Three years ago during my final year studying History at Cambridge, me and three of the most wonderful, fiery, radical & brave women I know – Lola Olufemi, Waithera Sebatindira and Odelia Younge – decided to write a book documenting our experiences as women of colour in an institution that so violently erased our realities, histories and sometimes our very existences; in fact an institution which ideologically and financially was rooted in and flourished on the concept and consequences of slavery, racism and colonialism.
We all 4 initially met at “FLY” – a group founded before we arrived, specifically as a space for women and non-binary people of colour. In that space was the first time I found the truth of my experiences at Cambridge validated and recognised, and I found I didn’t have to be weighted down by the experience of white supremacist patriarchy but that I could funnel my feelings into anger and creativity! It sparked my engagement with radical politics, poetry and decolonial feminism ever since.
The book, of course, was not something anyone wanted to publish. One publisher actually told us it would have been better if it were fiction – a reminder that it is easier to empathise with women of colour when we aren’t real.
However, alhamdulillah, this year @vervepoetrypres listened to our vision, heard us and recognised that this book needs to exist. IMHO we don’t particularly need a best seller or big recognition.
. I am excited solely because this book is a testament to the experiences that never get heard and thus are never accepted as real. But we are real. Our experiences are real and this book is a testament to us and every woman of colour struggling to articulate how it feels to be in spaces built for others.
We publish in January inshaAllah (and you’re all invited to the launches! Dates tbc!) but you can pre-order RIGHT NOW by clicking on the book cover illustration on this page.
Above all I hope our FLY GIRL’S GUIDE can be a testament, a refuge and a friend to anyone who needs it. I am so thankful for all the WOC in my life and ultimately, always, to Allah.
Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan @thebrownhijabi