Thank you to Walker Books YA for this book in exchange for an honest review.
I had heard about this book a while ago and then it was announced that two of the authors will be at YALC this year so I was already really interested in reading this book so when I was able to request it I couldn’t pass up the chance! And wow how much did I absolutely love this book!
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Fourteen joyous, funny and life-affirming essays from gal-dem, the award-winning magazine created by young women and non-binary people of colour.
gal-dem, the award-winning online and print magazine, is created by women and non-binary people of colour. In this thought-provoking and moving collection of fourteen essays, gal-dem’s writers use raw material from their teenage years – diaries, poems and chat histories – to explore growing up. gal-dem have been described by the Guardian as “the agents of change we need”, and these essays tackle important subjects including race, gender, mental health and activism, making this essential reading for any young person.
This book is something I wish I had been able to read when I was a teenager. And I hope that lots of young people benefit from this book. This book showed me that how I felt was felt by others and that made me feel not so alone. It’s hard when you don’t quite fit in especially as a teen and I didn’t know how to express it but this book so wonderfully talks about so many things that I feel now and when I was younger. I know that others reading this will feel the same way.
It is full of experiences of people who we don’t normally get to see in public. I always see white women in books and media but their experiences are going to be very different from me, a Pakistani Muslim woman, so to be able to read stories written by Muslims and people of colour is important for so many of us. Everyone’s experience differs but coming from a similar culture means that even if it isn’t quite the same experience it is still very much relatable.
I felt like this book expressed parts of me and my life that not everyone will understand. From facing racism and discrimination because of the colour of my skin or the scarf on my head. To cultural and religious differences from what is considered “cultural norm”. One of the essays that really hit me hard was Sara Jafari’s essay, My Virginity and my Choice: Dating as a British Muslim. Although I hadn’t dated my now husband, a lot of what she said really resonated with me. I really loved how she spoke about a really sensitive topic, especially in the Muslim community and I wish this was discussed more so it wouldn’t be so taboo.
One of the things that she said had me laughing my head off:
“Edward Cullen is every Muslim girl’s fantasy: he’s hot, forbidden and wants to wait until marriage to have sex”
I really loved how they used diary entries, journals, messages and more from their teen years to write a letter to their younger selves. It made these essays honest, raw and heartfelt. And by speaking to their younger selves they also spoke directly to all the young people out there who feel like no one really understands what they are growing through. I also loved that they included artwork throughout the book with quotes, it was such a lovely touch.
Reading this book will help so many people see themselves but also those who have never had to experience these things can get a glimpse of what it is like to grow up and not have white skin or be straight. How having more than one culture can mean you do and see things differently and how that can make us seem like we don’t belong.
This book is empowering , inspiring and so relatable. I finally felt seen and heard by reading these essays. I highly recommend everyone to read this and I hope that others find it as beneficial as I did.