Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
Published by Grove Press on May 2nd, 2019
Genres: Feminism, Fiction, LGBTQIA, Race
“life is an adventure to be embraced with an open mind and loving heart”
Surprisingly, I haven’t read that many books that have won the coveted Booker (formerly Man Booker) prize. I’ve had my eye on Girl, Woman, Other for months, and it took me quite awhile to finish it. But at least now I can understand the hype surrounding the book!
Girl, Woman, Other follows twelve central characters who all lead vastly different lives: Amma is a newly acclaimed playwright whose work explores her Black lesbian identity; her old friend Shirley is a teacher, jaded after work in London’s funding-deprived schools; Carole, one of Shirley’s former students, is a successful investment banker; Carole’s mother Bummi works as a cleaner and worries about her daughter’s lack of rootedness despite her obvious achievements.
From a nonbinary social media influencer to a 93-year-old woman living on a farm in Northern England, these characters also intersect in shared aspects of their identities, from age to race to sexuality to class.
While I was reading this, I was struck by how moving and hopeful this story was. It’s grown to be even more relevant than when it was initially published.
I think it’s a magnificent portrayal of something that I find so fascinating: identity. She touches upon this idea of how identity shapes you whether you want it to or not. And that’s something I know all people who have been characterized as “other” has experienced.
Under the broad umbrella of identity, Evaristo focuses on race, living and surviving in a white dominant culture and its implications and repercussions, the broad church of thinking when it comes to the definition of “Black” and the questions of identity.
Evaristo also does a fantastic job of painting a very vivid picture of what it is like for Black British women living in the state of contemporary Britain. But she also connects it back to the legacy of Britian’s brutal colonial history in Africa and the Caribbean.
I don’t know that I necessarily connected very deeply with all the characters, but I appreciated their stories and experiences. Evaristo makes you stop and think about just how broad and diverse the spectrum of black women’s voices are. Each character is distinct, from differing backgrounds, ages, roots, class, occupations, families, from many parts of the country and sexuality in all its forms.
The reason why I found this book so profoundly moving was because of the way its written.
Evaristo borrows from prose and poetry and does away with conventional punctuation and form. I think the emotion shines through because of this.
I didn’t necessarily like how all the stories were connected, but I did like that they were brought together through a seamless feminist narrative. We need more stories like this! A honest and human portrayal and spotlight focus on women.
So after all that praise, why only a four bubble tea rating? I had to knock a bubble tea off because I hated how long it was. And for as many pages as it was, the ending felt rushed and abrupt!
But I highly recommend this book and I will be trying to read some other Booker prize winners too!