Kenya Hunt joins us as our December Guest Editor to celebrate the upcoming release of her book, Girl Gurl Grrrl: On Womanhood and Belonging in the Age of Black Girl Magic. We chatted with the author, who is also the Fashion Director for Grazia UK, about her new book, why it’s essential to today’s climate, and what’s next.
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Why this book in this moment?
Black women have never been more visible than we are right now — whether leading an historic social justice movement or becoming an historic first in politics or dominating mainstream newsstands at unprecedented levels. I wanted to celebrate this and also explore the nuances and contradictions that come with it. I wanted to explore how Black women show up for one another and advocate for ourselves when the world consistently does not.
I began thinking about this book when I was pregnant with my second son. There was something about the experience of slowing down during pregnancy and after childbirth with both my sons that inspired a period of self-reflection for me.
I’m a big believer in journaling and during the course of my second maternity leave, as I was trying to makes sense of my life and the world in my notebooks, I began noticing certain patterns and themes that I thought needed to be explored in longer form. I realised that I kept circling back to a series of events in my life and in the world at large that took place over the past 10 years — and that this also coincided with a gradual increase in visibility around Black women from the rise of hashtags including #BlackGirlMagic and #BlackExcellence to the movement Black Lives Matter to unprecedented milestones in politics, arts and culture.
This book is very much a love letter to us. But I think it also speaks to a universal need to find one’s purpose.
You wear many hats: journalist, fashion editor, advocate through R.O.O.M Mentoring, mother, wife and more … did any one of these perspectives particularly influence your writing?
I think they all did in that I explore all those facets of myself in one essay or another. But as a journalist, I suppose you could say all of my experience as a writer and editor played out in the book in terms of the mechanics of the writing.
Was there an essay topic that you ended up setting aside for this book, but can’t wait to explore and share in the near future?
After writing the chapter, On Motherhood, I had originally planned to scrap it altogether because it was so deeply personal. I felt vulnerable. But I ultimately, decided to include it in the book in an effort to help normalise talking about our maternal health outcomes.
Although this book explores womanhood, what lessons from this book do you hope to instill in your sons as they navigate this world?
I read an article in the New York Times a while back in which a psychologist Amber Hewitt said that Black joy stems from knowing who we are and where we come from, “the good and the bad,” and having a full understanding of the achievement, the pain, victories, atrocities — all of it — in our history. I hope my sons will one day read this book and use the fullness of their history to inhabit the fullness of themselves.
(Photo credit: @kenyahunt)
What’s your next writing project?
Hopefully book number 2!
About the Book
In the vein of Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist and Issa Rae’s The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, but wholly its own, a provocative, humorous, and, at times, heartbreaking collection of essays on what it means to be black, a woman, a mother, and a global citizen in today’s ever-changing world.
Black women have never been more visible or more publicly celebrated than they are now. But for every new milestone, every magazine cover, every box office record smashed, every new face elected to public office, the reality of everyday life for black women remains a complex, conflicted, contradiction-laden experience.
An American journalist who has been living and working in London for a decade, Kenya Hunt has made a career of distilling moments, movements, and cultural moods into words. Her work takes the difficult and the indefinable and makes it accessible; it is razor sharp cultural observation threaded through evocative and relatable stories.
Girl Gurl Grrrl both illuminates our current cultural moment and transcends it. Hunt captures the zeitgeist while also creating a timeless celebration of womanhood, of blackness, and the possibilities they both contain. She blends the popular and the personal, the frivolous and the momentous in a collection that truly reflects what it is to be living and thriving as a black woman today.
About the Author
Kenya Hunt is the Fashion Director of Grazia UK. Her career spans working for some of the media world’s most influential women’s titles on both sides of the Atlantic from her post-graduate days as an Assistant Editor at the seminal magazine, Jane, to her years as Deputy Editor of ELLE UK. Her writing has appeared in The Guardian, The Evening Standard, Vogue and other publications. And she has made a number of appearances on BBC Woman’s Hour, Sky News and more. An American based in England, she lives south of the river in London with her husband and two sons.
Read the author’s personal book recommendations here.