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Well-Read Black Girl
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Well-Read Black Girl
Finding Our Stories, Discovering Ourselves
NOMINATED FOR AN NAACP IMAGE AWARD • An inspiring collection of essays by black women writers, curated by the founder of the popular book club Well-Read Black Girl, on the importance of...
NOMINATED FOR AN NAACP IMAGE AWARD • An inspiring collection of essays by black women writers, curated by the founder of the popular book club Well-Read Black Girl, on the importance of...
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  • NOMINATED FOR AN NAACP IMAGE AWARD • An inspiring collection of essays by black women writers, curated by the founder of the popular book club Well-Read Black Girl, on the importance of recognizing ourselves in literature.

    "Yes, Well-Read Black Girl is as good as it sounds. . . . [Glory Edim] gathers an all-star cast of contributors—among them Lynn Nottage, Jesmyn Ward, and Gabourey Sidibe."—O: The Oprah Magazine

    Remember that moment when you first encountered a character who seemed to be written just for you? That feeling of belonging remains with readers the rest of their lives—but not everyone regularly sees themselves in the pages of a book. In this timely anthology, Glory Edim brings together original essays by some of our best black women writers to shine a light on how important it is that we all—regardless of gender, race, religion, or ability—have the opportunity to find ourselves in literature.
    Contributors include Jesmyn Ward (Sing, Unburied, Sing), Lynn Nottage (Sweat), Jacqueline Woodson (Another Brooklyn), Gabourey Sidibe (This Is Just My Face), Morgan Jerkins (This Will Be My Undoing), Tayari Jones (An American Marriage), Rebecca Walker (Black, White and Jewish), and Barbara Smith (Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology)
    Whether it's learning about the complexities of femalehood from Zora Neale Hurston and Toni Morrison, finding a new type of love in The Color Purple, or using mythology to craft an alternative black future, the subjects of each essay remind us why we turn to books in times of both struggle and relaxation. As she has done with her book club–turned–online community Well-Read Black Girl, in this anthology Glory Edim has created a space in which black women's writing and knowledge and life experiences are lifted up, to be shared with all readers who value the power of a story to help us understand the world and ourselves.

    Praise for Well-Read Black Girl

    "Each essay can be read as a dispatch from the vast and wonderfully complex location that is black girlhood and womanhood. . . . They present literary encounters that may at times seem private and ordinary—hours spent in the children's section of a public library or in a college classroom—but are no less monumental in their impact."The Washington Post
    "A wonderful collection of essays."Essence

Excerpts-

  • From the book Jesmyn Ward

    Author

    Magic Mirrors

    I was a reader before I was a writer. I fell in love with books when I was seven years old. It was partly a conscious decision, partly not. Stories were doorways that opened to other worlds: It was easy for me to step through the sentences and forget myself, to walk or fly or run or crawl through the unfamiliar, to swim through the magical. I remember grabbing a reading comprehension packet in second grade as my classmates were grumbling about how they loathed doing the work, and I thought: "Everyone hates reading. But not me, I'm going to love it." And I did.

    Wandering my small, one-room elementary school library, I checked out book after book. I read everything: Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew mysteries, collections of fairy tales, and children's biographies of Mary Lou Retton and Prince. By the time I was eight, I had developed a certain taste. I loved books with girl protagonists. It didn't matter when or where the story was set; if it featured a girl on an adventure, I'd read it, savoring the experience as the heroine lived the kind of life I didn't. Had the agency I didn't. I read The Secret Garden, Charlotte's Web, The Chronicles of Narnia, Harriet the Spy, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, Anne of Green Gables, The Hero and the Crown, and Pippi Longstocking. These girls I encountered, whose skin I inhabited, felt like friends.

    I believe there are two gifts that writers give young readers. First, they build vividly rendered worlds for readers to fall in love with and fall into. Second, they create characters that are so real, distinct, and familiar to the young reader that the reader has space to imagine him- or herself in that world during the reading and after they are done. When I read my childhood books, I felt a part of those worlds intensely while I was reading. I felt an invisible sister in the narrative. But coming out of the books was hard for me.

