The essays that Glory Edim compiled in Well Read Black Girl illustrates the need for diverse stories to speak to the multiplicity of readers. In Edim’s introduction, she describes hollowing out a place of her own in the world that she filled with books. In the first essay entitled Magic Mirrors, Jesmyn Ward describes seeking and almost finding a mirror in literature that would reflect her childhood experiences and yet not finding a perfect one until she wrote her own stories; and Veronica Chambers recalls being inspired by an author who she felt had entered her private space and written down her thoughts, so concrete was the connection she made with Jamaica Kincaid’s short story, Girl.
Well Read Black Girl is Black women acknowledging the writers and writings that have helped make them.
So in this compendium of brilliant writing by the authors who tell the stories of our generation, we get the spectrum of meaning that is literature – the expression of soul, the medium of connection, the bridge between producer and consumer that offers, accepts and transforms.
Included here is a statement from the daughter of Alice Walker, who describes what literature meant to someone who witnessed her mother making history with words; a gay writer who describes being impacted by the freedom and sophistication that James Baldwin channeled through his writing into her life at a time when she didn’t feel that freedom anywhere else in her life; Gabourey Side’s story of feeling unwanted in her family and reading the memoir of someone who was valued even lower in her childhood and yet found enough power in forgiveness to inspire the actress as well.
Well Read Black Girl is a tear jerking collection because it’s impossible to read about the moments when the world seemed to stand still or spun faster or just made sense for someone else, and not be affected by their telling of it, especially if you can relate to where they were before that experience. This is a book about literature as a mirror for life and any reader, but likely any black girl reader, can find herself in these pages as well.
At just over 270 pages, this volume will make a great addition to a reference library as these essays are such that one can return to them for inspiration or affirmation. Having contributors with such a range of experiences and ages will almost guarantee that one of your favorite black women author’s words are included. And in addition to the content, the book itself is also a treasure for a bookworm as Edim includes lists curated to delight the black book lover who yearns for a canon that reflects her interests. With captions such as “Well-Read Black Girl Selections 2015-2018”, one can find popular as well as lesser-known but just as important titles of books that deserve more attention, all books by black women authors.
Note: I received a free electronic download of Well Read Black Girl from the publishers Penguin Random House, as part of their influencer program. I was not otherwise compensated for this review and the above reflects my honest opinion about the book.