At the August meeting of the Well-Read Black Girl book club, acclaimed authors Ibi Zoboi and Jennifer Baker engaged in a compelling conversation about the importance of Young Adult literature for Black girls and the glaring lack of nuanced Black voices in the genre.
In conversation with Glory Edim, Zoboi and Baker discussed the lack of exposure in high school to literature exploring the full complexity of Black lives. While they read predominantly white canonical works, the authors did not see themselves reflected in those stories. However, they could still study, learn and grow from those classics. Driven by a desire for stories they could more deeply connect with, the authors admitted to stealing books from their school libraries as teens that better reflected the Black experience, like Alex Haley's "Queen" and Alice Walker's "The Temple of My Familiar."
Now, as authors, Zoboi and Baker are working to provide the kinds of nuanced stories centering on multifaceted Black experiences they yearned for growing up. Their books tackle complex themes like police brutality, misogyny and mass incarceration through authentic and complex Black girl perspectives. They emphasized that Black youth deserve stories embracing the same level of rigor and nuance as the classics—not just simplified tropes and stereotypes. Zoboi and Baker share a common vision for creating space for more authentic, multidimensional Black experiences in Young Adult literature to inspire and empower diverse youth.
Ibi Zoboi's "Nigeria Jones" tells the story of a young girl raised in a Black separatist group who faces a life crisis when her mother disappears. Her search for truth leads her on a journey of self-discovery and courage.
Jennifer Baker's "Forgive Me Not" focuses on Violetta Chen-Samuels, who spirals into disaster after a series of bad decisions. Her struggle within the juvenile justice system offers a poignant look at guilt, forgiveness, and the challenge of rebuilding a family.
The renowned Young Adult authors visited the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library as part of the DC Public Library's collaboration with Glory Edim’s legendary book club Well-Read Black Girl.
This event was generously supported by the DC Public Library Foundation.