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In December 2022, Year 12 UKSSN students Daphne (Buckinghamshire) and Zoya (Lancashire) spoke live online to 20-year-old activist Mya-Rose Craig about her memoir Birdgirl. Mya-Rose spoke about how she became an activist, her experience of seeing climate change first hand and how her family’s struggles with mental health have impacted her love of nature. The event was aimed at Year 9-13 students.
Click the button below to watch a recording of the event. Below you can also read a book review of Birdgirl by Daphne and Zoya that they completed in preparation for their conversation with the author.
Click here for the recording of a talk by Mya-Rose from earlier the same day aimed at Year 5-8 pupils about her other book We Have a Dream: Meet 30 Young Indigenous People and People of Colour Protecting the Planet.
Book review of Birdgirl
Book Review of Birdgirl by Year 12 students Daphne and Zoya
"Until now, I don’t think I have ever felt more fully seen by a book than I have with Birdgirl. Written by a Gen Z, VME [Visual Minority Ethnic] woman, this book fully showcases growing up in England with a South Asian background, alongside the sometimes crippling shadow of mental health with the overhanging threat of climate change looming ahead.
From the beautiful illustrations of the specific bird for each chapter and the interspersed information on birdwatching, I learnt so much from this book. It allowed me to experience real-life events and occasions across the globe and I felt I was growing up alongside the author and it was so easy to read. I swallowed it all up in a couple of days and felt so close to the author, constantly wanting her to succeed in all her goals – sometimes simply just spotting the most famed bird on a trip, other times rooting for her as she built up her platform and met so many amazing people.
The gorgeous narrative of this autobiography made me laugh and brought me to tears, made me consider all the inequality in our world as well as appreciate the untarnished beauty of nature that is still out there for us to find. It pushed me to want to forage among the forests of Indonesia, hike the national parks of America, and suffer through the heat of the bush down under. It also brought attention to all the things I often overlook when I go on holiday – most importantly my environmental impact, but also how important ecotourism is for vulnerable communities and how I can use my position of comparative privilege to help and contribute positively to them. Moreover, it highlighted the importance of race and religion and as a South Asian woman living in Britain, these are things that have always been in the back of my mind, and I’m glad Mya-Rose has used her platform to comment on the unpunished acts of racism and islamophobia that run rampant around us.
Moreover, throughout the entire book, the author never shied away from difficult topics. Mental health and the effects of mental illness were intentionally foregrounded in order to push for attention and acknowledgement of these overarching problems. Indigenous people and their plight were also pushed to the forefront, forcing us the reader to realise what is going on around us.
Finally, as a teenage girl, the book sat me down and gave me words of wisdom – that individuality is never a bad thing and that all the different sides of your life make up one whole person and that one person has enough of a voice to push for change."
By Daphne, Year 12, Buckinghamshire
"Birdgirl is a beautiful book depicting the challenging experiences that the inspirational author Dr Mya-Rose Craig overcame on her incredible journey as an environment and diversity activist.
In the opening of the novel, Mya-Rose describes the sandpiper wading bird and explains how its plight is connected to sea level rise in Bangladesh. This information really affected me as I have family living in Bangladesh and it was extremely alarming yet informative, allowing me to realise the importance of saving such birds and why Mya-Rose emphasises it so heavily.
On the other hand, the focus on what Mya-Rose experienced as the child of a parent suffering with poor mental health was very emotive and eye opening. Using her profile to share such experiences will empower other children going through similar situations, especially if they have not had any support.
I appreciate that Mya-Rose has used her platform to discuss these stigmatised topics – such as cultural pressures surrounding marriage – as I know many people who are still struggling with this right now and I know how comforting reading this would be to them. Reading her mother’s story was very moving and sharing that she divorced her first husband will help a lot of young women in BAME communities where divorce is often looked down upon. Hopefully, this will encourage a lot of young women in such communities to gather the courage to leave toxic relationships, especially if they are pregnant or have a child and feel ashamed to leave.
Reading about her efforts to tackle climate injustice throughout the novel was extremely moving and inspirational. It was fascinating how she successfully related climate injustice to her love of birds through the amazing conservation projects mentioned. She has accomplished so much already in her lifetime, still only aged twenty, and reading about her efforts to improve diversity in the birding community was very touching. I have also noticed that a lot of individuals from my community have become less involved with nature in recent years so it also inspired me on what changes I could make at a local level.
This book was fantastic – it was heartfelt and tackles a variety of heavy topics. Reading it is bound to be insightful and I would strongly recommend all demographics to read it, especially young people concerned with environmental activism who want to make a difference and need inspiration on how to get started."
By Zoya, Year 12, Lancashire
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