Renowned black women’s book club Well-Read Black Girl is coming to Los Angeles, with the New York-based founder welcoming the local affiliate last Sunday at the Reparations Club in the Mid-City neighborhood.
Book Soup, the West Hollywood indie bookstore, will house the LA book club as a part of the organization’s program with the American Booksellers Association to create local affiliates to support black women readers and writers. The first book is fantasy young adult novel Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi for July and the second book will be The Travelers by Regina Porter for August.
Glory Edim, the founder of Well-Read Black Girl, joined Tameka Blackshir of Book Soup and Jazzi McGilbert of the new black artisan boutique Reparations Club to discuss the book club’s partnership with indie booksellers across the country and how it was important for the group to maintain its safe space status for black women.
“I felt really particular about going to LA and not knowing the community. Since I don’t live there, does that mean it’s going to be less real, less authentic?” Glory said, adding she needed the local affiliates to be run by local supporters. “Does it mean I’m not investing in the way that I need to? … It just means we need conversations, and it needs to be done where it’s authentic and real and not me just popping in like, ‘Hey, guys! I’m here!’ So when the opportunity going about partnering with independent bookstores [came up], it was ‘OK, boom! You know your bookstore, you know what’s important.'”
With the base in Brooklyn, Glory said she started the book club with promoting a free space where all women from mothers to college students can afford and enjoy the book club. She also said she wants the organization’s annual festival in Brooklyn—which has featured award-winning authors Jacqueline Woodson and Tayari Jones in the past—to be a “family reunion,” uniting black women from other cities in one place. Besides LA, these cities so far include Washington, D.C.; Portland, Oregon; and Seattle.
“We’re not excluding people, but this is a space for black women. That question has been coming up a lot, especially in small cities that are not as diverse,” Glory said about expanding the group. “Another thing I’ve been working through is the idea of how we cultivate joy in these spaces.”
She said cultivating joy is a priority though most of the books selected for the meetings contain traumatic themes.
“When I was curating the anthology [Well-Read Black Girl: Finding Our Stories, Discovering Ourselves], I was very clear about I want to hear both sides of the story. I want to know the things that are troubling and have shaped an identity but also how you were able to overcome that because when you go through something that’s not the only thing that defines you,” she said. “It helps to uplift you out of that. It’s that experience and the challenge that pulls you into another space that allows you to be brighter and bolder for sharing your story without reservation.”
The first book club meeting in LA will be at Book Soup on Sunday, July 28 at 4 p.m.