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.