To the Black Girl that Reads: An Ode to Glory Edim
My house growing up had built in bookcases. There was one in the living room and one in the room my sisters and I shared. The shelves were overflowing and I loved it. I learned at an early age the importance of reading. This is partially because we were not allowed to watch television during the week and my third grade teacher, Mrs. Andrade, played a huge role as well. I wish I could tell you I had a teacher hand me a book with a character that looked like me; however, like many Black girls, I was not reflected in the books that teachers assigned. I still love Mrs. Andrade and I am thankful for her encouragement to read outside of school and teaching me the library could be fun and her incentives of getting a book fair book if we did well in school.
It was through one of these books from a book fair my sister or I purchased that I first saw myself, my life, on the pages. I wish I could remember the title, but it was about a girl and her sister had eczema. Or she had eczema and she wanted to be like her older sister. I cannot remember exactly but I do remember thinking: omg this is me! This is me and my sister. The main character was a Black girl and I was so happy. After that book, I cannot tell you the next book I read with a Black main character until I got to junior high where we were assigned Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. And the next time I went to the library, I got all of the Mildred D. Taylor books because I wanted to know more.
The library was and still is my favorite place. I felt like I could escape through the words of the authors no matter their color. That is why when I recently finished the anthology Well-Read Black Girl, I cried tears.
As each story from some of my favorite authors filled the pages, I was overwhelmed. They fell in love with reading the same way I did. These Black women wrote the characters that they wish they were seeing when they were growing up. I never really understood the paper of visibility until I was reading this anthology.
Last year, I made a point to only read Black authors and that was eye opening. I had never read bell hooks or James Baldwin or Audre Lorde (still haven’t but that book is on the way from Amazon). I wanted to immerse myself in my people—even if we didn’t have the same views. I wanted to read the stories of someone who looked like me. I wanted to read about the loss of a loved one, Alzheimer’s, love, gender, heartbreak, and identity through the lens of someone who may have gone through the same things I did. Reading about other Black women who struggled with their Blackness growing up felt like a veil had been lifted and I could finally breathe. I could finally be seen for me.
Glory Edim, the founder of the #WellReadBlackGirl community, is someone I want to give a massive hug and thank you for letting me be seen—even if the community was only virtual for me. Thank you for creating a space for Black girls who love to read but are tired of the blonde-hair-blue-eyed girl winning. For those of us who want to see the hope and happiness in the Black community written on the pages of bestsellers. I wanted to see the first hand accounts of the struggle for personal freedom of Black people, my people.
If it was not for Glory Edim and her boldness to start this community, I would not have found so many authors that I love now. I would have still been ashamed that I hadn’t read the greats of the Black literary world. She made me feel. She made me believe that I could pick up a book again, even though I have a reading impairment, that nothing could stop me from devouring knowledge from fiction and non-fiction alike.
I have always loved a good book. The smell of books. The library. The way words are able to stream together and paint a picture in my mind that I cannot describe to anyone else but instead it is a secret between me and the pages. But even with my love for books, and buying books, I did not believe there was a place in my adult life for my childlike love but Glory Edim taught me that there was. So thank you.