This article is part of series celebrating Women’s History Month by exploring trailblazing Scholastic characters who have made a lasting impact on readers.

Wakanda’s Princess is the Smartest Person in the Room

michelle pastor  //  Mar 29, 2022

Wakanda’s Princess is the Smartest Person in the Room

The most brilliant mind in the world’s most technologically advanced country is … thirteen. Shuri is a princess who achieves greatness beyond her rank, totally redefining the role as she goes. She’s stylish and quick-witted, creative and clever. She’s also a classic little sister, mischievous and cheeky, with a habit of saying out loud what everyone else is thinking - often at just the wrong time. She’s multifaceted, and her world is better for it.

As readers accompany Shuri on her adventures to protect her family, her people, and her nation, we’re increasingly in awe of her inventions, her ability to quickly troubleshoot and redirect her course of action, and her presence of mind and quick thinking in the face of danger. It’s almost easy to forget that she’s barely a teen in her first Scholastic novel, but author Nic Stone makes sure to balance her talent with moments that are relatable for kids (see: her spats with her mom and their entire first Council meeting together).

“Shuri is small but fierce. She is a trailblazer, a role model, and inspiration not just to kids but to adults,” said Michael Petranek, Executive Editor & Manager, AFK and Graphix Media. “She is the epitome of Black Girl Magic and has that intangible other that is so hard to put your finger on. She is strong and inspiring and everything you could want in a hero.”

A prominent figure in a utopian and ultramodern African nation, Shuri’s setting makes her journey especially interesting. She exists in a world where women hold power and are respected by default. Her mother is an awe-inspiring queen, her country protected by the formidable Dora Milaje, and her mentor leads a neighboring country (and can control the weather). Despite her membership in this network, Shuri struggles to be taken seriously as she pursues her own path. “There are powerful women but she can’t get away from the fact that they see her as a kid. She is powerful, but stuck in an antiquated princess role. She wants to be herself and every kid can relate to that,” Michael reflected.

Shuri is often underestimated by her elders, but she doesn’t let it stop her. It’s fascinating to watch someone so young wield so much control, confidence, and pure talent. She’s widely regarded as the world’s top scientist, trusted to modernize the Black Panther suit that will protect T’Challa in dangerous combat. Even in the movie-verse, when the Avengers struggle to thwart one of the MCU’s most notorious villains, Shuri is the only person anyone trusts to execute a critical and (spoiler alert) mind-blowing feat of engineering.

Despite her age, she is always in control, and she jumps at the chance to solve all of these problems, even if they take her to another continent or put her squarely in danger’s way. Shuri’s confidence is as inspiring as her brilliance. When she knows she’s right, she goes for it. And while she may not speak the language of politics, or even adulthood in the traditional sense, she’s the smartest person in the room reminding us that things can always be better. Her commitment to following her instincts, even when the adults in the room try to quiet her, helps young readers understand the importance of trusting themselves and their ability to make a difference.

Shuri is an important role model on so many levels. She’s a natural leader, she is fiercely proud of her country and protective of its people and resources, personally taking up arms to protect its future - but also willing to question its policies when she learns that neighboring countries are suffering. She’s an example for women in STEM, making science accessible, aspirational, and cool. Perhaps most importantly, she’s a role model for Black girls who, until now, may not have seen themselves reflected in a superhero.

“Young girls of color need to see themselves represented,” Michael said. “It’s our point to make sure all kids see themselves in the books we publish.”

Shuri’s impact is important and far-reaching, with fans of all ages continuing to share what she means to them and tech educators embracing the celebration of a strong Black woman in STEM. Serena Williams worked with Black Girls Code to bring a group of students to a private screening of the Black Panther movie. The organization then developed a workshop for 10-17 year-old girls where they explored Wakandan technology and created their own prototypes. There are countless examples of our fictional hero’s influence in the real world.

With three of her own Scholastic novels and a Graphix novel with T’Challa, plus a Marvel comic series, and a prominent role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with another movie in production, Shuri has a lot more to show us, and we’re more than ready. “She can inspire everyone from a young kid to a 120-year-old,” said Michael.