Today, Instagram Reels creator and critically-acclaimed author Blair Imani is officially unveiling the cover art for her forthcoming book, Read This to Get Smarter. Slated for release on October 26, 2021, the book is available for preorder this week and has already been praised by the author of New York Times Best-Seller Me & White Supremacy, Layla F. Saad, who deemed it is “a book the world sorely needs.”
“There’s a lot of systems of oppression that we’re dealing with as a collective. There’s so many things that we experience,” Blair Imani tells Girls United about the importance of using her voice as a Black, queer, Muslim woman to help other marginalized communities feel seen.
Read This To Get Smarter derives from her viral Instagram Reels series titled “Smarter in Seconds” which has amassed over 50 million views. In this series, Blair Imani has the hard and seemingly taboo conversations surrounding race, LGBTQ+ rights, gender, history, and other social issues.
During our conversation, Imani explained the significance of cooperative economics, which she defines as “simply sharing things.” In the context of her new book, knowledge is shareable and the 27-year-old welcomes the idea of giving others a seat at the table.
“If somebody has something, it is letting somebody else in on that secret, not making it a secret, and giving somebody the tools to succeed because there’s room enough for everybody,” she says. “That has been such a core part of my Blackness growing up – if you have something, you don’t keep it to yourself. If you have food, you don’t eat. Who wants to eat alone? Why eat and have waste when so many people are hungry?”
Called “an approachable guide to being an informed, compassionate, and socially conscious person today,” Read This to Get Smarter will address topics ranging from race, gender, and sexual orientation to disability and class from the historian’s lens.
“The impetus for the book was really the interest in education that’s happened particularly in my field like intersectionality, racism, anti-oppression in general. Over the past year, it made me feel really invigorated because it can be really exhausting to try to get to a point where you’re feeling confident in your work, and then also feeling like, ‘are people even listening to me?’,” Imani told GU. “With Read This to Get Smarter, I feel like I know who I am as an educator. I feel like I have really good lessons to extend to people and for folks to meet me there with their willingness. There’s such hunger for the knowledge and I’m pleased to be in a position to extend that to people.”
Girls United caught up with the author ahead of her book cover art unveiling, to discuss her creative process. Keep scrolling to give it a read.
Girls United: What was the most difficult part about writing Read This To Get Smarter?
Blair Imani: I’m really dedicated to keeping things approachable and accessible. My mentor, Ms. Sadie Roberts-Joseph, would tell me, ‘It doesn’t matter how many degrees you have if you can’t explain it to the folks back home.’ That really grounds all of the works that I do. I’m reading these academic journals and wanting to get this to a place where people can understand it without feeling invalidated or intimidated by all of the jargon. That means I had to have a really advanced understanding of it in order to get it to a place where it was approachable.
The biggest thing was really admitting that in Read This to Get Smarter, that I’m getting smarter too. Even though I’m in a position of being an educator in this context, I’m always learning. Once you kind of let go of that ego and that need to be right all the time, and really just embrace the fact that there’s actually a lot of things that I don’t know, it’s full steam ahead from there.
Girls United: How will Read This To Get Smarter relate directly to “Smarter In Seconds”?
Blair Imani: Everything is complex in this book. As much as I have made it into an approachable fashion, we’re talking about things like class and diving right into the wage gap, misogynoir, [and how] the intersections of anti-Blackness and misogyny coalesced to create this bigger wage gap. These things aren’t just naturally occurring phenomena. It’s because of all these deeper contexts. I really wanted to bring my own personal stories into it as well. How do we make these things less abstract by adding personal stories, like the discrimination against people with ‘Black sounding names?’
As far as Instagram Reels, this would not have happened without it. My publishing house, Ten Speed Press, reached out to me because of my “Smarter in Seconds” series. Just to see how viral these things have gone, it’s been such a blessing to get folks interested in these different concepts and take that conversation further. If I could have gotten it in 30 seconds, I can put it into my book and I can break it down even further. I’ve been treating Instagram like my workspace. I mean, it is my job, right? I’m thinking about all the folks who are prominent educators as my colleagues and my coworkers. Being able to reach out with them and have that community in a way that I know I wouldn’t have without this platform.
Photo Credit: Blair Imani/Metro Public Relations