Well-Read Black Girl: Finding Our Stories, Discovering Ourselves, ed. by Glory Edim

This is a lovely collection of a wide range of voices and experiences, refreshing and bracing and joyful and gloriously various. Glory Edim is the founder of the Well-Read Black Girl book club (and later, the same-titled online community and conference), and here she has solicited and collected essays by Black women about their reading lives and the literary voices where they found identity and inspiration. This means lots of different things, and that’s the beauty of this book, I think. I loved that the authors of these essays ranged so wildly, as do their lived and literary experiences and the books and writers that they highlight – I confess, Roald Dahl wasn’t one I’d expected, but aren’t surprises fun? Between essays appear reading lists, naturally: the book club’s selections; classic novels by Black women; books on Black feminism; sci-fi, fantasy, plays, and poetry by Black women; books about Black girlhood and friendship. An appendix also lists all the books in this book. If there’s one thing about readers, we do tend to like a list of books.

The contributors’ list is star-studded: N. K. Jemisin, Rebecca Walker, Jesmyn Ward (), Jacqueline Woodson, Tayari Jones, Lynn Nottage, and many more. Veronica Chambers’ essay “Why I Keep Coming Back to Jamaica” I will definitely be using in my Short Fiction class this spring to discuss representation, what it means and why it matters. Woodson writes, “It’s difficult to be a reader and not be a writer,” and I like that as an encapsulation of the intersection of the two pursuits that I feel helps to define this book. There are no readers without writers and no writers without readers. Jesmyn Ward writes, “I never found the book that allowed me entry, granted me succor in story, and a home after the last page until I wrote my own.” That’s about empowerment, also a key point of this collection. Jemisin writes,

In the future, as in the present, as in the past, black people will build many new worlds.

This is true. I will make it so. And you will help me.

And why haven’t I read any more Jemisin since The City We Became impressed me so much?? (I just checked – there still isn’t a second book in that trilogy. But I now have The Fifth Season coming to me from my local bookstore.)

Much to love here in celebrating Black women as readers and as writers, and recognition of how far we’ve come, never ignoring how far we have yet to go in terms of representation and opportunities. And plenty of fodder for our to-be-read lists. I’m thrilled I found Well-Read Black Girl.


Rating: 8 library books.

3 Responses

  1. This book sounds gorgeous. I can’t believe i haven’t come across it before!

  2. […] got this title from Well-Read Black Girl, although the cover was familiar enough that I wonder if I had it as a child at some point. (I […]

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