For Black Girls: The Shaping of a Young Woman is a coming of age mentorship book that discusses identity, family relationships, health and beauty.
Truth be told, being a woman has it’s challenges. We all know this. We live it everyday and read about it even more online.
Without getting too political, I’ll say this—being black and a woman can sometimes be a double edge sword.
I came across the book entitled For Black Girls: The Shaping of a Young Woman while strolling through the internet a few weeks back.
I must admit, the title intrigued me.
One click led to another and I came across the book author’s website and started learning a little bit more about Nana Abraham and her inspiration behind writing the book.
For Black Girls: The Shaping of a Young Woman is a coming of age mentorship book that discusses identity, family relationships, health, and beauty while encouraging decision making, visioning, and goal setting for the future.
In it, Nana shares from her own life experiences growing up as a Canadian with West African roots.
I can definetly relate to being a young girl and not seeing myself reflected in the issues of Seventeen and Teen magazines, in the romantic comedies that I loved to watch or even the silly Saturday morning cartoons that I looked forward to watching.
Sure, there was Denise Huxtable and Lisa Turtle. But for every one young, black role model, there were 20 caucasian ones. That ratio was harldy any sort of showcase for the specturm of colours, shades, style, intellect and diversity that black woman span.
For Black Girls. acknowledges that stereotypes and images shape how we dress and think, but then the book offers to challenge the reader to develop a deeper understanding of what truly defines them.
I reached out to Nana to learn more about her creative process and what she hopes that young black girls will take away after reading For Black Girls: The Shaping of a Young Woman.
Below is my Q&A with Nana Abraham, the author of For Black Girls: The Shaping of a Young Woman.
1. Why did you decide to write the book, For Black Girls: The Shaping of a Young Woman?
I have worked with young women for over 13 years. As someone that has watched many grow from childhood into womanhood, I often noticed that many young girls struggled with the same things. I wanted to give them a book that would be a handbook for some of life’s common issues.
2. What were some of your personal experiences that you drew upon in order to author this book?
I wrote about my experiences dealing with stereotypes and finding my identity. I also wrote about my own struggle with seeing myself as beautiful. I discussed things I’ve learned about guys and dating from my life.
3. What do you want the reader to come away with after reading For Black Girls?
I want each girl/woman to know that they are unique and a gift to the world. I want them to feel empowered to make decisions based on who they are and what they want out of life instead of just being a prop in someone else’s life story.
4. Why is it important for young black women to see themselves in contemporary literature?
Sometimes being a young black woman in our society can feel like you are invisible. The more we see ourselves in contemporary literature the more it normalizes our different contributions to society.
We are seen for who we are instead of through the lenses of many different stereotypes. I think it is empowering for young women to see reflections of themselves often and in all areas of society.
Sometimes the popular promoted images of young black women in media are not positive.
5. What do you currently see as lacking (at school, at work, career development, creative development, community resources, role models, mentorship, etc) for young black women?
In my own perspective I think there is a lot out there and available for young black women. More could be done in school to show that each person has their own frame work of how they approach life based on how they were raised and their cultural experiences.
We often shy away from this preferring to pretend that there are no real differences in how we approach life when in fact some people have very distinct experiences based solely on their cultural background.
We need to be able to share, learn and grow from what we know about each other.
We also need more black professional women mentoring young black women in low income communities.
This will help young women to see themselves beyond their current circumstances and realize how many different options are available to them outside of their neighborhoods.
This will help many young women begin setting goals for themselves.
6. How can we further support young black women?
Uplifting them by speaking positively about their beauty even though it doesn’t always fit into the mainstream European standard.
Not participating in online shaming and negative conversations. Accepting that there is a wide spectrum of “black woman” and that you don’t need to fit women into stereotypes in order to categorize them.
7. You’re currently working as a child and youth worker for The Scott Mission. How has your professional background helped you with your creative career?
On a practical note I have a somewhat flexible schedule which allows me to pick specific times where I can work on my writing.
Also the passion that I have for helping young women comes from my work and translates into stories, articles and videos that I want to write and share.
I don’t know if I would have this passion if I didn’t have this career. The Scott Mission is also very supportive and allows me to be creative in the different ways that I choose to work with the girls.
8. How do you balance the two passions?
The two passions kind of balance themselves. One passion feeds into the other. On the practical side time management is paramount.
9. What are some tips or advice that’d you give to others pursuing a creative career?
Manage your time well and don’t let difficulties or upsets stop you from pursuing your dreams. Life is always going to have things happening—good and bad. You have to make up your mind that nothing will prevent you from fulfilling your purpose.
Who is your role model and why?
I have many role models, a few of them are my peers that I work with at Church or The Scott Mission. They are pursuing their dreams and helping others. It’s amazing to behold!