Kenya Hunt is Fashion Director of Grazia UK and has worked in the magazine publishing industry for many years, including being Deputy Editor of ELLE UK. In this book she presents essays by herself but also with contributions by Candice Carty-Williams, Jessica Horn, Ebele Okobi, Funmi Fetto and Freddie Harrel.

Kenya Hunt – “Girl: Essays on Black Womanhood”

(03 November 2020 – from NetGalley)

This book of essays, including slightly randomly inserted ones by other people, sharing the authors’ direct lived experiences, Kenya herself a Black woman who was raised in the US but moved to the UK to take on a different challenge and to a large extent protect her family. The essays range over various topics, from settling into British life and finding a circle of friends to healthcare, entertainment and religion.

Some topics familiar to me from my other reading of Black writers came up here again, building a tipping point of information that people should pay attention to: the importance of the film Black Panther to the Black community; everyday microaggressions; the expectation that she will somehow stand for ALL Americans / Black Americans / Black women / Black American women; issues around hair and societal expectations of it; the innovative power of Black Twitter and the differences between British and American racism; and cultural appropriation, here of the hashtag #Blackgirlmagic, which got separated from its initiators by big business. It’s important to hear these points from different voices and viewpoints to make sure it sinks in.

She makes an important point about activism which I’ve also seen elsewhere and which we also need to remember: the value of activism likes in actually being active. This takes many forms here, but a large part is mentoring, and she shares stories of her own mentors and mentees:

Woke is at it s most powerful, and valuable, when it is lived and not performed.

Kenya and her guest essayists raise an important point I hadn’t realised that when a Black person is murdered in the US, a whole system of support and protest swings into action; here in the UK the organisation is not so much there. I’m guessing the smaller Black / BAME community as a percentage of the population might be the issue here: she doesn’t specify, but it was interesting. Other new points included the value of interacting with London taxi drivers because:

how often do we really engage outside of our bubbles of chosen friends and content?

The piece on the Black Church in the US was new to me and very enlightening, and her exploration of women’s healthcare provision in the US and UK through the lens of her reproductive history compelling and shocking.

Of the guest articles, I most enjoyed Candice Carty-Williams’ piece, “On Queenie”, a great exploration of identity and the author’s life outside writing.

A good and provocative collection in which everyone will find something new.

Thank you to HQ Publishing for making this book available to me via NetGalley in return for an honest review