In Well-Read Black Girl, 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.
Whether it’s learning about the complexities of femalehood from Zora Neale Hurston and Toni Morrison, 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, Glory spotlights a range of contributors, from Jesmyn Ward and Lynn Nottage to Jacqueline Woodson, Gabourey Sidibe, and Tayari Jones, creating a space in which black women’s writing, 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.
Recently, Glory spoke with Read It Forward, championing ZZ Packer and Tommy Orange alike, giving a shout-out to LeVar, and reminding us all to return to Goodnight Moon now and then.
Featured illustration by Lorenzo Gritti
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What’s the book on your bedside table?
Right now, I’m reading No One Tells You This by Glynnis MacNicol. This book talks about when she turns 40, and all of the things she wants to do and feels like she might have missed out on. It’s a great book about who she is at this coming of age; she’s not married, doesn’t have kids, and what does that mean for her life? It shows her being messy and complicated and not adhering to any rules. I really admire her vulnerability in the story, too. I think it’s so incredible when people can be really raw about the things that they’re yearning for, or hurting about.
What’s the one book you tell everyone to read?
ZZ Packer’s Drinking Coffee Elsewhere. She’s so legendary and that’s the one book she’s written that everyone knows her for. It’s the book. Her writing, especially when it comes to dialogue, is sharp and witty and fun. If anyone wants a masterclass in how to write a perfect short story, ZZ Packer is it.
Name three characters from literature or authors (dead or alive) that you’d want in your ideal book club?
I would have Zora Neale Hurston, with her fantastic hat and her drum, I feel like she would come ready to perform and sit with us and break bread. Maya Angelou, I want to hear her laugh, I love the richness of her voice, just doing a poem and sitting with us in fellowship. I would also invite James Baldwin. I’m rereading If Beale Street Could Talk, and he’s a master of all things. I would love to hear the three of them talking about the state of blackness, and what they think about Twitter, about activism. I would love to hear their thoughts on the world.
Favorite independent bookstores from around the country?
I reside in Brooklyn, so I love Greenlight Bookstore. I’m a member of the First Editions Club, so every month I get a first edition signed by the author. The last copy I got was a signed copy of Tommy Orange’s There There, and I’m actually adding that to the list of birthday books I give people, his writing is phenomenal and there’s so much texture. I love Books Are Magic, their community is so innovative, and the energy when you walk into that bookstore is pink and fun. I’m originally from D.C., so I support MahoganyBooks and Politics and Prose, which are the hometown stores I always want to visit.
What’s the one book you love to give as a gift and to whom do you give it?
I have two, I really love to give students Toni Cade Bambara’s book, Salt Eaters. I also really love James Baldwin again, I give The Fire This Time a lot. Also, Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist. It just depends on who it is, if it’s a student or someone I’m mentoring.
What’s the one book you read as a kid that has stuck with you?
Honey I Love and Other Love Poems, the poetry collection, shoutout to LeVar Burton, that’s where I found it! Goodnight Moon, I remember being so taken by the illustrations in that.
What’s the one book that never fails to delight or inspire you?
I read Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde constantly. I’ve read it in different phases of my life when I was in high school, the year after I graduated college and I was in this weird space where I went to live with my dad in Nigeria for a little bit and I wasn’t sure what my next move would be. I remember being overseas, and going back and forth with that book, trying to figure out what I wanted to do in the world.
If you could only read one genre for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
I would say fiction, even though I do read a lot of memoirs, and I love memoirs. But because of my ADD, it would be a collection of short stories.