A FLY Girl’s Guide to University is a collection of memoirs, essays, poetry and prose from four women of colour – Lola Olufemi, Odelia Younge, Waithera Sebatindira, and Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan – who studied at the University of Cambridge. It is a multifaceted calling out of the wrongness underpinning their shared experience at Cambridge, and the experiences of others in similar institutions throughout the UK. But they describe it best: ‘The purpose of our book is simple: we believe that our lives, our experiences, and our voices matter, especially in a place of power, pervasive whiteness and exclusivity. Our voices not only deserve to be heard but must be because the ‘Cambridge experience’ of a middle-class, white, cisgendered, able-bodied man is not the only one. Ours cannot be silenced.
We came together through FLY, a network specifically by and for women and non-binary people of colour at Cambridge. As members of FLY, we were all vocal and active in feminist and anti-racist politics, as well as adamant about intersectionality – whether in education, research, creating spaces on campus or in our campaigning. Through meeting there, hearing one another and experiencing our absences elsewhere, we decided to write this book. Writing gave us a language and space that we were not often afforded and a chance to live beyond the niches carved out for us by others. This book exists as a testament to our existences in a place we were often made invisible, and stands as a demonstration of the fact that we have the power to validate ourselves.
We believe our book itself to be a form of activism in its fearless sharing of our experiences and in contributing to the provision of previously silenced truths. In some ways, the importance of what we say is almost as important as the fact we say it at all because the power of this book is borne from the desire to continue a legacy of recording lived experiences of those whose stories often go unpublished. We want our work to act as a disruption, a hope, and a symbol that though marginalised in many ways and many spaces, we are very much alive, evolving and powerful.’