Dolen Perkins-Valdez at Girls Write Now’s Chapters

The first installment of Chapters, the Girls Write Now reading series I’m curating, will feature the talented Dolen Perkins-Valdez, author of the new novel Wench.

She’ll be introduced by my friend and fellow board member Tayari Jones, and after her guest reading, several of the girls will share their own work. The event is this Friday at the Center for Fiction, 6 p.m., and we’d love to see you there.

Below, in the spirit of the evening, Perkins-Valdez reminisces about books she read in her youth. You can also listen to her discussing Wench on NPR with Lynn Neary.

I grew up in a world that predated mega-bookstores such as Barnes & Noble and Borders. We did not spend our weekends exploring the library or checking out the new releases shelf.

As a result, when I am asked about books I read growing up, I am a bit embarrassed to admit that I never read any classics of children’s literature. Black Beauty? No. Little Women? No. But the one place I did go every week was the supermarket.

My mother spent many hours shopping for the family each week, and she did not mind if I threw a book in the cart. So I grew up reading all kinds of trashy fiction. I devoured the books voraciously, sometimes in a single night. Through them, I developed a love of reading.

Later, I moved on to Terry McMillan, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison. That is why when people ask me what I think about “urban fiction” versus “serious fiction,” I hesitate to feed the hierarchical distinction. I know from experience that any kind of fiction can act as a “gateway drug” to another kind. I believe the important thing is that young people read!

I want to introduce my daughter to all kinds of fiction, and through the exposure, let her discover that which speaks to her most.

Many thanks to artist Michael Fusco for the striking Chapters flyer.


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