On Girlhood: 15 Stories from the Well-Read Black Girl Library



On Girlhood: 15 Stories from the Well-Read Black Girl Library

This edition

"On Girlhood: 15 Stories from the Well-Read Black Girl Library". Ed. Glory Edim. New York: Liveright, 2021. xxiv+200 pp.

Table of contents

• Glory Edim / Introduction

• Jamaica Kincaid / Girl
• Toni Morrison / Recitatif
• Dorothy West / The Richer, the Poorer
• Rita Dove / Fifth Sunday

• Camille Acker / Who We Are
• Toni Cade Bambara / The Lesson
• Amina Gautier / Dance for Me
• Alexia Arthurs / Bad Behavior

• Dana Johnson / Melvin in the Sixth Grade
• Alice Walker / Everyday Use
• Gwendolyn Brooks / We're the Only Colored People Here

• Edwidge Danticat / Seeing Things Simply
• Shay Youngblood / In a House of Wooden Monkeys
• Paule Marshall / Reena

• Zora Neale Hurston / How It Feels to Be Colored Me [essay]

Further Reading
About the Authors

About the anthology

• Despite the subtitle, the anthology consists of 14 stories and, as an epilogue, a personal essay by Zora Neale Hurston.
• Given the anthology's focus on girlhood, families provide as important a context as the wider society. Consequently, the complex relations and tensions between mothers and daughters feature as a prominent theme.

Publisher's description

"Glory Edim launches her Well-Read Black Girl Library with this vital anthology celebrating stories from such luminaries as Toni Morrison and Alice Walker. Since founding the Well-Read Black Girl Book Club in 2015, Glory Edim's profile has skyrocketed. From her roots in a Brooklyn-based community to a massive online following, she has been heralded as the literary tastemaker for a new generation. With On Girlhood, Edim has beautifully curated a canonical work centering around the voices of young Black characters as they contend with innocence, belonging, love, and self-discovery. From the timeless lessons in Jamaica Kincaid's "Girl" ("this is how you smile to someone you like completely") to those in Dana Johnson's "Melvin in the Sixth Grade" ("this is how kids start fights"), these short stories illuminate the power and the precariousness of Black girlhood. Highlighting both iconic and lesser-known authors--Edwidge Danticat, Amina Gautier, Dorothy West, Paule Marshall, Shay Youngblood, and more--this is an indispensable compendium that will instill readers with "the nerve to walk [their] own way" (Zora Neale Hurston)"

Anthology editor(s)' discourse

• "I'm seeking to illuminate the narrow space between Black girlhood and Black womanhood, I want to attest to the worthiness of Black girls as they come of age--their need for protection, love, and freedom."

Reviews and notices of anthology

• Williams, Keishel. "The Exceptional Stories in 'On Girlhood' Explore the Realities of Growing Up Black and Female." "Washington Post" 23 Dec. 2021.
This "compelling anthology" includes short stories "originally published between 1953 and 2018." "The collection captures the wide spectrum of Black girlhood, reminding readers that Blackness is not monolith. These experiences may have similarities, but cultural differences play a role in how Black girls are raised and see the world, especially in the United States." [Several of the stories, for instance, have a Caribbean connection.] "Alexia Arthurs’s “Bad Behavior” follows Stacy, a first-generation American who is caught in a sexual act with a boy at school. As punishment, her parents take her to Jamaica, unceremoniously leaving her there with her grandmother. This is not an uncommon occurrence for immigrant parents unable to discipline their American children. . . . Stacy struggles to understand her abandonment. What her parents perceive as bad behavior, Stacy sees as actions taken to fit into the culture of her American peers. Arthurs forces us to look at how easily a breakdown in communication can harm a young girl. “Her parents had been furious, and they said all kinds of things, but they hadn’t asked her why,” Arthurs writes. “Why?” is such a simple, powerful question, one that can open dialogue between parents and Black girls." "“On Girlhood” is a strong collection that delves into the various ways that Black girls love, the way they hate, the way they respond to pressure, the way they respond to parents and, perhaps most important, the way they respond to society."
• Review of "On Girlhood." "Kirkus Reviews" 27 July 2021 (online) 15 Aug. 2021 (print).
"Organized around the themes of innocence, belonging, love, and self-discovery, the collection is genuinely riveting; the stories narrate the lives of indelible characters with humor, irony, and immense skill. And while each story differs greatly in setting and tone, throughlines arise. Grandmothers, mothers, and sisters loom large in these stories."
• Lewis, Kate. "Book Club Selection: 'On Girlhood' Shares Stories by Black Women Luminaries." "Military Families Magazine" 1 Feb. 2022. Web.
Edim's volume was named one of the Best Books of 2021 by NPR [i.e., NPR's "Books We Love" list for 2021]. "Tracing nearly 100 years of writing by Black women, the anthology is divided into four parts: Innocence, Belonging, Love, and Self-Discovery. . . . 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."

Commentary on anthology

• Christine Kendall, in conversation with Glory Edim. Hosted by the Free Library of Philadelphia. 3 Nov. 2021. YouTube. 46 min. 56 sec.
• Christine Platt, in conversation with Glory Edim. "P&P Live!" Hosted by Politics & Prose bookstore in Washington, DC. YouTube. 56 min. 48 sec.

See also

• Gabbara, Anissa. "Black Women Discover Our Power on the Page." "Sisters" (sponsored by AARP) 10 June 2022. Web.
"Your most recent book, On Girlhood, features short stories from some of the greatest writers of all time. What message do you want the book to send to those in the later stages of Black womanhood who may be revisiting these stories?" "I was about the anthology of the past and the present coming together in this beautiful emergent of classic and newly composed writing that we could experience together. It just reminds us that we’re part of this greater continuum, and we’re all always in conversation with one another. We’re talking to our younger selves. We’re talking to our daughters. Our mothers. Our sisters. Our aunties. There’s always something we can learn from one another, and I also feel like girlhood is ongoing. Even when you’re 50, you’re still a girl at heart. I think your audience will feel the connection and intergenerational conversation that’s happening in the book."
• Rankin, Seija. "Glory Edim on the magic of Octavia Butler and how 'Well-Read Black Girl' changed her life." "Entertainment Weekly" 28 Oct. 2021. Web.
• Vineyard, Jennifer. "Meet the Innovative Literary Leader Glory Edim of Well-Read Black Girl." "Los Angeles Times" 12 April 2018. Web.
• Well-Read Black Girl. Founded by Glory Edim in 2015.

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