Hana Shafi
Book*hug Press, 2020
165 pages
ISBN: 9781771666091
Reviewed by Lauryn Mackenzie

Hana Shafi makes it very clear in the introduction of Small, Broken, and Kind of Dirty: Affirmations for the Real World that this is NOT a self-help book. It has evolved from her very popular Instagram series where Shafi is known as Frizz Kid to over 42,000 followers. There she delves into sexism, racism, and body politics as she does in these short essays divided into five chapters: “On Kindness,” “On Bodies,” “On Politics,” “On Self-Love and Healing,” and “On Resilience and Mental Health.”

She peppers the essays with humour and pop culture references while discussing growing up Muslim and immigrating to Canada at a very young age. Shafi is a self-described feminist who affirms you don’t have to conform to traditional gender roles despite the toxic masculinity that many of the boys she went to school with exhibit.

She speaks about misogyny and white men who fetishize women of colour while critiquing how society praises men who fail to fully support women: “Yes, you’re hot, and it’s great that you don’t hate women, but we can’t be living in a world where that makes you special, right?”

Shafi’s essays follow her collection of poetry It Begins with the Body, listed as one of CBC’s Best Poetry Books of 2018 and features Shafi’s own detailed images that bring her words to life and illustrate, literally, how her drawing skills have grown as she’s aged.

Although the book speaks on serious topics, Shafi finds a way to look at the upside. It is a book for men, women, and non-binary people; it’s for those who wear Santa hats even though they don’t celebrate Christmas; it’s for people of colour; it’s for immigrants finding a new home in a new country; and it’s for those who need reminding they are not alone and can get through anything.

All that being said, Small, Broken, and Kind of Dirty: Affirmations for the Real World is clearly not a self-help book, but still Shafi has driven this home with her typical rallying cry. From “The Miraculous Underwear Sale of 2003” to playing a gender-bent Muslim Joseph in her Grade 4 play, Shafi shouts “Don’t “let the bastards grind us down.”