Four books to read this monthIn some ways, I’m not the audience for this book, and indeed it will be a lifeline for a young woman or non-binary person of colour growing up in the West, but I know it’s so important to a) know what is going on in your society and b) understand what it’s like from the direct testimony of people who are experts in their own experience. So I read this with great interest, and enjoyed reading these passionate, clever, articulate and meaningful essays.

gal-dem is an online magazine and platform which (quoted from the book)

addresses inequality and misrepresentation through platforming the creative and editorial work of young owmen and non-binary people of colour across fashion, lifestyle, politics, music, arts and opinion. (p. 195)

I came across them when they guest-edited the Guardian newspaper’s Weekend magazine, and they have a Twitter and Instagram feed you can follow: they share a lot of useful content.

gal-dem – “I Will Not Be Erased: Our Stories About Growing Up As People of Colour”

(24 September 2019)

Stories and illustrations from the gal-dem editorial team and writers, women and non-binary people of colour, mainly sharing a diary entry, poem or even Facebook Messenger conversation from their younger teenage self then writing a letter to that person, encouraging them and talking about how their lives are going to change.

As well as these pieces, there’s a powerful Uncool Girl’s Manifesto, biographies of all the writers and illustrator and a good resource list covering issues raised in the autobiographical pieces. The introduction makes it plain that the purpose of the book is:

Your voice matters and your experiences are important. (p. 9)

and it encourages readers to write their own diaries and pieces, too.

From issues with your parents’ culture (and exhortations to embrace it) to fearing you’re not Black enough, to issues around sex and gender to sage and useful advice about drug-taking, it covers a whole range of topics with enough seriousness to hit home but a light touch where it’s needed (obviously individual pieces vary in this). I would imagine it would be a great resource for young people of colour as a friend to stand beside them and teach them and educate them, and also to reflect their own experiences, but also it’s a fascinating record for people other than the core audience (like me) to learn a lot about what it’s like growing up in this world at this time, and a decade or so ago in the case of the younger selves.

The illustrations by Jess Nash are warm and empowering, and it’s a positive book that will do a lot of good in the world if it’s read as widely as it deserves to be. Recommended reading as I say for younger people of colour for seeing themselves reflected, and for older people not of colour for seeing our society and thinking about what we can do for change.