Well-Read Black Girl: Finding Our Stories, Discovering Ourselves by Glory Edim

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Well-Read Black Girl is an anthology by Black female writers who discuss how they became writers, but while some stories strike a chord, others lack depth.

Between the stories, the anthology has lists of written works by Black women to check out. It’s a valuable resource for a to-be-read list. The writers themselves usually mention a work that changed their life and directed them to writing. Jesmyn Ward discusses the unexpected Black girl magic within Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth by E.L. Konigsburg. Dhonielle Clayton credits Coffee Will Make You Black by April Sinclair with making her realize her sexuality. Zinzi Clemmons discovers how close she grew up next to the Brooklyn brownstones highlighted in Paule Marshall’s Brown Girl, Brownstones. Mahogany L. Browne compares the girls in Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye to the ones she grew up with in Northern California and how they all felt invisible as Black girls.

While some essays mostly focus on one experience and one book, others broaden their journey. Rebecca Walker talks about being Alice Walker’s daughter and how hanging out with Black female writing dynamos informed her future career. Gabourey Sidibe writes about her mother’s disappointment in having a daughter and how that motivated her to live her best life. Renee Watson tells the story of how she became a Rose Festival Princess in Portland despite being a big Black girl expected to lose and how Lucille Clifton’s poetry later moved her to accept her body.

The anthology gives insight to what inspires some of the top Black female writers, but it comes off as a collection meant for a younger audience. The theme of how you became a writer or what it means to be a Black writer also simplifies the essays with several mentioning well-known books as inspiration with similar reasoning. Marita Golden writes about Zora Neale Hurston’s impact on her career, particularly with Their Eyes Were Watching God. Zora is an expected source of inspiration due to her popularity, and the essays that highlight other lesser-known Black writers resonate better and make you feel as the reader you’re learning about or being reminded of a writer’s legacy.

Overall, the anthology is entertaining, but some stories are better than others and what inspires authors can sometimes be interesting and sometimes not, depending on how they write their inspiration story.

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