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The Zora Canon: Essential Books By African American Women


There’s now a list of a hundred of the greatest books by African American women. Zora, Medium’s online space for women of color, put the list together and called it The Zora Canon, named, of course, for the great author Zora Neale Hurston. The list includes 160 years of novels, plays, poetry, and it’s considered to be the first of its kind.

Morgan Jerkins led the team who put the list together, and she joins us now from our studios in New York. Welcome.

MORGAN JERKINS: Thank you so much.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Black authors, in general, have been overlooked, of course. Why focus on women in particular for this list?

JERKINS: The reason why we focused on women in particular for this list is because the way in which artists are overlooked is not only compounded by race but also by gender. So black artists definitely do get overlooked, but black women artists, specifically, get overlooked to a bigger extent.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah. In your introduction to the canon, you say you’ve never seen anything like this before, which is kind of really extraordinary to think about. Why do you think it’s taken this long?

JERKINS: You know, the publishing industry is still predominately white. And oftentimes, black women’s writing is treated as a trend. And so I think it’s so important for lists like these to exist so that people really don’t have an excuse to say, well, where are these writings? They’re here. Black women have always been creating and producing.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What do you think it shows?

JERKINS: It – first, it shows the revolutionary spirit of African American women. I mean, we have a list that is spanning 160 years, which means

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