THE PLOT: Well-Read Black Girl is a collection of essays by prominent black women writers. As they each discuss their favourite books and what inspires them to write, you get a sense of what made these women who they are. It’s a collection about race, identity, belonging and an unquenchable love of literature. From Jesmyn Ward to Tayari Jones and Zinzi Clemmons, these essays perfectly encapsulate what it means to create art because you, and the world, has an overwhelming need for your narrative.
RATING: Five stars. Wait, I’ll say that louder for the people at the back. FIVE STARS. This uplifting collection makes me proud to be a black woman. There is so much wisdom in these pages, all of these authors inspire me to write my own stories because it is so important that black women aren’t confined to a single narrative. There is so much love and power in these pages, I urge you to buy a copy. Now.
“It’s difficult to be a reader, and not be a writer. And I knew as soon as I started that writing was the thing that brought me the greatest joy…..
“It kept coming back to joy – how could I live a life filled with it? And always, the answer that came back to me was ‘Write’.”
– Jaqueline Woodson
GOOD BITS: I’ve asterix’d all of my favourite essays in the table of contents because there’s too many to list in this review. In particular, Jesmyn Ward, Gouboure Sidibe, Nicole Dennis-Benn, Zinzi Clemmons and Jacqueline Woodson stood out. I think I enjoyed all of these because they contained insights about the authors’ upbringings and what led them to write, as well as motivational aphorisms for aspiring writers. The best way I can describe these are in the words of the authors themselves.
“My biggest responsibility is to recognize that I am part of a continuum, that I didn’t just appear and start writing stuff down. I’m writing stuff down because Audre Lorde wrote stuff down, because James Baldwin wrote stuff down. Because Toni Morrison and Langston Hughes and Countee Cullen and Virginia Hamilton – and all of the other people who came before me – set the stage for my work.” – Jacqueline Woodson
NOT SO GOOD BITS: There were a few essays I didn’t enjoy as much, but I think it would be a disservice to list them. I’m sure they will resonate with other people as this was just a personal taste thing. Also, to be honest with myself, I think there’s a little bit of jealousy. Authors who wrote about how they grew up surrounded by artists, with lots of encouragement for their own work, and who won prizes and scholarships at young age because of their innate talent felt alien to me.
OVERALL: WARNING – This book will destroy your TBR. Filled with brilliant authors (I haven’t read some of their work yet), they also offer their recommendations and the back pages are a long list of every book mentioned within the collection. But, if you can handle being exposed to so much brilliant new literature (you’ll curl up in a ball wondering how you’ll have the time to read it all), I’d recommend you buy a copy of this book. Perfect for anyone looking to diversify their reading and also for aspiring authors, it’s a #blackgirlmagic must-buy.