Joshunda Sanders | Longreads | November 2018 | 10 minutes (2,718 words)
More than three years ago, in July 2015, Glory Edim sent her first Well-Read Black Girl newsletter, describing how she came to personally experience Black Girl Magic for the first time: through an “enchantment with storytelling” that began with Eloise Greenfield’s Honey, I Love and Other Love Poems.
Greenfield’s first book of poems, Honey, I Love was initially published in 1978 before subsequent reissues and has become a modern-day classic. Long before renewed calls for representation and increased diversity in children’s literature, Greenfield wrote a picture book inspired by the title poem alone. It was illustrated by Diane and Leo Dillon and features a Black girl on the cover — in part because, though Greenfield went on to write 40 books, she was unable to find books for her own children to read and see themselves in before she wrote her own.
“I liked that phrase, ‘Honey, let me tell you,’” Greenfield said in a 1997 National Council of Teachers of English profile. “It was a phrase that was used a lot by African American people, but it had not reached the point where it had become stereotyped. So I wanted to use that, and that’s where the title came from. And I wanted to write about things that children love, about childhoods where there may or may not be much money, but there’s so much fun.”
These sentiments from Greenfield — taking a Black expression usually uttered with intimacy between women and making it a public affirmation of love centered on children — shaped for Edim a landscape of possibility. “I recognized myself immediately on the page;” Edim writes, “a Black girl with wide eyes, full lips, and thick braided hair. The book was my first introduction to poetry that was full of rhythm and everyday language. I was delighted to learn that my trip to the grocery store could be a poem.”
At five years old, Edim was proud to be Black. It set her on a path that would lead her to establish a lifelong ritual of reading as self-discovery — from Greenfield to “authors like Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston, Alice Walker, Audre Lorde, Maya Angelou – and many more…their books and profound literary legacy have become my inheritance.” Read more…