I took a bit of a break last week and realized that I missed announcing our August book club pick! Now that we're halfway through the month, I realize that I've shortened your reading window a little bit, but I'll share our August pick with you anyway! This month we're reading The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett. I'm so excited to dig into this best seller by an award-winning young writer. I hope you'll read along with us!
Over the past few weeks I haven't been in a big reading mood. The ups and downs of quarantine living have put me in a bit of a rut where I can't decide what to read or listen to. I'll begin a book, find myself unable to pay attention, get bored and move on, unsure of what to pick up next.
One book that did seem to fit the bill of my current mindset was Well-Read Black Girl by Glory Edim. A truly lovely collection of thoughtful essays by Black woman leaders in writing, education and activism, Well-Read Black Girl was an absolute delight to read.
As a white cisgender female, it has been easy to recognize myself in the pages of books. To be able to relate my experience, even just a little, to the protagonists in books like Madeline, Jane Eyre, Little Women and so many of the contemporary books I've read over the years has been such a constant in my life that I never gave it much thought. Many of the contributing writers to Well-Read Black Girl have not been able to take such advantage of the books they're reading, as they were unable to recognize themselves in so many of the books they read as children and young adults. Their skin color, hair texture, their family structure and their life experiences didn't match up with what the Brontë sisters were writing about, with The Boxcar Children or The Babysitters Club.
The essays in Well-Read Black Girl are about each writer's experience in recognizing herself in a book that felt like it was written just for her, in discovering her love of reading and writing through Black characters, Black writers and the written Black experience. Some of the writers in the book are familiar names: Jesmyn Ward who wrote Sing, Unburied Sing, Tayari Jones who wrote An American Marriage, and Gabourey Sidibe, star of Precious and Empire. Each contributor writes about her experience in finding themselves in books - whether it be Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston or James Baldwin.
I discovered a treasure trove of Black authors, books, poets and playwrights from the past and present in Well-Read Black Girl, so many talented artists I have not had the pleasure of reading or supporting, just because I haven't been looking outside my own experience. This collection of essays is a joy to read and widened my perspective when it comes to the power of recognizing our experiences on a piece of paper.
I hope you'll read The Vanishing Half with us, and that you're staying safe and healthy!
P.S. Cover image from Well-Read Black Girl (the book club!)