On Rich Text Book Club this week, we’re talking about “Carefree Black Girls,” a new book from culture critic Zeba Blay, who also happens to be (full disclosure) our friend and old HuffPost colleague!
In 2013, Zeba tweeted a post with the hashtag #carefreeblackgirl. She was an early popularizer of the term, which reached toward a conception of Black girlhood that could be joyful, relaxed, at ease in the world — carefree in a way that white girls were often shown as being. Almost a decade later, her hashtag has evolved into the title of a book of essays about Black women in pop culture and her own experiences as a Black woman and critic. In “Carefree Black Girls: A Celebration of Black Women in Popular Culture,” Zeba blends the personal and the critical in order to explore how Black women have created our culture, how they’ve been depicted in it and treated by it, and how these narratives affect how Black women and girls experience the world.
As the subtitle suggests, it’s a celebration of women like Josephine Baker, Mel B, Serena Williams, Countess Vaughn, Viola Davis, and Cardi B — but it’s also a searching, tender excavation of the humanity of these women. Zeba examines how societal demands of and cultural tropes about Black women limit them, demand that they appear smaller or flatter or less complex than they truly are; she also, through her own experiences and those of the women she writes about, does an accounting of the suffering this causes.
It’s a beautiful and illuminating book, and we were so thrilled to talk to Zeba about it. This was also a mini-reunion, since we all worked together at HuffPost Culture for years — and getting to talk pop culture on Zoom again was, simply put, a huge treat.
You can buy “Carefree Black Girls” here, or wherever you get your books!
We’ve been watching…
The new “Great British Baking Show” season. It’s not quite like it used to be — I preferred it when the showstopper for Cake Week involved making a nice Victoria sandwich rather than an anti-gravity illusion cake (what is this, “Nailed It”?) — but I’ll accept it. -Claire
I’m still making my way through “Squid Game,” because I am a MASSIVE baby when it comes to violence. But I still am loving it. -Emma
We’ve been reading…
“Carefree Black Girls,” “Crossroads,” and this horrifying deep dive on a series of brutal murders at Woodson Houses, a public housing complex in Brooklyn. -Claire
“Carefree Black Girls,” of course, and our bud Jess Goodman’s great Bustle piece on the perils of being a Very Online author. -Emma
We’ve been listening to…
Michael Hobbes’s goodbye episode of “You’re Wrong About,” which broke my heart (all-time fave pod, changing forever!) but also inspired many thoughts about how we decide where to expend our creative energy and how to keep the joy alive in projects that were once passion projects and became, well, work. -Claire
In the spirit of keeping this Michael Hobbes-themed, I really loved the deep dive his other podcast, “Maintenance Phase,” did on Rachel Hollis. As someone who was only peripherally aware of Hollis before her TikTok/IG scandal, I really loved having Hobbes and his co-host Aubrey Gordon walk me through it all. -Emma
We’ve been buying…
We’ve both been saving up for next week’s Hill House Holiday drop. Yes, we’re extremely predictable.