Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Well-Read Black Girl edited by Glory Edim

I write a lot. I write for my job - endless lectures, syllabuses, assignments in which the directions have to be crystal clear, emails to students, co-workers, and administrators, I write in a daily journal every night, and I write in this blog space that makes it seem like it's 2007 all over again. I write primarily for communication at my job. I write primarily as a record of my own life in my journal. I write here mostly to keep track of the books I read and how proud I am of my dog. 

But I'm not a writer. I don't feel like part of me is missing when I accidentally forget to write in my journal at night. I don't go around thinking original thoughts that I just have to have written down.  Words don't eke out of my fingertips onto the page, as if a magical fairy has entered my body.

No, I'm a reader.  I read the way other people watch television. I don't just sit down on the couch and randomly flip on the television. I sit down on the couch and reach for my book (and, if I can, the cat - it's so much cozier to read when you have a cat on your legs, isn't it?).  I think about "my" books all the time. I talk about them all the time.

When I first looked at Well-Read Black Girl, I assumed that this would be like eating my vegetables. I'd read about how this collection of black female authors struggled as children and I'd get my dose of white guilt and that would be that. But I was so wrong. Because these aren't the stories of systematic oppression and racism, these are stories about readers.  Sure, some of these women suffered serious injustices and they write about those injustices, but they write about them in the service of telling you how they played a role in the development of their identities as readers.  So even though I was a white girl growing up in a rural area in the northern United States, I felt seen in this book. Their stories weren't my story, of course, but their stories were stories of characters who resonated (one of them cited Francie in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and I squealed so loudly my husband and the dog came to check on me), of places that spoke to them, and of being able to, if only for those hours while reading the pages, visit places more adventurous, safer, or more magical than the world in which you lived.

I read these books and learned so much about the importance of Toni Morrison and James Baldwin within black culture. I learned how much harder it is to be a black nerd than a white nerd (the scant list of sci-fi/fantasy books by black women authors was sad). I learned that we are all united in the hunt for that one book that leaves that lasting impression. 

The book also has a list of all the books mentioned in the book. I'm going to use that list as a rough sort of Introduction into Black Literature for myself over the coming books. So don't be surprised if all of a sudden I'm reading Octavia Butler and Toni Morrison and starting to spout off about how I just don't have time to read all these amazing books!

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