Best friends Melissa Cummings-Quarry and Natalie A. Carter are the authors of Grown: The Black Girls' Guide to Glowing Up. They first met at secondary school in north-east London and bonded over their shared love of books, swapping favourites such as Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God and Alice Walker's The Color Purple.
Years later Melissa, now a business development manager, and Natalie, a real estate lawyer, decided to channel that passion for reading into setting up the Black Girls' Book Club, a literary and social events platform that celebrates the work of Black women. Now touted as the premier literary event for Black women and girls in the UK, Black Girls' Book Club has been featured in Vogue, Stylist, BBC Radio, gal-dem, Pride and many more.
With everything they do intended to ensure Black women have a seat at the table, Melissa and Natalie began to reflect on their own experiences growing up. One thing that became clear was the lack of media created specifically for Black girls. Like the women who attended their events, young Black girls needed something that centred them, something that showed them they were seen. And so, Grown: The Black Girls' Guide to Glowing Up was born.
Grown: The Black Girls' Guide to Glowing Up (Bloomsbury Children's Books)
A powerful, distinctive and authentic guide to growing up as a Black girl, Grown: The Black Girls' Guide to Glowing Up will, its authors hope, provide "the safe space you turn to when you need inspiration or comfort". In its pages are guidance, wisdom and inspiration for young Black women to help them own their choices and to achieve everything that they want to in their lives.
Here, we share the Introduction to Grown: The Black Girls' Guide to Glowing Up by authors Natalie A Carter and Melissa Cummings-Quarry, as they explain why their wrote the book, and how they hope it will help and guide the next generation of young Black women. The illustrations are by Dorcas Magbadelo.
Introduction to Grown by Natalie A Carter
This is a really important book. This is a big deal. This is Grown.
For the first time, you, a beautiful, unique, special, phenomenal, creative and intelligent Black girl, have something that is written just for you. A book to show you how to own your choices. To live your truth without fear. To lead the bold, colourful life you truly deserve. To be grown on your own terms without limits or apologies.
For a lot of my teenage life, I struggled to feel included in British girlhood. I never saw myself in magazines, on TV shows or on the cover of the books everyone loved. It seemed that, as a young Black girl, nothing was created with me in mind. At the time, I just shrugged and moved on. But now I see how sad and excluded it made me feel when I couldn't read a book at school that dealt with my experiences or my culture, or pick up a magazine with a free lipstick that would actually suit my complexion.
Being a teenager and trying to understand who you are and what you want is difficult for everyone. But I don't care what anyone says, life is harder for young Black girls. Period. It can feel like everything you do is studied under a microscope. If it's not our teachers treating us differently, it's strangers being harsher on us, or our families wanting us to grow up and act like women (but not too much) before our time. So many people have opinions on what you need to do, what you can study, when you should start working and how domesticated you are. Yet, at the same time, you are being told by everyone around you to enjoy being young because you don't have 'bills to pay' or any 'real' problems. There isn't time for you to just be a babygirl - to be vulnerable and just be a teenager.
There are so many expectations placed on you, but the same energy isn't applied when it comes to encouraging you to embrace what makes you amazing and set your own independent path. I know that when I was younger, I felt like I couldn't just be me. It was this pressure to act like someone I wasn't that led to me holding back, not chasing my dreams with my full energy, and it made me want to shrink myself so I could be accepted. But when I reflect on it, there was never a need for me to have held back who I really was. Every Black girl is unique and special. No one has the same natural talents or perspectives, and this is what sets you apart from everyone else. This is your life and your story, and you get to make the choices that are best for you. You don't need to apologise for who you are.
That said, I understand that knowing yourself, loving yourself, and making decisions for yourself decisions for yourself doesn't always come naturally. All that pressure can be too much to process on your own. Sometimes you can talk to your mum, aunty, friends or a big sister, but it isn't always easy to communicate how you feel, and sometimes we worry that those around us just won't understand. Or maybe you're embarrassed or think that others might judge you.
That's where Grown comes in. We've taken our stories, our memories, our wins and our Ls and put them together with all the advice we wish we had when we were finding our way as young Black girls growing up. We've also asked some other inspirational Black women who we adore to share their stories and life hacks too. But don't worry, we aren't going to tell you what to do and how to live your life - because there are no right answers. In these pages, we're just going to give you our take on the things that impacted us when we were in your shoes. The questions we wanted answers to, the situations we found ourselves in and the feelings we didn't know how to articulate at the time. My wish is that this book can be the safe space you turn to when you need inspiration or comfort. Something to remind you that whatever you're going through, you're not the only one - there are others trying to work things out in the same way you are, just as we were and still are (even at our big big age).
