resources start to move in.”
“But isn’t that a good thing?”
“No!” all the kids say as they shake their heads, clearly even more impatient with Okoye. Tree continues, “When they move in, we’re pushed out. They don’t want us around here when things start getting nice.”
“I see,” Okoye says. “It’s like colonization in Africa, and all over the world.”
“Exactly!” Tree says.
“But how can you stop this from happening?” Okoye asks, as she remembers the wars and battles for independence all over Africa she learned about as a schoolgirl and while she was training to become a Dora Milaje.
But before Tree can respond, voices echo in the distance—laughing and shouting. And then a booming sound causes Okoye to duck and cover her ears, an instinct that should not have been her first move. But that only lasts for a moment before she’s off running past the kids and toward the smoke and fire.
“No! Stay out of it!” Someone suddenly steps out on front of her, forcing her to stop. It’s Mars, standing legs spread apart with her arms crossed.
“Move. Or you will be moved,” Okoye says.
“Who do you think you are? Brownsville’s super hero?” Mars says.
“There is a fire. People are getting hurt.”
“No, people are not getting hurt. Some of them want to watch it all burn.”
“This is your home. Why?” Okoye asks.
“We don’t own any of those buildings, except Lucinda’s community center. Maybe when it all burns down we can build everything back up and finally get to own all of it,” Mars says, as she herself walks toward the flames. “Now mind your own business, girl!”
Okoye has never taken orders from someone other than Captain Aneka, the Dora Milaje headmistress, or her king. Why is she so obedient to this child? Okoye does not move one inch as she watches the flames in the distance followed by cheers. “This isn’t right,” she whispers to herself. “There is too much suffering here.”
“You better get out of here,” Tree says as the small group walks past her and turns in to the dark alley. “We don’t need you to save us.”
Okoye to the People hits shelves, everywhere books are sold, on March 22, 2022!
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