When Glory Edim founded the Well-Read Black Girl book club in 2015, she was moved to showcase the excellence of Black literature. Her platform, which has since grown to nearly half a million followers on Instagram alone, begins a new phase with the release of “On Girlhood,” the first in her Well-Read Black Girl Library Series, which was named one of the Best Books of 2021 by NPR.
In “On Girlhood,” Edim brings together 15 works by literary luminaries Toni Morrison, Gwendolyn Brooks, Alice Walker, Jamaica Kincaid, and more. Tracing nearly 100 years of writing by Black women, the anthology is divided into four parts: Innocence, Belonging, Love, and Self-Discovery.
Many of the authors, like Morrison, are household names, and in bringing them together in this collection, Edim has curated an essential text, whether it serves as an introduction to these foundational writers or a new way to consider beloved classics in conversation with each other.
Morrison’s only published short story, “Recitatif,” follows two friends of different races brought together at an institution for foster children. Yet by leaving the race of each girl unstated, the story challenges the preconceived notions of readers as we follow their stories to adulthood.
Kincaid’s “Girl,” originally published in 1978, is an exhaustive list of all the many considerations girls must take into consideration as they grow into women, and the many ways women try to protect and prepare their daughters for adulthood. Its themes are echoed in the later piece “Bad Behavior,” by Alexia Arthurs, published more recently in 2016, which explores the different ways daughters are raised across generations and cultures.
In her acknowledgments, Edim writes that the women in the anthology are “part of a storied legacy, each one crafting powerful images of Black girlhood that will forever inspire and affirm future generations.” The collection deeply explores the multi-faceted experience of Black girls as they grow into women, and is a phenomenally powerful start to Edim’s library series.
“On Girlhood” is available now.