Well-Read Black Girl, a fast-growing literary community of black female book lovers founded by Glory Edim, began as an affectionate T-shirt conceived and executed by Edim’s boyfriend. “Well-Read Black Girl was a nickname he had for me,” Edim says. “It was sweet and creative.”
At the time, Edim had recently moved to New York City, where she lived in a small apartment “jammed with books,” and the T-shirt became a conversation starter that helped her make friends. “I’d be stuck on the A train, and women would see it and strike up a conversation with me about books,” she says. She eventually created a formal venue to nurture literary conversations: the WRBG Book Club—which was followed quickly by a WRBG Instagram account, where she posted photos of, and quotes by, great black writers. A former publishing specialist at Kickstarter, Edim has used her organizing skills (along with her effervescent personality) to build WRBG into what she calls “a radically inclusive community of black women” focused on black literature.
Edim is the daughter of Nigerian immigrants and grew up in the Washington, D.C., suburbs, surrounded by kids from around the globe. (She also spent her preschool and kindergarten years in Nigeria with her mother.) After enrolling at another college, she transferred to the historically black Howard University.
“I wanted to go to Howard because my dad did, but I also wanted to be around blackness and the African diaspora,” Edim says. “The time at Howard helped me understand black cultural tradition as a first-generation American and as a black woman. I’m from Nigeria and from America, and Howard helped me understand how those two concepts converge.”
WRBG is magnet for black bibliophiles. The WRBG Book Club—which started in 2016 with 10 people gathering to talk with Naomi Jackson about her novel The Far Side of Bird Hill—attracts about 45 attendees each month to venues in Brooklyn, with far more participating online. In 2017, Edim launched the Well-Read Black Girl Festival, which drew 300 people to Bric Arts Media in Brooklyn to hear an impressive program of authors. More than 600 people attended this year’s festival at Pioneer Works, also in Brooklyn. The WRBG Instagram account now has more than 165,000 followers.
And if all of this weren’t enough, Edim also edited Well-Read Black Girl: Finding Our Stories, Discovering Ourselves, published in October by Ballantine. The book is an anthology of essays by a host of acclaimed writers (including Lynn Nottage and Jacqueline Woodson) focused on the importance of readers seeing themselves in literature.
What’s next? Edim is writing a memoir with her mother, who has suffered from depression. “Writing is a vital tool for activism, and I want people to feel inspired to write their own stories,” she says.