Glory Edim is the founder and creator of the book club, Well-Read Black Girl. It began as a small book club startup in Brooklyn and quickly escalated into a large digital community, book festival, and brand. Edim contributes her success to movements such as Black Lives Matter and We Need Diverse Books, which are both organizations that support the advancement of African-Americans. 

What makes Glory Edim a Boss Woman?

Glory Edim is a Boss Woman because she saw a need for change and
she took the necessary and active steps to do just that. Her brand started as a
dream and passion and she acted on that dream and passion through a small
startup that eventually grew into a digital brand with over 200,000 Instagram
followers. 

“I’ve always come from a place of multiculturalism and diversity – it’s how I live my life.

The following
article was originally published on
Girls’ Night In Club, a digital
space for women.  

An Interview with Glory Edim, Founder of Well-Read Black Girl

If you’ve been to a book club recently – in your community, with
your friends, or even through GNI – you know that these gatherings have a world
of excitement (and often snacks!) to offer. There’s the people you meet, the
books you discuss, and the moments, characters, plot points, and passages that
move you, bring you together, or create room for discussion.

Glory Edim is no stranger to book clubs – she’s been attending
them her whole life. It was this love of literature, an admiration for writers
of color, and her desire to amplify Black voices that led her to start
Well-Read Black Girl. What once started as a small book club in Brooklyn has
grown to a large online community, a book festival, and a book of her very own.
We recently sat down with Glory to talk about the whirlwind few years (and the
T-shirt!) that brought her literary dreams to life.

How did you decide to start with a book club? Did you know the trajectory you wanted it to take from the beginning?

A couple of things helped crystallize [starting a book club] for
me – first, the encouragement from my partner, who originally gifted me the
[Well-Read Black Girl] shirt. He encouraged me from the start. Then, a book
club felt like the natural first step because I’ve always been in book clubs –
from Girl Scouts to college and after. The biggest difference with this one is
the impact of social media because it created a broad community online.

I didn’t anticipate this huge outpouring of support, though. I
think movements that were already developing online, from Black Lives Matter to
We Need Diverse Books, helped contribute to that. People were already looking
for reflections from within the publishing industry, and I happened to create
something that was right in that scene.

“People were already looking for reflections
from within the publishing industry, and I happened to create something that
was right in that scene.”

I would have never predicted the success and the anthology coming
so quickly, but I did think the natural next step was a literary festival because
I’ve always gone to them. The Brooklyn Book Festival is my favorite thing in
the world. I thought the first festival would be in 2018 but one of my mentors,
Tayari Jones, encouraged me to do it sooner. Like they always say, do it before
you’re ready.

When did you know the next step was to publish a book?

After the first festival, I realized there were so many great
conversations that took place. I went back and listened to them and I thought
they’d make great content for a book. Originally, I thought it might be a photo
book or a coffee table book – then after some research, I realized I wanted to
look at some essays.

I also generally love second iterations of things, and Well-Read
Black Girl [the book] feels like that to me. I had a zine and a Tumblr in
college named “Black Girl Reader,” where I explored similar themes; I’ve always
come from the lens of being a woman of color and being first-generation (both
my parents are from Africa). At Howard, an HBCU, this was always something that
was a focal point of my education and how I viewed the world. I’ve always come
from a place of multiculturalism and diversity – it’s how I live my life.

Did you surprise yourself at all when you were creating the book?

I gained a new appreciation for being self-disciplined and being
able to ask for help. For some parts of the process, I relied heavily on my
editor, Emily, to help guide me. But there were other things I felt confident
about and knew I had expertise in, particularly when it came to the aesthetic
and layout of the book. I knew instinctively how I wanted the book to look and
the feeling I wanted people to feel when reading it. I wanted them to feel like
they were in conversation with the contributor and getting a very real and
candid look into their lives.

I wanted to emulate that feeling that many women had in our book
club meetings – that feeling when you encounter someone with a different
background or experience than your own, and then all of a sudden you’re sharing
a moment over the characters of a book. What happens when you can be vulnerable
with one another and find empathy through storytelling? That’s the energy I
wanted to create while reading it.

Sure, there were moments when I thought, “I don’t know if I can do
this.” I had moments of self-doubt, especially because I was working with such
titans and people I really admire. There were moments when I thought, “Who am I
to do this?” I had to get that voice out of my head and refill it with positive
self-talk and be clear that this was something I created and deserved to do and
had the ability to do.

What is the best advice you received throughout the writing process, and what advice would you give to someone trying to create a thing?

My biggest takeaway from all of this is to do the thing that you want
to do and don’t sit in perfectionism. Just get it out there and learn
everything you can along the way.

“Do the thing that you want to do and don’t sit
in perfectionism. Just get it out there and learn everything you can along the
way.”

What’s inspiring you right now?

I went to see Michelle Obama [on tour for Becoming] with my mom.
She’s incredible and I was so moved by her words, her resilience, and her
fortitude. You see her beauty, her strength, and just the fact that she’s not
easily assuaged – I want to be like that. I really want to stand strong in my
story and have people come along with me in that.

I loved that in your book, you talk about how a constant for many Black women authors is the idea of “becoming” and then Michelle Obama named her book that!

It feels like an out-of-body experience! The idea of having to
become who you want to be and telling your own story – that feeling and that
determination is not exclusive to black women. All women go through that –
finding who they are, standing in their truth. It’s so crucial to our lived
experience. Your story of becoming matters.

There was so much of my childhood that I spent engulfed in the
stories of other people and it’s only now that I feel brave enough to tell my
own story.

What type of reader are you? Is there a “right” balance of educational and leisure reading we should be striving for?

I have a few ways I approach reading. With this community, I
approach it as a facilitator where I’m trying to impart knowledge and make sure
the community members have a full understanding of the text and the author and
why it’s important to read certain things – especially history. There are so
many instances where black history is not elevated or recognized in spaces,
academia, or popular culture. So the reason my book club is called Well Read
Black Girl is to amplify the voices of black storytellers. That feels really
vital to my mission and how I read.

“There are so many instances where black
history is not elevated or recognized in spaces, academia, or popular culture.”

Another part of me reads for nourishment and to be inspired by the
word. There are so many things I read because they make me feel good. I read
things continuously – whether it’s a poem by Nikki Giovanni or a novel by Toni
Morrison. I think of my work as a continuum of their work and I want to honor
them.

Then, there are other stories I read to study. I recently read the
book, There There by Tommy Orange and I was blown away because I had never read
his writing before. I love to read to be surprised by the word and how people
tell stories. Storytelling feels so vital to my existence. I love how people
tell stories – the mechanisms behind that and why people are drawn to certain
sentences. I’m so taken by that.

What does self-care mean to you – as a reader, a writer, a community organizer, and a creative?

More than anything, I need to feel fulfilled. On one hand, I need
to be able to focus and have clarity, which is why I’m constantly writing
things out and making vision boards. I also realize self-care means taking the
steps to physically take care of myself. I sleep, and I’m serious about it.
When I’m ready to sleep I’m like, okay, mask on, lights out, and humidifier
going with some eucalyptus in the air.

I create an environment where I can be my most relaxed self. Now
we have a word for it – self-care – but I’ve always done this. You can’t be
productive if you’re exhausted.

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