This attempt to erase my African identity seems absurd to me now, but at the time, it just didn’t seem that cool to to admit that I was from the continent, as obvious as it was – because where were the African role models? Where were the Africans doing big things on the world stage? To even ask these questions I was showing my own naivety.

Mawunyo Gbogbo’s memoir is one of growing up black in country New South Wales. It’s a story about her search for identity, religion, love, and work.

Gbogbo’s story tells what it’s like to grow up in an Australia mining town in the 1990s. She describes being a young woman, who is at times reckless with her future and relationships, and who struggles deeply to find her place in the world.

This is a memoir about rising up despite the challenges and blows of life.

Recommended for those who have an interest in hip hop and what it means to be an African Australian woman. Many thanks to Penguin Random House Australia for sending me a copy to review.

Publisher’s blurb below:

A memoir of loving hard, falling apart and fighting back, set to an unrivalled playlist.

‘Hip hop and hymns: the two would always go hand in hand for me. My life would always straddle both. The sacred and the profane, all living on the same block, all divine in the end.’

Mawunyo Gbogbo is a church-going African Australian girl growing up in the sleepy mining town of Muswellbrook, NSW. At home, her parents argue all the time, and sibling rivalry runs deep. At primary school, Black Is Beautiful until a racist bully dares to tell her otherwise. But at high school, she falls in love with two things that will alter the course of her adult life: the seductive thrill of hip hop music and charismatic bad boy Tyce Carrington. Tyce also feels like an alien in Australia, despite his Aboriginality – or because of it.

When Mawunyo’s offered a chance to further her budding media career in New York City at the Bible of hip hop, The Source magazine, she throws herself headlong into the city’s heady buzz and hustle – but even as it lures her in, it threatens to derail her dreams.

Hip Hop & Hymns is a tussle between the search for belonging and ultimately accepting who you are, and a clear-eyed, heartfelt story about daring greatly and what it can mean to be Black in Australia.