Updated: Apr 11, 2022
An empowering read that would have made my sixteen-year-old self breathe a sigh of relief.
Grace Campbell's first book, Amazing Disgrace, is nothing shy of an act of feminism. Where many before her have been too afraid to tread, Grace candidly talks about her own experiences of shame toward her body, her sexuality, and her mental health. Daughter of Tony Blair's spokesman, Alastair Campbell, and well-known loose woman, Fiona Millar, Grace discusses growing up during the height of her father’s career, the Iraq war, and the ‘very un-sexy friction’ that came with it all. This first-hand account leaves you wondering whether Grace has ever had an experience that she hasn’t shared out-loud and all the more grateful for it. While not everything about Grace is relatable, her journey to adulthood and navigation of sex, drugs, and self-worth will have you laughing, crying, and eventually, if your experience has been anything like mine, leaving you feeling a little less alone.
Mimicking the comedic wisdom of a friend or the big sister you did or didn’t have, Grace’s narrative voice is palpable from the first page. Despite making huge attitudinal leaps in recent years when discussing taboo subjects such as mental health and sex, fighting my own internal discomfort with some of the themes in this humorous memoir only made the message more poignant. Campbell discusses her discovery of masturbation at the early age of nine, the instinctive shame that followed, and her journey to sexual empowerment. The comedian, writer, and activist's personal account of the trials and tribulations of being a woman that is labelled ‘a lot to handle’, encourages women – young and old – to continue taking up space. Needless to say, Amazing Disgrace is an emotional rollercoaster. It might drive your grandmother to the confession box, but it is a gruellingly honest account of one girl’s journey from girlhood to womanhood in the modern world.
Campbell is extremely self-aware from start to finish. Whether it is discussing issues of race or class, Grace never fails to reference her glaringly obvious privilege. From meeting the Putin family (that’s aged poorly) to sharing a private box with Boris Johnson at a Miley Cyrus concert, she doesn’t shy away from the fact that she has had more than most. One of my favourite things about this book is that even if you wish you didn’t relate to some of Grace’s embarrassing moments, her refreshing honesty leads you to a place of self-acceptance – a place where shame is far less shameful. The book is broken up with scripts, lists, and other fun titbits which makes the walk-through of Grace's life even more immersive and fun to read.
Although the messages in this book are all extremely powerful, Grace’s advantageous parentage is difficult to dismiss throughout the read. She is certainly self-aware, but it doesn’t change the fact that she has been given an obvious ‘leg-up’ in life. Although she is attempting to assert herself as her own person, separate of her parent’s publicised pasts, whether she is too privileged to feel relatable will vary for each reader and is something to remain mindful of before picking up this book. I wasn’t personally aware of the politics surrounding Grace’s upbringing and therefore it didn’t cloud my judgement of her, however, I would urge anyone to read this book before tarnishing Grace as merely ‘Alastair Campbell’s daughter’.
So, if you are looking for a much-needed dose of empowerment, Campbell’s first book is brimming at the seams. Whilst her brash honestly and lack of ‘beating around the bush’ won’t be for everyone, this empowering read would have made my sixteen-year-old self breathe a sigh of relief. I closed this book feeling like an empowered young woman, ready to be the too loud, too opinionated daughter at family dinners once again. Grace is leading a revolution of women who are going to be ruthless and in the best way possible.