Of the Marvel Cinematic Universe cannon—17 movies including the Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor films—Black Panther is the first to feature a predominantly black cast. And it’s already being lauded as nothing short of historical. In a follow-up to Captain America: Civil War—which introduced T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) as the mysterious and stealthy Black Panther—T’Challa returns to his nation of Wakanda to succeed the throne after the death of his father. Now king, T’Challa must deal with factions within his own country as well as new threats who conspire to destroy Wakanda.
On the surface, Black Panther is just another superhero flick, but behind the scenes there are ponderings on race, identity, and Afrofuturism that make this a movie worth exploring beyond the silver screen. As a MCU nerd and black woman of African descent, this is a movie I won’t be watching just once because, beside the larger-than-life story line, there are so many cultural facets to pick apart. Just in time for Black History Month, here are 5 books to read to fully grasp the cultural impact of Black Panther.
Colson Whitehead has been much in the news these days with his latest novel, THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD, recently selected to be the next Oprah Book Club Pick. He burst onto the literary scene nearly 20 years ago with the marvelously inventive, genre-bending, noir-inflected novel THE INTUITIONIST, set in the curious world of elevator inspection. With a nod to Ralph Ellison’s INVISIBLE MAN, Whitehead portrays a universe parallel to our own, where matters of morality, politics, and race reveal unexpected ironies.
If you’ve ever marveled at the interwoven tales of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the dreamed-up worlds it produces, Octavia Butler’s Xenogenisis series will enrapture you. DAWN, the first of the Xenogenisis series, takes place hundreds of years after our time, after Lilith Iyapo awakes from a centuries-long sleep to find herself on the spaceship of the Oankali. As the reader progresses through the series, an exciting and fascinating literary world unfolds that ingeniously explores themes like sexuality, gender, and race.