'Minun tarinani ei ole se, kun ohikulkijat vetelevät minua silmäripsistä, kun ihmiset koskettelevat kyselemättä hiuksiani, ja kertovat minulle kuinka olen manteli ja maitokahvi ja mokkalatte ja vadelmasuklaa ja seepra ja panda ja hevonen ja apina ja kookospähkinä ja Oreo-keksi.'
'My story is not how passersby pull my eyelashes, when people touch my hair without asking and tell me how I'm an almond and coffee with milk and a mocha latte and raspberry chocolate and a zebra and a panda and a horse and a monkey and a coconut and an Oreo.'
This is the first book I actually reserved from the local library. I queued for it for nearly two months and I was lucky to still get it while I'm here for the summer. That I will allow to speak volumes of how much I wanted to read it. I would have happily queued for this for two years, if I needed to.
I don't know where I should start in talking about this. There's so much I want to say, because everything in this book is important and the only way I'll get through it all is by writing the book again, here. I'll try my best to say what matters the most. Bear with me, please.
Let me just tell you up front that Ruskeat Tytöt ('Brown Girls') is a very personal work, one born out of necessity. The author wrote this book because there wasn't a work like it when she needed one in her life. She wrote it because there's not enough representation of people like her; girls who have lived in Finland her whole life but are the 'wrong' colour and therefore are treated like strangers.
This book talks about both racism and feminism, hence the two parts of the name. More accurately, it's about intersectional feminism; the idea that various aspects of our lives affect us at the same time. As in, the author's is both a girl and brown at all times, and both of these things make her often invisible in the media and affect how other people view her.
The author Koko Hubara is also the founder of Ruskeat Tytöt, the first Finnish 'from us to us' media for brown girls. There's some information about it in English here if you're interested. It matters because the representations given to us in the media are always coloured by whether or not the author understands the implications of race in their work. We white people don't always think about that, because we don't grow up constantly thinking about our own whiteness in a world where we perceive it to be the norm. I get that now, having read this book.
The book is divided into chapters about different subjects; the way girls are (and black girls aren't) portayed in media, 30 facts about Yemen, sexual violence is sexual violence, the way the collection of statistics in Finland makes brown girls seem nonexistent. They're all important things, and I think it's vital that we acknowledge them as problems and maybe even some as solutions. Therefore I'd like to suggest that reading this is almost as important even if you're not a Brown Girl. I say 'almost as' because to a Brown Girl this could be a lifeline, while to me it's something I want to make a change in.
'Näen itseni näköisiä ihmisiä suomalaisessa mediassa yleensä vain silloin, kun aiheena ovat turvapaikanhakijat, islamisaatio, terrorismi, tyttöjen ympärileikkauset, raiskaukset ja muut suututtavat tragediat, samaan aikaan kun valkoisilla ihmisillä on nähtävänään ja kulutettavanaan esitystapoja enemmän kuin taivaalla on tähtiä.'
'I see people that look like me in Finnish media usually only when the topics are asylum seekers, islamisation, terrorism, the circumcision of girls, rapes and other tragedies to make you angry, meanwhile white people have ways of representation to use and to spend more than there are stars in the sky.'
I also want to tell you that the language of this book is amazing; it's beautiful and thoughtful and deeply touching. It's not amazing 'for a brown person' or anything like that (I feel like mentioning this is important just in case anyone thought anything different); it's absolutely gorgeous for any person and I wish I could formulate my thoughts half as well. It's one of the best-written books I'll read this year.
I decided, after thinking about it for a couple of days, to rate this 4/5. It's because it sometimes jars a bit, which isn't an experience Just because I didn't give this a full 5/5 doesn't mean that I don't think this is one of the most important books I will read this year. It doesn't mean that you shouldn't read it no matter who you are or where you are, regardless of the constraints of your colour or gender or preconceptions. Of course, the language can be a problem, but I'm sure Brown Girls feel these things no matter where they are. And us White Girls and Boys can always be better. Also, this is a book I'll buy for my own shelf without any qualms when I see it. I want to have a copy of it to give to my friends to read.
For the Helmet 2017 reading challenge I put this in category 42: A debut book!