    Although I could lose myself in the story while I was reading, once I was done with each of those borrowed books, their worlds were closed to me. I wanted to think back on the worlds and the characters and imagine myself in that place, with my sister character again, eating bacon sandwiches with Mary, or hiding in the dumbwaiter with Harriet, but I was never privy to the parting gift of immersion that some books afford readers after turning the final page. I could not exist in their worlds because no one who even looked like me spoke or walked or sang in those worlds—not even peripherally. It was another year of reading before I found the first book that allowed me to imagine I could have a place in it after it ended. But it was a place I did not want to occupy.

    In Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, Cassie, the heroine, is black and from Mississippi. Her family owns a large, hundred-acre farm during the Great Depression. Her family isn't rich, but it isn't poor like mine was, either. One of the chief struggles of the book is Cassie's family's effort to keep their land, to keep the material wealth they have as the white people around them attempt to pressure them into selling it. Cassie's story was just unfamiliar enough to entice me to spend more time with her, to sink into the sisterhood. But as I read on, she became too familiar.

    Cassie was as powerless as I was, living in a world of adults and bewildering circumstances, a world rotten with Jim Crow and sharecropping and "night men" and racism. I knew what it was like to be an outsider, to be ostracized for aspects of my identity beyond my control. To listen to white children in my classes tell racist jokes, or to hear stories about kids who said the n-word when...

About the Author-

  • Glory Edim is the founder of Well-Read Black Girl, a Brooklyn-based book club and digital platform that celebrates the uniqueness of Black literature and sisterhood. In fall 2017 she organized the first-ever Well-Read Black Girl Festival. She has worked as a creative strategist for over ten years at startups and cultural institutions. Most recently, she was the Publishing Outreach Specialist at Kickstarter. She serves on the board of New York City's Housing Works Bookstore.

Reviews-

  • Kirkus

    August 15, 2018
    A book club founder and creative strategist gathers pieces from distinguished black females to celebrate "the legacy of Black women in literature," which is "extensive, diverse, and beautifully complicated."Well-Read Black Girl founder Edim writes that "[s]torytelling is an extension of [African-American] sisterhood." In this book, she highlights black literary achievement by offering first-person narratives from noted writers, activists, and intellectuals along with recommendations for further reading. In each essay, the contributor discusses her relationships to reading, books, and the world, yet each bears the unique experiential imprint of the woman who wrote it. In "Magic Mirrors," two-time National Book Award-winning novelist Jesmyn Ward explores storytelling and representation. A favorite childhood book--Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley and Me, Elizabeth--depicted a rarity for that time: a black girl who "harbor[ed] the power of magic." But because the girl did not narrate her own story, Ward felt cheated. Only after she began writing her own stories was she able to find the "mirror" literature had been unable to offer her. Edim's interview with Rebecca Walker deals less with literary reflections and more with the truth-telling power of words. Walker discusses how witnessing a man beating a woman in the street and then writing about the incident for her high school newspaper made her aware of just how important storytelling could be. It could give voice to the voiceless and socially marginalized and spotlight those "challenging the status quo." Barbara Smith, lesbian activist and co-founder of Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, discusses how reading saved her during the culturally repressive 1950s and how her own awakening came after reading the works and "miraculous language" of James Baldwin--in particular, his hetero- and homosexually explicit novel Another Country. Candid and thoughtful from start to finish, Edim's collection amply celebrates the many paths black women have traveled on the road to self-definition. Other contributors include Tayari Jones, Jacqueline Woodson, Nicole Dennis-Benn, and N.K. Jesimin.An eloquently provocative anthology.

