Our Favorite Black Women Authors Share The Books That Impacted Them Most

Photographed by Rockie Nolan.
The annual Well-Read Black Girl Festival is upon us, and this time, it's going virtual from November 6-8. An ode to Black Political Power: Past & Present, this year's celebration is dedicated to unpacking this challenging year, while fostering communion surrounding ways to move ahead. Attendees will have an opportunity to share space with the legendary Nikki Giovanni — who will speak about her latest poem collection, Make Me Rain — Nic Stone, Jenna Wortham, among many notable others.
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"The best work happens when it is fortified by the written word, a sharp pen, and you: Black women & Black people at large," WRBG Festival organizers share. "We cannot think of a better way to mold our collective fears, anger, and anxieties than to take up every literary tool we have and build something new, beautiful, and enriching."
Indeed, it's often between the pages of a well-written book that many find solace and awakening. So ahead of the festivities, we caught up with three of this year's panelists — Shayla Lawson, Yaa Gyasi, and Mahogany L. Browne — to talk about the books that have impacted them the most.
"My pick would be You Can’t Keep a Good Woman Down by Alice Walker. My two best girlfriends and I passed it between each other during our senior year of high school. We all found ourselves in different short stories throughout the book. For me, it was 'How Did I Get Away With Killing One of the Biggest Lawyers in the State? It Was Easy,' the murderess heroine a teenage girl — its audacity, to this day, is so hardcore."
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Yaa Gyasi, Author of Transcendent Kingdom

"I read Changes: A Love Story by Ama Ata-Aidoo for the first time the year I graduated college, and it’s a book that I return to often. It’s about a woman who rejects the rules and strictures meant to govern her womanhood, and instead chooses the path that suits her. I love the language and the way the novel troubles feminist concepts, but most of all, I love Esi, a character who reminds me how radical it can be to simply refuse."

Mahogany L. Browne, Author of Chlorine Sky

"Jesmyn Ward's Salvage the Bones remains the book that broke my heart in a way that I had never anticipated. It centers the voice of a young Black girl. It centers the swell of Louisiana pre-Katrina and immediately following Katrina. It centers the Black experience that is usually marginalized and silenced. It is beautiful in the way in which it reveals the haunting resilience of our language and voice. A story that makes you see God. A story that reminds you of our humanity."

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