Maria Stuart noticed something was missing from her favorite books: herself. The RedBlkGrl founder created the subscription box filled with books for Black girls who want to see themselves in their favorite stories.
Stuart previously worked as an instructor at the Institute of Reading Development. However, it was after she and her husband opened up a personal training studio that she had spare time to do what she loves: read books. She noticed here a lack of representation in her books, specifically science fiction.
“I found myself in the middle of the bookstore, wanting to read something new. I wanted science fiction written by a Black woman. I found Octavia Butler and I read through everything of hers. That really opened my eyes to the fact that it can feel like there’s a whole world of literature that’s missing for Black people. It’s out there–we just have to get it to the masses.”
Stuart emphasizes that when we read, we picture ourselves as the main character, but that can be hard when the protagonists never look like us–or when we can’t relate with the main characters.
“I remember when I was a teenager, looking for books, everything seemed to be very dark in the African American section. A lot of books I came across were about abuse, living in projects, and drug environments–and those are very real things, but I also wanted something was lighter.
Where is that superhero girl that looks like me? A lot of times books I read didn’t match my reality.”
To fix this problem, Stuart decided the RedBlkGrl Subscription Box was how she could get these books into young people’s hands. The box is filled with contemporary Black literature by Black women, for Black women and girls. The first book in the box addresses immigration. Other books will be coming of age tales and science fiction.
“I wanted the books to be more contemporary, although some do address historical issues. I didn’t just want the books we read in school–I wanted things published in the last decade or so that people are not as aware of.”
Stuart also includes small gifts and treats in the boxes, inspired by the books included.
“While I’m reading the book, I’ll make notes for every little thing. Something that’s in the book might be in the box–a certain type of food, a locket, things like that.”
Stuart says that RedBlkGrl is a way to increase representation of Black women and girls in literature.
“I feel like when you can see yourself in a story it makes it that much more meaningful to you. It makes the message more important to you. It’s hard to take lily white stories and translate it into your reality. You can read about everything, but it’s more important to be able to read about yourself. I hope to write these books myself one day, but until that happens this box is a great way to get these books into young people’s hands!”
RedBlkGrl subscription boxes can be ordered at redblkgrl.com.
Photo Credits: RedBlkGrl