Author note: PLEASE read “Books For A Black Girl’s Soul”, the essay by Kaitlyn Greenidge. Give it to your daughters. And nieces. Cousins. and granddaughters. You’re welcome. -JBHarris
“Reading allows us to discover ourselves…” -Glory Edim
The biggest misconception in being Black in the country is, “Black folk don’t read.” It is this lie that empowers me to write, and to make space for the folk that looked like me–and write as if I had no time. And the same time, this is the same lie, that stopped me–the Mother Firestarter herself–from writing.
There is a power in representation: owning a story as well as writing it. What I have found in Well-Read Black Girl is an incredible love letter to the little girl I was that loved reading. That read to the point she needed glasses at 11. The book is a reminder that representation in art, in literature and theater is important! And also I know what it means, to not want to read as a Black child.
When you don’t see yourself, do you even exist?
If you do not exist, how can you see anything else around you?
If you cannot see what it around you, how can you change it?
Reading, to see yourself in a written world, is revolutionary. Never forget that! It is important to understand how rare and needed this superhero knows as the Black writer is! I cannot tell you how many times this books referenced the solace and hope we as Black folk–especially Black women–find in BOOKS! In seeing ourselves, in seeing our own stories in print and knowing what that means to a Black girl, Black woman whom rarely sees herself in the world!
In the articles of known writers and playwrights like NK Jemisin, Zinzi Clemmons, Morgan Jerkins and Mahogany L. Brown it is a reminder the reaching of the words of Black women (Side Note: read This Bridge Called My Back.). They sometimes detail the finding of themselves in books read growing up and into Black womanhood, or the effect of seeing ourselves in a book. I could not help but clap and cry whenever Glory Edim mentioned a book I had read. And made notes of a book I wanted to read…and even a book I wanted my daughter to read.
“You are not well-read if all you read are white authors.”
This book was the literary equivalent to the purse beating of the flash fiction written by Langston Hughes (Luella Bates Washington Jones). It is a reminder that Black folk, Black people reading and writing is not (neither was it!) a new thing.
It is part of a tradition!
So, excuse me while I rejoice in this tradition!
Writing prevents erasure. Reading preserves history–it preserves us.
Note: If you get Well-Read on Audible, Glory Edim has a PDF of all books mentioned, along with her recommendations. My TBR is about to be LIT!