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Mar 30, 2022

Our 10 Favorite Books from Well-Read Black Girl

Dedicated to amplifying Black women writers, Well-Read Black Girl (WRBG) is an online community and virtual/in-person book club hosted nationwide. Their goal is to introduce diverse writers to future generations, including contemporary authors who are queer, nonbinary, trans, and disabled; address inequities, and strengthen communities by reading and reflecting on the works of Black women. WRBG also has a new podcast we love (more details below).

We were lucky enough to chat with founder Glory Edim—along with BookClub host and Emmy-nominated journalist Nicole Ellis—on Instagram live March 29, 2022. If you missed the event, you can watch a replay here. (10/10, would recommend.)

Read More Black Authors

Edim and the WRBG team curate their book selections each season. We had a tough time narrowing down our staff favorites (check out their comprehensive reading list here) but managed to pick our top 10, including WRGB’s must-read anthology. We hope you’ll join us in celebrating Black female authors—and Women’s History Month—with these classic and contemporary reads.

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

Lovingly curated by Glory Edim, this anthology showcases a variety of unique, compelling short stories that explore the line between Black girlhood and womanhood. Divided into four themes—Innocence, Belonging, Love, and Self-Discovery—its coming-of-age narratives are powerful, hilarious, and heartbreaking. Authors include Toni Morrison, Rita Dove, Alice Walker, Gwendolyn Brooks, Shay Youngblood, Dana Johnson, and many more.

“But I am not tragically colored. There is no great sorrow dammed up in my soul, nor lurking behind my eyes. I do not mind at all.” -Zora Neale Hurston, “How It Feels to Be Colored Me,” featured in On Girlhood

Sula by Toni Morrison

Morrison’s second published novel after The Bluest Eye (featured in our Top 7 Banned Books by Black Authors post), Sula follows the friendship of two Black girls with wildly different personalities. Morrison traces their lives from childhood to womanhood, where their paths diverge. Both women face the consequences of the choices they make, together creating a portrait of what it means to be a Black woman in America.

This novel has inspired many, including two of our featured BookClub authors: Asali Solomon, author of The Days of Afrekete, and Jean Chen Ho, author of Fiona and Jane. (Find interviews with both women in our Belletrist book club.)

“Like any artist without an art form, she became dangerous.” -Toni Morrison, Sula

Becoming by Michelle Obama

One of the many things we love about WRBG’s selections is that they feature Black female authors both past and present. In her memoir, Michelle Obama chronicles the experiences that have shaped her—from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her time spent as First Lady of the United States (and the first African American woman to do so). Warm, witty, and wise, her story is deeply personal and inspiring.

“For me, becoming isn’t about arriving somewhere or achieving a certain aim. I see it instead as forward motion, a means of evolving, a way to reach continuously toward a better self. The journey doesn’t end.” -Michelle Obama, On Becoming

The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory

Book 3 in The Wedding Date Series, The Wedding Party is a lively, well-written, steamy romance. (Yes, steamy—take that as you will.) Although they share the same best friend, Maddie and Theo don’t get along. In fact, they hate each other. But an “accidental” kiss sparks chemistry between the pair that only builds as the truth becomes harder and harder to deny.

“Why had he never tried hiding in a kitchen during a party before? You got to be around the party, but not, like, right in the middle of it, do something at least semihelpful, and not get stuck in prying conversations. Win-win.” -Jasmine Guillory, The Wedding Party

Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick by Zora Neale Hurston

While she was attending Barnard in 1925 (as the sole Black student at the college), Hurston began writing short works about African American life. She became one of the central figures of the Harlem Renaissance in New York and is one of the most influential American writers of our time.

Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick features timeless stories both satirical and serious. Hurston explores everything from race and class to gender, love, and migration. This collection also includes eight “lost” Harlem stories, which were discovered in forgotten archives and periodicals.