I want this book to be everything I wish I had when I was younger. Things are always going to be harder for you when who you are isn't seen as the norm, but this book will show you that we can create our own norms. Because as long as you know your true worth and your standards, nothing will get in the way of you achieving your dreams. And that's the very essence of Black Girl Magic - it's doing amazing things even when you're told it isn't possible and you don't belong.
Sure, you aren't going to get everything right on the first try (or even the second one). As a young Black girl, it can feel like you won't get a second chance, like you can't just do you without having to explain or justify your actions. Life can feel like one big flop sometimes and it hurts. Sometimes you try so hard but you make so many mistakes, and even when you do everything right you still end up back at square one. It's OK to cry and admit that things haven't worked out. There is no shame in failure. You tried. Before you think about everything that went wrong, remember that you actually got up and walked towards doing something to better your life. Grasp that, and plan what you are going to do next time. That's what Grown is about - learning from our experiences and using that knowledge to drive us forward.
This book is for all Black girls. We wrote this with you in mind - you were our inspiration from the moment we came up with the idea to the moment we typed the last word. This book is for you and you alone. We see you and we are here for you. As a Black girl, you are not an afterthought for us - you are the centre of every chapter in this book, just as you deserve to be.
Introduction to Grown by Melissa Cummings-Quarry
To whoever is reading this right now, this book is dedicated to you. This book is for Black girls everywhere. It's our ode to Black girlhood and a celebration of our Black British Caribbean culture.
Grown is so special to me. It's a culmination of everything I have learned along the way as I transitioned from a babygirl to a big woman.
We rarely discuss it, but you already know that as a young Black girl you are vulnerable. In so many ways, society fails to recognise that we even exist - and that starts when we are erased from conversations about girlhood. As Black girls, we have this weird period where we are told that we shouldn't get involved in 'big people's business'. We're often accused of being 'too fast' or 'nuff', and so we don't get to experience our girlhood in a way that is afforded to our male counterparts. We don't get the 'boys will be boys' equivalent tagline. We have all the expectations of adulthood placed upon us without the reward.
We are treated, characterised and judged as adults before we really get to explore and enjoy what it means to be a young Black girl. At times, it feels like we aren't allowed to even make mistakes. We are expected to be 'grown', to be mature, to be respectable, to wash plate and to carry ourselves properly well before we know who we really are, let alone how we feel.
Grown is our way of reclaiming a word that has been weaponised against Black girls and used to stereotype us as sometimes being too 'too much', whilst simultaneously making us feel like we aren't enough. We're turning that word on its head and giving it positive vibes. Grown is a mood. It's a mindset. It's a mantra. It's a lifestyle. It embodies everything that makes us who we are.
I can't lie. I desperately needed Grown when I was growing up. I was constantly searching for something that would fill in the gaps and cater directly to my experiences as a young Black girl. Like so many of us, I felt like I was taking L after L, and if it wasn't but for the support and guidance of my friends who let me know that I was never alone, things would have been tough. When I finally got sick of waiting for other people to make a space at the table for me, in the famous last words of incredible Black women everywhere, I said, 'F*** it. I'll do it myself'.
From our very first thoughts to our final words, this book is all about you, sis. In these pages we share our stories alongside important rites of passage, valuable advice and life lessons. We want to ensure you know how to shoot your shot, and in turn how to Secure the Bag. We want to give you the skills to show up and show out while making sure you're looking on point when doing it. We will be discussing self-care, well-being, beauty and skincare tips, and providing practical advice that teaches you how to make money moves that will help secure financial independence and freedom. From fashion to featurism, we are going to have honest conversations that lay bare what it means to be a young Black girl trying to get to grown. This is the seasoning to your sauce. That extra sprinkling of Black Girl Magic in book form.
Grown is more than just a generic toolkit or a guide. Grown is a complete manifestation of all the experiences of Black women who came before us. Our mothers, grandmothers, sisters and aunties. The girlfriends that listened to me rant about boys. The aunties that lent me books where Black women were the focus. Black women on the street that told me my hair looked good or that I was beautiful. Social media influencers who let me know that whatever I was feeling or thinking was ok and totally normal. The ancestors who through sheer determination and bravery made it possible for me to be here today, writing the introduction to my very first book. Grown is an amplification of all the beauty in our Blackness.
Just know that Grown was created for all Black girls. When we say Black girls, we mean everyone who identifies as such. This is 'for us, by us' because we exist, and by virtue of us existing we deserve to be represented. We don't need to ever wait to feel seen. We don't need anyone else to make us feel recognised.
From girl to grown, The Black Girls' Guide to Glowing Up was written with one thing in mind, sis. You.