Jesse J. Holland, an award-winning journalist and author, spoke to The Los Angeles Sentinel about his new novel entitled Black Panther: Who Is Black Panther? Holland was commissioned by Marvel Comics and Marvel Films to share the origins of the original Black Panther superhero.
Los Angeles Sentinel: Why is the Black Panther film important for Black youth?
Jesse J. Holland: I’ve always been a comic book adventure fan. I’ve been reading comic books since I was small, but growing up there were few heroes that looked like me. There was Spiderman, Superman and Batman but you could never be them. The great thing about the success of the Black Panther film is Black youth won’t have to search for a hero that looks like them.
The Mississippi native’s passion as a journalist propelled him to write historical nonfiction. The Smithsonian named his book, The Invisibles: The Untold Story of African American Slavery in The White House, one of the top history books of 2016. He is also the author of Star Wars: The Force Awakens-Finn’s Story, which shines light on the Black Star Wars hero Finn.
LAS: How do you determine which projects to pursue?
Holland: For me to take on a project it has to be something that seriously moves me. It has to be projects where I’m willing to take the time it takes to get it right. That’s why I’ve been very careful into what I do. When they offered me Black Panther, I was excited about it. Black Panther is one of the first mainstream Black superheroes to have a novel written about them. To take on those challenges was surreal.
LAS: How does the success of the Black Panther film relate to America’s acceptance of Black creativity?
Holland: The success of Black Panther shows that there are millions of stories that can be told. Hollywood was afraid to tell these stories because they wouldn’t appeal to the rest of America. The success shows that these stories are universal and can appeal to everyone. We are ready to hear stories that are being told by people of color. Not only are we prepared to listen but also prepared to support these stories.
Holland’s career expands beyond the horizon of an author. He is also a Race & Ethnicity writer for The Associated Press and former Supreme Court reporter. The author credits his openness for different projects as a key to his success.
LAS: What advice would you give to aspiring Black authors?
Holland: The main piece of advice is to be ready. You never know when an opportunity will knock. I never intended to write a Star Wars novel or a Black Panther novel but when the opportunity came to me, I was willing to say yes. I started off writing nonfiction books but I took the chance. That’s the key. You have to be willing to take chances.
The Black Panther film shattered records by grossing $242 million as of Monday February 19. To purchase Black Panther: Who Is the Black Panther? or any of Holland’s novels, please visit Amazon.com for more information.