The Girl Behind "Well Read Black Girl"
Photography by Chermelle Edwards
Styling by Christina Madry
Toni Morrison once said “if there's a book you want to read that hasn't been written, you should write it”. Literary fans can imagine how challenging the industry can be for female authors hoping to get published. Even more challenging for women from the African diaspora to be published, yet alone to receive accolades. While women have a 25% chance of winning a literary prize, a woman of African descent has only received a Nobel literary prize once in the history of the awards. So when we discovered a young woman launched a platform to celebrate female authors, we had to know a bit about her. We sat down with Glory Edim, who explains how she ascended from being a ‘well read black girl’ to the proprietor of a major literary festival.
ONCHEK(OC): Where are you from? What's your ethnic background?
Glory Edim (GE): I'm Nigerian-American. I grew up in Washington D.C.
OC: What do you love about your culture?
GE: There is definitely no place like Nigeria, it is impossible not to be proud of your citizenship as a Nigerian. Our culture is very rich. We love to express our unique style through fashion, music, and art. From the Eyo Festival to the Calabar Carnival, we have beautiful, impressive rituals. We also cook the very best jollof rice.
OC: Tell us about "Well Read Black Girl". How did it come about?
GE: For my 31st birthday, my partner planned a bunch of tiny surprises for me. One of them was a custom-designed T-shirt. It was chocolate brown, and it had a logo on it that said "Well-Read Black Girl." Right in the middle, was an emblem with my birthdate and a couple of my favorite authors, including Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, and Alice Walker. Between him and me, it was an inside joke. I read a lot and I always had a book with me in bed; the idea was that I was the well-read black girl.
Every time I wore this shirt to the gym or running errands, I would constantly have people coming up to me, asking me questions and starting conversations. "Oh, what are you reading?" "Where'd you get your shirt?" It would lead to these wonderful discussions about who our favorite author was and what books inspired us.
The following spring, I decided to host a book club with a couple of my good friends. But first, I started the Well-Read Black Girl Instagram account; I wanted a place to have a larger conversation beyond the organic ones my T-shirt had started. When creating the Instagram account, I was inspired by archival photos from the Black Arts movement, a literary movement that included novelists and poets like Maya Angelou, Nikki Giovanni, and Rosa Guy. Their photos have always asserted a sense of pride and collective empowerment. My hope was to share their sense of optimism online.
OC: What are you currently reading?
GE: Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi and An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
OC: Favorite book by a Nigerian woman so far?
GE: Destination Biafra by Buchi Emecheta
OC: Favorite book by an African-American woman?
GE: Migrations of the Heart: An Autobiography by Marita Golden
OC: What Made in Africa brands are currently on your radar?
OC: How would you describe your sense of style?
GE: My style is bold, colorful, and modern. I love playful patterns and the beauty of African textiles. I pay attention to the color, cut, and fabric of my clothes. I do my best to invest in "timeless" pieces that don't go out of style
OC: Finish these thoughts: In the 3 years, I see myself...
GE: Producing my first documentary.
OC: I see "Well Read Black Girl"...
GE: As a global movement around the world.