Image courtesy of Red Blk Grl

Black girls throughout the world deserve to read books about themselves.

It is this notion and premise that inspired Maria Stuart to found and create Red.Blk.Grl, a monthly literary subscription box recently launched in April featuring young adult (YA) books written exclusively by Black authors and curated especially for Black girls. It is such a simple concept, but among the fast-growing number of literary subscription boxes available in the marketplace, Red.Blk.Grl truly stands alone with the goal of ensuring that Black girls are reading about characters whom they find culturally relatable and reflective of their own unique identities.

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“It’s very specific that we focus on Black authors. No other such subscription box does that. And no other subscription box specifically features YA authors,” said Stuart. “I am a big fan of YA fiction and there was no YA sub box that focused on Black authors. Our Black authors just don’t get the spotlight they should and I wanted to bring them to light.”

Stuart, a Chicago native now based in Metro Atlanta, is a former instructor for the Institute of Reading Development. An enthusiastic reader since the age of three, the entrepreneur and mother of two constantly felt there was something that was missing from the books she loved to read while growing up. With time, she discovered that “something” was her which is why she is so deeply committed to addressing the huge disparity in YA novels featuring Black characters and written by Black authors.

According to the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the School of Education at University of Wisconsin-Madison—an organization which regularly publishes statistics on books by and about people of color—a mere 278 out of 3,400 such books in 2016 were about Africans/African Americans. Of that 278, only 92 were actually written by Africans/African Americans. Therefore, when trying to hunt down these books, Black readers are up for a challenge but Red.Blk.Grl helps tremendously.

Each month, the subscription box includes a new, contemporary YA novel containing female characters with storylines that promote a healthy sense of self and well-being. Along with the book, the box also includes three to five items aligned with the theme of the month and selected novel. Those items may include stationary, jewelry, skin care, consumables and other feel-good objects suited especially for girls ages 13 and up.

Image courtesy of Red Blk Grl

“It’s a little surprise every month—like a present to yourself with gifts just waiting to be discovered,” explained Stuart. The first Red.Blk.Grl subscription box included the title American Street by Ibi Zoboi, a story about a Haitian girl who migrates to America and the experiences she faces as a newcomer. The box also contained bubble bath and a bookmark among other items.

As a girl, Stuart recalled receiving the Hooked on Phonics reading learning materials in the mail. “In creating Red.Blk.Grl, I wanted to recreate the excitement I felt each time I opened that package back then. That feeling especially helped me develop a love for books.”

While the current Red.Blk.Grl subscription box is ideal for young women aged 13 and older, Stuart plans to release an option for middle school aged readers in July as the response has been quite positive.

“We started off with just under a 100 subscribers and we’ve been growing steadily every week,” Stuart said.

To learn more about Red.Blk.Grl, visit redblkgrl.com.

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Nikki Igbo is an Atlanta-based freelance writer and political junkie. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Political Science from California State University at Fullerton and a Masters in Fine Arts of Writing at Savannah College of Art and Design. When not staring in disbelief at the antics unfolding on CSPAN, she enjoys philosophical arguments with her husband, 70’s era music and any excuse to craft with glitter. Feel free to check out her freelance services at nikigbo.com and stalk her on twitter @nikigbo or Instagram at @nikigbo.

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