The last of my NetGalley reads published in June, I always try to get ahead of myself with reviews so there aren’t too many gaps, so reviewing in July. It was published right at the end of June, though.

Mya-Rose Craig – “Birdgirl”

(28 June 2022, NetGalley)

I requested this one because it was described as a nature and social justice memoir by a young woman (19 when she wrote it) of a dual Bangladeshi-British heritage who explains the solace gained from birdwatching. It is all that, but it also really could do with some trigger warnings as a lot of the content of the book is around her mum’s pretty severe mental health issues, including some fairly strong stuff around sectioning and also mentions of two drugs, one not helpful to many, one helpful to many but sort of made out to be dangerous with no redress on how it helps others, a bit dangerous in itself.

So although I did enjoy the descriptions of a very different kind of birding to my preference, fairly advanced twitching as a family, following bird alerts all over the country and then going to all seven continents before she’s 15, picking off life-list species, describing them briefly (with a concentration on a particular bird in each chapter, loosely based on each trip) and twitching overseas, too, the mental health content was quite distressing to read.

There is good stuff about the very decent social justice efforts she’s made, running camps for what she calls VME (visible minority ethnic) people (she points out that using BAME can mean that White minority ethnic groups get counted in statistics, meaning VME people still don’t get to see themselves represented), creating a conference on increasing diverse people’s access to the countryside when aged 14, and founding a charity to support those efforts (Black2Nature). She also credits the work of Indigenous peoples in particular in making efforts in conservation and some good, positive examples, as well as pointing out that you can see common local species of bird through new eyes, too. There’s some stuff about racial bullying when her blog became famous and the sensible way she has dealt with that, and interesting points on being a teenager with a fairly middle-aged-perceived hobby.

So not quite what I expected, a bit more distressing in the mental health content than you might want, and does descend into lists at times (but then who else has seen over 5,000 bird species: not me!) but an interesting read.

Thank you to Jonathan Cape for making this book available to me via NetGalley in return for an honest review. “Birdgirl” was published on 30 June 2022.