15 Stories from the Well-Read Black Girl
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Submitted by the Event Organizer
Join us on Wednesday, November 10th at 6pm PT when Venita Blackburn and Glory Edim celebrate their latest books, How to Wrestle a Girl and On Girlhood: 15 Stories from the Well-Read Black Girl, on Zoom!
About How to Wrestle a Girl
“Venita Blackburn’s How to Wrestle a Girl is bold and inventive, moving between sharp realism and work that shifts the rules of form, the body, or the physical world, finding new ways to tell the stories of how girls are taught to be girls. Blackburn has the talent to put words to the things we thought existed just outside of language, but she also has the wise restraint to bring us just close enough to look directly at the things there aren’t words for and leave them unsaid.” –Danielle Evans, author of The Office of Historical Corrections
Venita Blackburn’s characters bully and suffer, spit and tease, mope and blame. They’re hyperaware of their bodies and fiercely observant, fending off the failures and advances of adults with indifferent ease. In “Biology Class,” they torment a teacher to the point of near insanity, while in “Bear Bear Harvest™,” they prepare to sell their excess fat and skin for food processing. Stark and sharp, hilarious and ominous, these pieces are scabbed, bruised, and prone to scarring.
Many of the stories, set in Southern California, follow a teenage girl in the aftermath of her beloved father’s death and capture her sister’s and mother’s encounters with men of all ages, as well as the girl’s budding attraction to her best friend, Esperanza. In and out of school, participating in wrestling and softball, attending church with her hysterically complicated family, and dominating boys in arm wrestling, she grapples with her burgeoning queerness and her emerging body, becoming wary of clarity rather than hoping for it.
A rising star, Blackburn is a trailblazing stylist, and in How to Wrestle a Girl she masterfully shakes loose a vision of girlhood that is raw, vulnerable, and never at ease.
About Venita Blackburn
Works by Venita Blackburn have appeared in newyorker.com, Harper’s, Story, McSweeney’s, Apogee, Split Lip Magazine, the Iowa Review, DIAGRAM, Foglifter, Electric Literature, the Virginia Quarterly Review, the Paris Review, and others. She was awarded a Bread Loaf Fellowship in 2014 and several Pushcart prize nominations. She received the Prairie Schooner book prize for fiction, which resulted in the publication of her collected stories, Black Jesus and Other Superheroes, in 2017. In 2018 she earned a place as a finalist for the PEN/Bingham award for debut fiction, finalist for the NYPL Young Lions award and recipient of the PEN America Los Angeles literary prize in fiction. Her next collection of stories, HOW TO WRESTLE A GIRL, was published in the fall of 2021 by MCD books. She is the founder and president of Live, Write (livewriteworkshop.com), an organization devoted to offering free creative writing workshops for communities of color. Her home town is Compton, California, and she is an Assistant Professor of creative writing at California State University, Fresno.
About On Girlhood
Proudly introducing the Well-Read Black Girl Library Series, On Girlhood is a lovingly curated anthology celebrating short fiction from such luminaries as Rita Dove, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, and more.
“When you look over your own library, who do you see?”
Since founding the beloved Well-Read Black Girl book club in 2015, Glory Edim has emerged as a literary tastemaker for a new generation. Continuing her life’s work to brighten and enrich American reading lives through the work of legendary Black authors, she now launches her Well-Read Black Girl Library Series with On Girlhood. This meticulously selected anthology features a wide range of unique voices, finally illuminating a distinctly robust sector of contemporary literature: groundbreaking short stories that explore the thin yet imperative line between Black girlhood and womanhood.
Divided into four themes—Innocence, Belonging, Love, and Self-Discovery—the unforgettable young protagonists within contend with the trials of coming of age that shape who they are and what they will become. With this tradition in mind, Innocence opens with Jamaica Kincaid’s searing “Girl,” in which a mother offers fierce instructions to her impressionable daughter. This deceptively simple yet profound monologue is followed by Toni Morrison’s first and only published short story, the now-canonical “Recitatif,” about two neglected girls who come together in youth only to find themselves on opposite picket lines in adulthood.
In Belonging, Toni Cade Bambara’s “The Lesson” follows rambunctious students on a field trip where they are exposed to a new world of luxury. In Love, Dana Johnson’s “Melvin in the Sixth Grade” captures the yearning of a lovesick teen smitten with the only boy who looks her way. And in Self-Discovery, Edwidge Danticat’s “Seeing Things Simply” charts the creative awakening of Princesse, a young woman with a hunger to be fully seen. These inspiring tales of world builders and rule breakers conclude with Zora Neale Hurston’s “How It Feels to Be Colored Me,” a personal essay brimming with wit and strength: “When covered by the waters, I am; and the ebb but reveals me again.”
At times heartbreaking and at times hilarious, these stories boldly push past flat stereotypes and powerfully convey the beauty of Black girlhood. In bringing together an array of influential authors—past and present—whose work remains timeless, Glory Edim has created an indispensable compendium for every home library and a soul-stirring guide to coming of age.
Featuring stories by Jamaica Kincaid, Toni Morrison, Dorothy West, Rita Dove, Camille Acker, Toni Cade Bambara, Amina Gautier, Alexia Arthurs, Dana Johnson, Alice Walker, Gwendolyn Brooks, Edwidge Danticat, Shay Youngblood, Paule Marshall, and Zora Neale Hurston.
About Glory Edim
Glory Edim is the founder of Well-Read Black Girl, a book club and digital platform that promotes Black literature and sisterhood. She won the Innovator’s Award at the 2017 Los Angeles Times Book Prizes.
Categories: Literature, Online