What did you want to tell with this story?

This book is what I wish I had read growing up. I had no choice but to write it. I always knew I wanted to help young people go through what I went through. It would have helped if I had read it growing up. People say to me that I’m so focused on race. But the thing is: I wasn’t brought up thinking about race. My father is a white Jewish German who moved to Great Britain as a child and fell in love with my mother, who had moved there from Ghana. They had always taught me to be confident and trust myself. I had never heard of micro-aggression or imposters syndrome. But all these things came my way when I ventured out in the world, and studied at Oxford for instance. Now that the book is out, I’m surprised how many can relate to my story. A lot of people feel alone or have a sense of their otherness being questioned.

When did you think “This is never going to work” and how did you overcome that point?”

Uh, I often thought it wouldn’t happen, this book. I wrote sixty versions of my outline, yes that’s 6-0. But once my agent felt I had nailed it and sent it out, we could pick a publisher. I went from defeat to being elated. From then on it was easy to write it; my outline was so detailed I knew exactly what to do. I felt I had already found my voice writing for the Guardian. But I had to take distance from my personal experiences and find a way to write about them. For the Guardian I rarely write first person or talk about personal stuff. And I felt really self-conscious – like the imposter syndrome I described, I was wondering: who am I to report this?

Who are your narrative hero’s in your country?

Can I mention someone from outside of my country? My hero would be Oprah – I just met her last week. I feel a lot of time we ask people to treat us fairly. But there’s only so much you can ask. Having to ask is actually demeaning. At some point she said: I’m not going to ask, I’ll just build my own platform. And that’s what she’s done. I love the spirit of that. That is how you create change. I’m currently working on two documentaries for the BBC. We’re now asking for equal pay, but we’re still years away from asking equal pay for people of all backgrounds. She’s my source of inspiration.

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This maker's story

Brit(ish)

Sky- and Guardian-journalist Afua Hirsch recently published her first book, Brit-ish, revealing a crisis of identity in Britain and the country's failure to provide British people of diverse backgrounds with a sense of belonging and inclusion. Drawing on her own life, and decades of working on issues of social justice, equality and the politics of identity and immigration, Afua has written a book for anyone who has experienced outsiderness or otherness themselves, or who cares about the profound differences alienating British people today. Her book is a powerful narrative on finding your own voice as a storyteller.


Maker: Afua Hirsch

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