If you are a Black girl on this chilly island they call the UK, Grown: The Black Girls’ Guide to Glowing up is the book that will warm and affirm you, like a hearty bowl of soup that also makes you feel seen. Written by Melissa Cummings-Quarry, Natalie A. Carter, and illustrated by Dorcas Magbadelo, this is a true ode of love to Black girlhood. You are given practical advice from those who have been there and done the living to tell the tale. Grown opens an honest and self-reflective dialogue on how to unapologetically love yourself in an anti-Black, misogynistic country. 

Just from picking it up and having a cursory flick through its pages, you can already delight in Magbadelo’s beautiful visuals of girls and women. From their different hairstyles to their bodies and their expressions, they are all familiar. Every page is deeply reflective as Cummings-Quarry and Carter include their own experiences in the way older sisters would, giving us the record of their hardships. Carter takes us back to a time when she was the only Black girl in her ballet class and therefore treated differently. Cummings-Quarry shares childhood memories of her mother combing her hair on a Sunday afternoon. 

“You are given practical advice from those who have been there and done the living to tell the tale.”

Each chapter explores a different dimension of identity, self-care, relationships, career prospects, spirituality, and finances, with all of them highlighting the great and the not-so-great aspects of growing up as a Black girl. Cummings-Quarry and Carter use language that describes our experiences with a freeness that is absent in the media’s lexicon. The way Black people in Britain communicate and celebrate themselves has been constricted by the white creative industry, an industry that still equates Blackness to iniquity, thus limiting the vast dimensions of our expression.

That freeness is so beautifully evident right from the beginning. The contents page promises chapters titled “Is that you, yeah?”, “Reclaiming your time” and “Secure the Bag”, all of which establish Grown as a book that is wholly for Black girls. The knowledge in this guide does not only give us relatability but the solace in knowing that there is access to help whenever there is pressure from our environment to conform. “Remember you are not alone—we’ve all been there,” Grown counsels.

“The knowledge in this guide does not only give us relatability but the solace in knowing that there is access to help whenever there is pressure from our environment to conform.”

Several contributions by other inspirational Black women—all brilliant in their fields—are woven in. To name a few, we are given the legendary voices of RT Hon Dianne Abbott MP, Audrey Indome and Melanie Brown:

  • “You are enough. The world will try to tell you otherwise, but anytime they do, just remember it’s your features they want, it’s your skin they want, it’s your natural sauce they want.” Audrey Indome (pg. 211)

  • “Knowledge is power but knowing who you really are is the real power.” Melanie Brown (pg. 9) 

  • “What I would say to young girls growing up today is to dream big and do not set a limit to your ambitions! Just because you cannot see someone who looks like you in a certain role does not mean you cannot do it.” Rt Hon Dianne Abbott MP (pg. 199)

There are recommendations for movies, books and artists that centre Black women and girls. Books like Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston and Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman. TV shows and films like InsecureAkeelah and the Bee and The Proud Family. Music albums like A Seat at the Table by Solange and R.E.D by Tiwa Savage.

There are also journaling spaces that allow the reader a moment to pause and reflect on topics such as “outlining your friendship boundaries…your non-negotiables…things you’d like to have in a friendship…and deal-breakers”. If you have ever faced a microaggression and were unsure on how to speak about it, you are encouraged to “write it out”. In Grown, you are the main character going through their journey, no matter at what age, stage, or how many times you read it. “Grown. It’s a mood. It’s a mindset. It’s a mantra. It’s a lifestyle. It embodies everything that makes us who we are,” offers the guide. 

Many Black women in the UK—including the ones that may buy Grown for their younger nieces, sisters, daughters, granddaughters and cousins—will relate to the difficult subjects broached in this guide. You will flashback to the earlier struggles in friendships and family dynamics. You may laugh, you may tear up a little, and you just might remember lessons from your younger self that were long forgotten. It’s okay to take pause and just enjoy. 

“In Grown, you are the main character going through their journey, no matter at what age or how many times you read it.”

By Eva Kay

EVA KAY is a Kenyan cultural studies master’s graduate living in London. A lover of all things fantasy, romance, and mystery, you can find her on Twitter @evangelionreads and Instagram @booksevangelionreads.

MELISSA CUMMINGS-QUARRY and NATALIA A. CARTER are best friends and co-founders of Black Girls’ Book Club, a platform they created to celebrate literature by Black female writers and bring Black women with the same passion for books together to discuss and enjoy. You can find them on Twitter and Instagram @bg_bookclub, and @MsCarter_13 on Twitter. 

DORCAS MAGBADELO is an illustrator, product designer and independent business owner. Her art explores the different complexities of Black female identity. Grown is her first illustrated book. You can find her @dorcascreates on Twitter and Instagram, as well as on her website.

Grown: The Black Girls’ Guide to Glowing Up is a letter to the younger you and a map for the next generationGrown: The Black Girls’ Guide to Glowing Up by Melissa Cummings Quarry and Natale A. Carter
Published by Bloomsbury Children's on 30 September 2021
Genres: Coming-of-age, Debut, Non-fiction, Self-help, YA, Black British
Pages: 256
Format: Paperback
Buy on Waterstones
five-stars

Your big sis in book form, Grown is the ultimate fully illustrated guide to navigating life as a Black teenage girl. With a foreword from the inimitable Spice Girl Melanie Brown and contributions from inspirational Black women such as Diane Abbott MP, Dorothy Koomson and Candice Carty-Williams and illustrations from Dorcas Magbadelo, Grown is a celebration of Black British girlhood that will empower teens everywhere. Being a teenager and trying to understand who you are and what you stand for is hard. Period. But if you're a Black girl and don't always see yourself represented in the books you read, the films you watch, the adverts you see or the history you're taught, it can be even tougher. Grown: The Black Girls' Guide to Glowing Up was written with one thing in mind sis. You. From understanding identity to the politics of hair to maintaining squad goals to dealing with microaggressions to consent to figuring out what career you might want, Grown has got your back. Natalie A. Carter and Melissa Cummings-Quarry, founders of Black Girls' Book Club, share stories—the wins and the Ls—and offer honest, practical advice that will show you how to own your choices. To live your truth without fear. To be grown on your own terms without limits or apologies. Grown. It's a mood. It's a mindset. It's a mantra. It's a lifestyle. It embodies everything that makes us who we are.