#IMWAYR: Nubia: Real One!

So many things have happened since I last posted, it's sort of absurd!

  • I recovered from COVID, but then a few weeks later, everyone in my house got COVID again, so that was super-fun (not).
  • I finally got my driver's license way later than I had any reason to, so I am embarking on the thrill of car shopping!
  • My boyfriend, who is amazing, gave me the world's cutest dog plushie.
  • I had the same epiphany I have to have every few years, where I remember there's no point to dissecting all my anxious thoughts because that gives them credibility. It seems to be working—I've been happier the last few days!
Amidst it all, I haven't really been reading, but I finally finished a graphic novel that I'm really excited to share with y'all—so let's do it!

Young Adult:

Nubia: Real One

Written by L.L. McKinney and illustrated by Robyn Smith
Graphic novel · 2021

· · · The publisher says: · · ·

Can you be a hero...if society doesn't see you as a person?

Nubia has always been a little bit...different. As a baby she showcased Amazonian-like strength by pushing over a tree to rescue her neighbor's cat. But despite her having similar abilities, the world has no problem telling her that she's no Wonder Woman. And even if she were, they wouldn't want her. Every time she comes to the rescue, she's reminded of how people see her: as a threat. Her moms do their best to keep her safe, but Nubia can't deny the fire within her, even if she's a little awkward about it sometimes. Even if it means people assume the worst.

When Nubia's best friend, Quisha, is threatened by a boy who thinks he owns the town, Nubia will risk it all--her safety, her home, and her crush on that cute kid in English class--to become the hero society tells her she isn't.

From the witty and powerful voice behind A Blade So Black, and with endearing and expressive art by Robyn Smith, comes a vital story for today about equality, identity, and kicking it with your squad.

· · · · · ·

I'm so glad I finally read this book! I'm not normally much for superhero comics, but this book was a Cybils finalist several years back, and it continued beckoning from my bookshelves to where I finally gave it a try. And after reading it, I'm really glad it exists.

There is a really frightening idea that is fairly explicitly at the core of Nubia: Real One. Nubia is a superhero, with super-strength and super-speed, and implicit in the word "superhero" is that she's a hero—it helps that she's a good person, period. And yet, because she's Black, people see her as a villain. Nubia herself puts it best on page 89: "Wonder Woman saves the day, and it's a celebration. I save the day, and I end up in handcuffs." Something about the sheer absurdity of assuming the worst about a literal superhero, combined with the all-too-apparent truth that this could totally happen in real life, gets the impact of racial profiling and implicit bias across in a way I've never seen before. It's so fucked up, and I'm glad this book is talking about it.

I also really appreciate this book's theme that we don't have to wait around for a superhero to make a difference, both because superheroes are people too (we can't put the whole world on Nubia's shoulders!), and because even regular folks like us can push past the bystander effect and take action ourselves.

Also, Nubia: Real One has a great sense of fun. I adore the illustrations by Robyn Smith, replete with delightful facial expressions, energetic layouts, and shifting yet limited color palettes that particularly remind me of A Map to the Sun. The dynamic between Nubia and her closest friends, Quisha and Jason, is hilarious yet full of love—and watching Nubia's crush on Oscar, who is ACTUALLY A WORTHY LOVE INTEREST, is so much fun too.

So we've got observations about the world. We've got fun. And we've also got deep characters. The journey Nubia's moms, Amera and Danielle, have endured to keep their daughter safe seems all too reminiscent of the journey parents of any child of color endure in this world. And it's hard to watch the two of them wrestle with how they can protect Nubia without suffocating her. Nubia herself has struggled plenty with the secrecy of having superpowers. But thankfully, all three of these wonderful characters get to change and grow throughout the story, and find their way to a balance that is healthier for their well-being, and their relationship as a family.

Also, did I mention there are superpowers in this book?! As I said, I don't typically read superhero comics, but gosh, the idea that someone like me, a regular kid doing regular things, could find out she has the power to save the world is so freaking fun. I really hope we get a sequel to this book, because I want to watch Nubia grow further into her identity as someone with superpowers—although watching her approach adulthood doing regular teenage things is really satisfying too.

A lot of tragedies take place in this book—we've got police brutality, incels being incels, and more. This kind of structure seems reminiscent of a lot of superhero stories—at the risk of totally saying something stupid because I know nothing about superheroes, I'm thinking of Gotham in Batman and how it seems like the most miserable place ever devised. (Like, the pods in The Matrix have more color than that city.) What is really interesting, having read this book, is how these fictional horrible worlds that are pretty much all our fears come to life are kind of perfect for anxious readers like me. Because in Nubia: Real One, horrible things happen, but someone can stop them. There is hope.

This book is a journey worth embarking on, so please, give yourself that gift.

That's all, y'all—take care, and happy reading! ✨✨


  1. I got to read this graphic novel as a CYBILS round 2 judge and really enjoyed it.

    Congratulations on the driver's license; you are now free to roam!

  2. Love this, Max: "even regular folks like us can push past the bystander effect and take action ourselves". I don't know this title at all but suspect lots of older kids will take strength from it! Glad all is better for you this day! Have a good week ahead, too!

  3. I remember seeing Nubia awhile back. Sounds intriguing. Thanks for sharing and good luck with car shopping.

  4. I loved this book when it was a Cybil finalist. I only wished that the Wayland character had more complexity. I don't read Superhero books either, so maybe all the villains are one dimensional?

  5. I don't usually read superhero stories, either, but this sounds great! What a fabulous idea - to get across the horrifying nature of racial profiling and prejudice through a superhero story. That's so clever, and it sounds really well done.

    I hope your family is done with COVID now!! And congrats on getting your license :)

    Book By Book

  6. This is such a fantastic graphic novel! I am glad you shared it :)

    Happy reading this week, and thank you for linking up :)

  7. Nubia sounds like a great book. Thanks for putting it on my radar. Congrats on getting your license. Very exciting. :) ~Jess


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