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September 18, 2020 - 

I listened to Well-Read Black Girl: Finding Our Stories, Discovering Ourselves while on a nine-hour road trip to Nashville, Tenn. Okay, truth moment, I listened to it twice—on my way to Nashville AND on my way back home to West Michigan. Audible books are perfect for long car rides. I’m glad I was the only one in my car because I found myself yelling in response to the narration: “You betta say that!” “Yess!” “What?!” and “But God!” I found myself re-playing sections often. This meant that this five-hour listen was closer to a seven-hour listen. It was a good listen. Good for my soul.

Well-Read Black Girl is an anthology of 21 essays by 21 African-American female authors curated and read by Glory Edmin, founder of the Well-Read Black Girl book club and festival. Published in 2018, the anthology was a nominee for the NAACP Image Award for the outstanding literary work category in 2019. I believe the nomination was well-deserved.

Listening to these essays, I saw myself. I heard the voices of my dark-skinned sisters. I witnessed the struggles of my female neighbors, and I was connected to women who look like me but that I have never met. This is the power and purpose of the anthology—illuminating the lives, loves, and works of Black women. Each essay is a collection of word pictures penned by Black female authors as they recount their realization of the absence of Black women in various literary genres, the exuberance they felt when they first saw themselves in literature, and their journeys to becoming authors in their own right. With wonder, curiosity, longing, and revelation, each woman testifies to the complexities of Black life in America. The essays address Black feminism, Black girlhood and friendship, Black love, and the various intersections of Black and female identities past and present.

In the words of Glory Edim as she introduces the anthology, “Our work is making sure that our stories are told and told true. Our work is making sure our artistry is cultivated and expressed, shared, and appreciated. Our work is honoring our genius when no one else does. Our work is refusing to surrender, refusing to be silenced, refusing to be rendered simplistically. Our work seems endless, and probably is. But our stories are at the core of our identity, and if they don’t exist, in some critical way we won’t exist, either. We won’t have the glue that holds us together, and gives us perspective on our lives through the lens of history.”

I highly recommend this book. It is a book that I have since recommended to the women in my life. Though written by Black women about the lives of Black women, it is not for Black women only. I think most women will find reflections of themselves in one or more of the essays. Men will gain insight to the complexities of female thought—women are not a monolith. But for Black women, this book is a luxury we don’t often get to experience. In this book, Black women are the focus—we are not villains, not invisible, nor footnotes to someone’s life. This book is about Black women as told by Black women. It’s a good listen. 5 hours, 7 minutes. (Random House Audio, Audible)

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