“People value monuments above men, and signs above works.” -Zora Neale Hurston

The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw

The nine stories in Philyaw’s collection focus on the interior and exterior lives of Black women and girls. Four generations of characters are caught between their own pressing desires and the double standards of church life. Each woman contends with her own secret longings and decides if—and how—to take the leap to freedom.

“You can't save me, because I'm not in peril.” - Deesha Philyaw, The Secret Lives of Church Ladies

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are living the American dream—until their new life together comes crashing down. Roy is arrested and sentenced to 12 years for a crime his wife knows he didn’t commit. While her husband is imprisoned, Celestial struggles to hold onto their love. Five years later, his conviction is unexpectedly overturned, and both must reconcile the past with the paths their lives have taken.

“But home isn't where you land; home is where you launch. You can't pick your home any more than you can choose your family. In poker, you get five cards. Three of them you can swap out, but two are yours to keep: family and native land.”-Tayari Jones, An American Marriage

Difficult Women by Roxane Gay

A haunting portrait of modern America, Difficult Women includes short stories about women—mothers, sisters, wives, and workers—living lives of both privilege and poverty. Gay’s characters navigate everything from intersecting identities to passionate love, emotional blackmail, deception, competition, and the complexities of human connection.

“She was smart enough to want more but tired enough to accept the way things were.” -Roxane Gay, Difficult Women

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

The Vignes sisters, identical twins, grow up together in a small, southern Black community before running away at age 16. Their lives drastically diverge, as one sister returns home and the other secretly passes for white—and marries a white man who knows nothing about her past. Questions arise about the fate of the next generation when their own daughters’ stories converge.

Bennett’s page-turner explores everything from the American history of passing to the impact of expectations, desires, and family relationships.

“Her death hit in waves. Not a flood, but water lapping steadily at her ankles. You could drown in two inches of water. Maybe grief was the same.” -Brit Bennett, The Vanishing Half

Wow, No Thank You by Samantha Irby

Forty-year-old Irby struggles to feel at home in her own skin. She’s moved from Chicago to a small, predominantly white town and must navigate her new life and all its trimmings—from settling in with her wife and step-children to facing the inevitability of aging, the struggles of homeownership, and the awkwardness of social situations. Irby’s collection of essays are raw, relatable, and laugh-out-loud funny.

“Hello, 911? I’ve been lying awake for an hour each night, reliving a two-second awkward experience I had in front of a casual acquaintance three years ago, for eight months.”

The Well-Read Black Girl Podcast

Expanding on the community she started in 2015, Glory Edim’s new podcast brings readers and writers together to celebrate the written word. Glory sits in deep, honest, and close conversation with literacy advocates, Black booksellers, and literary icons like Tarana Burke, Min Jin Lee, Gabrielle Union, Brit Bennett, Jaqueline Woodson, and more. Listen to Well-Read Black Girl wherever you get podcasts.

About Glory Edim

from wellreadblackgirl.com

Glory Edim is the founder of Well-Read Black Girl, a book club and digital platform that celebrates the uniqueness of Black literature and sisterhood. She edited the Well-Read Black Girl anthology, which was nominated for an NAACP Image Award and named a best book of the year by Library Journal. The winner of the Innovator’s Award from the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes, Edim worked as a creative strategist for over ten years and serves on the board of New York City’s Housing Works Bookstore. She currently hosts the Well-Read Black Girl podcast, where she chats with authors, literacy advocates, and Black booksellers about the power of the written word.

If You Like WRBG…

Check out our Critical Conversations book club, where host Nicole Ellis sits down with some of today’s most influential authors—Koa Beck, Clint Smith, and Anushay Hossain—to explore everything from gender equality to our country’s racial history.

We’d also recommend Arlan Hamilton’s book club, Keys to Success: Perseverance. Founder of the Backstage Capital fund and author of It’s About Damn Time, Hamilton speaks with women authors about the importance of perseverance, specifically for women, BIPOC, and members of the LGBTQ+ community.