For all of my bibliophiles–and soon to be bibliophiles–out there, Well-Read Black Girl is a Brooklyn based book club celebrating the uniqueness of Black literature and sisterhood. We had the pleasure to speak with Glory Edim, Creator of WRBG about emerging writers, afrofuturism, her upcoming projects, and her passion for Black literature. She’s making great strides as a catalyst for promoting Black voices, so check her out!
Blavity: Explain how you developed the concept of WRBG?
Glory Edim: WRBG is an online community and in-real life book club that celebrates diversity in literature. I’ve always been drawn to books written about and by Black women. For my birthday last year, my partner made me a shirt that read “Well-Read Black Girl” — a playful nod to my book obsession. Well, the name stuck! Since the launch of the Instagram, the hashtag #WellReadBlackGirl is growing steadily online. I love to see readers tag book photos and talk about their favorite authors. I also write a TinyLetter newsletter – I highlight upcoming literary news/events and my personal roundup of #BlackGirlMagic. My primary goal is to amplify the voices of Black women in literature.
B: What advice do you have for Black female authors about increasing their platform/getting their stories out there?
GE: Social media is the key to building community. Use Twitter, Facebook and/or Instagram — decide what platform works best for you and begin posting regularly. Your goal should be engaging followers in conversation and building your online presence. You can share original work or curate content; links to articles, pictures, and videos that are relevant to your genre in order to establish your expertise.
B: Do you have a particular genre that you gravitate towards? Why?
GE: I read everything – historical fiction, speculative fiction, memoirs, short stories and realistic fiction. I read because I’m innately curious. I think the act of reading should exercise your credulity and expand your imagination.
B: What are your thoughts on the status of the publishing industry in terms of producing more diverse books by diverse authors?
GE: I believe that readers should have access to stories that reflect their diverse backgrounds. Literature should celebrate our differences, not dilute them. I urge publishers to produce books that strive for cultural competency and reflect the current racial realities of today. The young adult book All American Boys published by Simon & Schuster is a great example.
I would also say there is a great need for more editors of color. A new survey revealed that the publishing industry is overall 79% white, 78% women, and 88% straight. (You can view the survey results here.) White editors should be keenly aware of personal biases that might hinder their ability to assist authors from diverse cultural populations.
B: How do you feel people of color are challenging stereotypes in science fiction and fantasy?
GE: Afrofuturism isn’t a new concept. I can recall my first encounter with W.E.B. Du Bois’s 1920 story The Comet and reading Sun Ra’s poem, Cosmic Equation. We have a rich history of black speculative fiction. Today’s black creative community is expanding on this legacy; challenging stereotypes within the genre. Artists across all disciplines are bringing the black experience to life in new ways. Filmmakers Terrance Nance and Chelsea Odufu. The musical duo Oshun. Authors Walidah Imarisha and Adrienne Maree Brown. It’s about reclaiming the history of the past and ultimately, creating the visions of tomorrow. I highly recommend reading Ytasha Womack, author of Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture. Her work is necessary primer into the theory and history of Afrofuturism.
B: In what ways has Afrofuturism expanded the way people of color view the genre?
GE: Afrofuturism inspires innovation and future forward thinking. I’m thankful for authors like Octavia Butler, Nalo Hopkinson, Tananarive Due, and Nnedi Okorafor. Their literary work channels the black imagination and bridges facets of our culture – from African mythology to the technological effects on black art. These narratives provide clear examples of how black people may participate in the creation of a utopian future and combat the erase of black people from Western history. Without question, Afrofuturism strengthens black ideals and creativity.
B: What three books would you recommend to someone new to literature by Black women?
GE: Only three!? I could write a whole syllabus dedicated to black women writers! Here are a few of my works of fiction that display the author’s creative intellect, and distinct talent:
Jazz by Toni Morrison
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
Kindred by Octavia Butler
Getting Mother’s Body by Suzan-Lori Parks
Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson
B: What are your upcoming projects with WRBG?
GE: WRBG is working on expanding our community online and hosting live events for readers to connect. This month we’re hosting our first reading at Housing Works Bookstore, featuring a stellar lineup of extraordinary women: Ashley Ford, Jenna Wortham, Morgan Parker, Camille Rankine, Nicole Sealey, Bsrat Mezghebe, Nicole Dennis-Benn, Kyla Marshell and Diamond Sharp.
B: If there are any emerging writers that you would like to highlight, please share!
GE: I’m looking forward to the following debuts this spring:
Summer of the Cicadas by Cole Lavalais
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn
We Love You, Charlie Freeman by Kaitlyn Greenidge
Grace by Natashia Deon
Keep up with Well-Read Black Girl on Instagram/Twitter/YouTube/Facebook and by using #WellReadBlackGirl!
For those of you in New York City, please be sure and check out WRBG’s free event, Reimagining the Literary Canon at Housing Works Bookstore Cafe, Thursday, February 25th from 7-8:30pm. More info here.