    COPYRIGHT(2018) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    October 22, 2018
    Started in 2015 as an Instagram page, Well-Read Black Girl has grown into a nationwide book club and Brooklyn literary festival. WRBG founder Edim’s collection of brief, pithy, and original essays by 21 distinguished black women addresses the question, “When did you first see yourself in literature?” The answers include discovering “the right book at the right time,” reading a book first through one lens and later through another, and recognizing oneself in figures as seemingly far removed from one’s experience as Hans Christian Andersen’s little match girl. As expected, a pantheon of black women writers are acknowledged, with Veronica Chambers, Marita Golden, and Jamia Wilson paying tribute to, respectively, Jamaica Kincaid, Zora Neale Hurston, and Nikki Giovanni. There are thought-provoking surprises as well: Stephanie Powell Watts recalls finding inspiration in the Jehovah’s Witnesses magazine Watchtower, and N.K. Jemisin in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. The book’s thematic organization—sections include “Books on Black Feminism,” “Plays by Black Women,” and “Poetry by Black Women”—makes it easy for readers to dive in based on personal preferences, though they could just as contentedly read from cover to cover. Speaking directly to black women readers, this book contains a journey from which anyone can derive enjoyment and benefit.

  • School Library Journal

    November 1, 2018

    An invigorating anthology edited by the founder of book club and online group Well-Read Black Girl. Black women writers across genres and generations share moments of strength, joy, grief, and vulnerability in response to the question, "When did you first see yourself in literature?" Renée Watson's "Space to Move Around In" explores racism, fatphobia, and the author's unexpected discovery of Lucille Clifton from a disinterested white teacher, while Dhonielle Clayton muses on coming out, loss, and Black girlhood in "The Need for Kisses." Teens will gravitate to recurring themes of self-discovery, pursuing creative ambitions, and building rich inner worlds to escape hardship. Some sensitive topics are addressed that may benefit from further discussion, including abortion and abuse. The emotive entries from well-known and emerging creators read quickly but are worth savoring and visiting many times over. Interspersed are "Well-Read Black Girl Recommends" lists including the book club's 2015-2018 selections, sci-fi and fantasy books, poetry, and more by Black women. Closing out the collection is the eminently helpful "All the Books in this Book" list, which simultaneously compiles all titles referenced and shapes a contemporary Black women's literary canon for avid readers and the classroom curriculum. VERDICT A stellar example of an accessible text about writing as craft, and reading as transformative practice.-Ashleigh Williams, School Library Journal

    Copyright 2018 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    October 1, 2018
    By reading Eloise Greenfield's Honey, I Love and Other Love Poems (1978) to her daughter, Edim's mother seeded in her an abiding passion for reading and profound appreciation for the work of black women writers. So ardent a reader is Edim, her partner presented her with a T-shirt declaring her a Well-Read Black Girl. The responses this evoked in New York inspired Edim to create an online book community, a national book club, and a literary festival. The creative and affirming synergy these projects have generated is embodied in this vital anthology, zestfully introduced by Edim, of personal essays by 21 black women writers who share memories about their girlhoods and early reading experiences and reflect on why they write and which writer has influenced them most. Tayari Jones muses on Toni Morrison, Veronica Chambers on Jamaica Kincaid, Marita Golden on Zora Neale Hurston. Other contributors include Jesmyn Ward, Stephanie Powell Watts, and N. K. Jemisin. Well-Read Black Girl Recommends reading lists covering various themes and genres add to the reach and radiance of this empowering literary resource.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2018, American Library Association.)

  • Library Journal

    Starred review from October 15, 2018

    Edim, creator of the Brooklyn-based Well-Read Black Girl (WRBG) book club, invites readers to discover uplifting stories by black women writers in this thoughtfully edited anthology. Part essay, part interview, and part bibliography, this compilation gathers inspiring literacy narratives from major contemporary authors such as National Book Award winner Jesmyn Ward (Salvage the Bones), Veronica Chambers (Mama's Girl), and Jacqueline Woodson (Another Brooklyn) to reveal the influences that have shaped them as writers and also to give greater visibility to their literary contributions. VERDICT This work affirms the transformative power of reading. Bibliophiles will find it hard to put down, and their reading lists expanding. All English teachers should take note and consult. [See Prepub Alert, 4/9/18; Editors' Fall Picks, LJ 8/18, p. 27.]--Meagan Lacy, Guttman Community Coll., CUNY

    Copyright 2018 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Library Journal

    October 15, 2018

    Founder of Well-Read Black Girl (WRBG), a Brooklyn-based book club and digital platform that celebrates black literature and sisterhood, Edim curates original essays by black women writers on the joys and the importance of seeing themselves in books.

    Copyright 2018 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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