I will be doing my Books of the Year post later on tonight – promise – but I wanted to make sure I’d got this last book I finished in 2020 reviewed and shared first. This is the follow-up to “Slay in Your Lane”, which I bought to read first (and did – review here), just showing once more that being given free books via NetGalley doesn’t undermine book-buying activities, and is a set of 20 essays by young Black woman writers asking “What next?” Who could resist asking to read this one?

Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinené (eds.) – “Loud Black Girls”

(14 July 2020 – NetGalley)

Where “Slay in Your Lane” memorably and excellently laid out the societal position of young Black women and the barriers and hurdles they face, as well as the ways in which they have banded together for support and to build each other up, most notably as social media has come to the fore, this takes a wide range of women writers, activitsts, poets, journalists, etc., to talk about their view on the state of the nation or various topics that are most important to them. From people ‘returning’ from the UK to live in a Nigeria they weren’t born in to portrayals of women in Black Panther via descriptions of initiatives to deal with violence and the fear of violence in Black urban communities to thoughts on turning 30, there’s something here for everyone. Writers include people involved with the gal-dem collective (see my review of their book here) and other collective activists as well as those writing more in isolation.

The introduction by Bernadine Evaristo highlights that the days of young Black women being silenced are hopefully now over and that they can be loud and proud without being shushed and squashed. She talks about other books that have come out and been important (most of which I was glad to see I have read, such as “Don’t Touch my Hair” by Emma Dabiri (review) and “Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race” by Reni Eddo Lodge (review) as well as “Brit(ish)” by Afua Hirsch (on the TBR).  Elizabeth and Yomi then talk about how the book came about, and pushing forward the idea that it’s not about helping people find their voice so much as empowering them to use it. So this book is both a celebration and an honest assessment of the state of things, but it’s a move forward into the future where “Slay” was about the present.

Then we’re on to the essays. I can’t write about every single essay, but will pull out a few here that really made an impression. There is no filler in the whole collection, however. Abioloa Oni talks fascinatingly about her experience of living in the UK having grown up – and become confident in herself as a result – in Nigeria, visiting several times then making the move over here: “I began to appreciate the privilege of growing up in a country where I had been the norm. Being in a system like that during my formative years had cloaked me in self-confidence”. Fiona Rutherford’s piece on taking control of your finances digs deep into how she got into a financial mess, how she got herself out of it and how vital financial literacy is, especially for Black women.

Jendella Benson writes in detail about her place in the digital revolution of social media and how it helped her find people like her and group together for strength, charting developments from anonymous chat rooms to the image-heavy social media of today: “From this digital den, real-world change emerged” through sharing of the #BlackLivesMatter, #MeToo and #oscarsSoWhite hashtags, among many others. Musician Nao has an interesting view on Brexit as a vehicle for change as inequalities and racism have been brought out into the open and can now be discussed – provocative but why shouldn’t she be? Phoebe Parke takes a personal and wide-ranging look at being mixed race and dealing with questions, ‘coming out’ and the Meghan Markle effect and there’s more excellent provocative writing from Siana Bangura with her “Black Feminist 10-point (ish) Programme for Transformation” in which she argues the terms POC and BAME should be replaced with GMP (Global Majority Peoples), considering that Black and Brown people actually make up the majority of the world’s population: “The moment you no longer speak of yourself as a minority or someone powerless is the moment your oppressor realises you are conscious of your oppression”. Her final point is no less powerful, and one I will seek to follow up in my reading:

Let’s face it, this struggle is a lifelong one – and that is not a loss. What is a loss is if we can never find time for joy along the way. I’ve had enough of the consumption of Black grief, pain, sorrow and strife. Striving for Black joy must be central in our quest. It is foundational for any vision of freedom. As much as there is suffering, cruelty and calamity everywhere, there is also resistance, there is also love, and there is always us.

What a great collection of essays: highly recommended, although I also suggest reading “Slay in Your Lane” first to gain a full understanding of the context in which most of these writers are producing their essays.

Thank you to William Collins / 4th Estate Books for allowing me to access a copy via NetGalley in return for an honest review.