BOOK REVIEW: BROWN GIRL LIKE ME, BY JASPREET KAUR
Updated: Feb 15
Jaspreet Kaur is an award-winning spoken word artist, writer and History teacher from East London. Online she also goes by the moniker of ‘Behind The Netra,’ which can translate to ‘behind the eyes.’ Brown Girl Like Me, due to be published on 17th February 2022, is Jaspreet’s debut publication and I was lucky enough to be sent a pre-release copy. To say it’s powerful is an understatement. Jaspreet pulls you in from the very first page by painting a scene from her childhood that most Asian households will recognise, creating a special connection with the reader. She continues to create these connections with every page. I have been in the audience for a few of Jaspreet’s poetry performances and the words in this book are as captivating as each and every one of her readings.
Brown Girl Like Me is described as an ‘essential guidebook for South Asian women and girls.’ That couldn’t be more true. But it’s a not just a guidebook. It’s an essential manual for empowerment, whatever stage of life you are in as a South Asian woman. To be your best self. I also see it as a bit of a recipe book. Recipes provide all the essential elements required. It’s then your decision to tweak that recipe, to create something that’s right for you. The South Asian culture, as well as the today’s society, seems to have so much in the mixing bowl, that can make for a "confusing" bake. Jaspreet provides a number of recipes to help fix ourselves and our world. Saying that, there is so much of the South Asian culture to be admired. It’s rich in history, colourful, bright and grounded in the importance of community, which Jaspreet reminds us of. “The outright dismissal of our traditions is not the solution,” Jaspreet says during chapter 8. Brown Girl Like Me shines a huge floodlight on both the good and the bad. The harmful notions that need addressing, but also the unique and special qualities that we should be shouting about from the rooftops.
These recipes are preceded with some hard-hitting realities. No stone is left unturned. The most difficult of subject matters, from mental health to menstruation, are approached in a brave and thoughtful manner. The conversations in this book are ones that should fill our normal everyday lives, but we are too afraid to even consider due to cultural expectations and societal norms. These conversations are supported wonderfully by some intriguing, and in some cases shocking, references and statistics. For example, did you know that 66% of Sri Lankan girls reported not to have received any information about menstruation, prior to starting their first period? Or that Muslim women are 65% less likely to be employed than Christian women? No, me neither. You will come across theories and studies that will help you put the issues around us into perspective, whether you’re a South Asian woman or not.
On that note, this book is not just for brown girls. It’s for brown men, boys and the lads. Lads, lads, lads. So, Lads. Put down the machoism and pick up this book. We’re all siblings in the fight to champion our culture. How can we expect to do that without being able to empathise with and champion our sisters, mothers and grandmothers? This book is also for non-Asians, alike. It’s for the employer, the neighbour and the average Joe walking down the street. As Jaspreet puts it, it’s a book to create ‘allies’. Personally, as a mid-30s brown man, this is a book that is going to help my relationship with my wife to be and every brown woman around me. It’s helped me see their side of things, in a different light. In learning more about the women around me, I’ve most definitely learnt things about myself.
Jaspreet references Diljeet Bachu’s poem, ‘Shorts’ – “We talk a lot. But we don’t know how to talk.” For me, this couldn’t be more perfect. Brown Girl Like Me is a call to arms for all South Asians to start talking more, but more importantly the book provides us with the ability to do so. If this was Jaspreet’s debut, I can wait to see what’s next.
Brown Girl Like Me will be published by Bluebird, an imprint of Pan Macmillan, on 17th February 2022 and is available to pre-order now.
For links to pre-order visit https://www.browngirllikeme.com/
Follow Jaspreet Kaur online
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/behindthenetra/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/behindthenetra
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/behindthenetra
- Website: http://www.behindthenetra.com/
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