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Well-Read Black Girl to help launch new literary series

February 10, 2022 GMT

NEW YORK (AP) — The world of Well-Read Black Girl, and founder Glory Edim, keeps growing.

What began in 2015 as an Instagram book club and a phrase on a T-shirt given to Edim by her boyfriend is now a newsletter, literary festival, podcast and the basis for two published anthologies. On Thursday, Liveright Publishing Corporation and Well-Read Black Girl announced a partnership for a literary series dedicated to debut fiction by women and non-binary authors, “with a focus on people of color and traditionally underrepresented voices.”

The series is called “WRBG x Liveright” and stating in 2023 will publish two books a year. It continues a wave of recent imprints centered on diversifying the literary market, from Tiny Reparations at Penguin Random House to Black Privilege Publishing at Simon & Schuster. It also comes at a time when a wave of new laws and other actions have led to books being removed from schools and libraries around the country.

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“I founded Well-Read Black Girl in 2015 to serve as a one-of-a kind affirming space for Black women to encounter literature and engage in critical discourse with one another,” Edim said in a statement.

“We started with a devotion to Black voices, but now, aware of the deep structural changes occurring in the publishing industry and public education — and the tide of rising dissent that threatens to silence authors of color and queer, non-binary, trans and disabled writers — it is time to expand our work.”

During a telephone interview with The Associated Press, Edim said that the idea for the series came out of conversations with Liveright editor Gina Iaquinta, whose authors include Nicole Dennis-Benn, Rion Amilcar-Scott and Amber Sparks. Edim said that initially she and Iaquinta will only look at submissions from authors with agents, but she is open to changing the requirements in the future and perhaps establishing a literary prize or fellowship.

Last fall, Liveright published “On Girlhood: 15 Stories from the Well-Read Black Girl Library,” for which Edim chose stories by Toni Morrison, Edwidge Danticat and Zora Neale Hurston among others. Edim’s affinity for Liveright’s parent company, W.W. Norton & Company, dates back to her years as a student at Howard University, when assignments often were drawn from Norton’s widely used anthologies.

“You would have a poetry collection with Rita Dove and Audre Lorde in it, or African American literature edited by Henry Louis Gates,” she said. “I was just so impressed that so many books I was reading came from this powerhouse group. I would love for some of the books I’m working on to end up in the hands of students, young people reading and learning.”