No Spoilers :)
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo is a novel that follows the lives of 12 characters in the United Kingdom over the course of several decades. It was joint-winner (with Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments) of the Booker Prize for Fiction in 2019, which was richly deserved for its effortless inclusivity, and its exploration of time. I have personally never read a novel that expressed intersectionality (the different layers of our political identities), queerness and inter-generational relationships so beautifully and naturally.
During this period of time, when social justice is becoming openly discussed amongst people and institutions, it is important to be aware of the different types of people within this world, including the UK. Many identities face erasure from their own groups or mainstream groups and this book brings different races, religions and sexual identities together.
I was drawn to the first character, Amma, who is a lesbian socialist playwright and her daughter, Yazz, who is a defiant young woman who likes to educate herself thoroughly. I like both characters because they subvert what we are collectively taught. Schools and the media teach us about playwrights who were or are white men. We are never taught about black women or black lesbian women and it just creates the perception that they do not exist. Additionally, the media always tends to portray young people, especially young people of colour, as immature and less successful because they are young and Yazz subverts this perfectly. She is an educated black character who does not seek the approval of her white peers and I absolutely love that.
The relationship between Amma and Yazz is also one that wouldn’t be deemed as conventional. We see how Amma, who would have been considered radical in her time, is not in Yazz’s time and this causes conflict in their relationship. To read about a black mother and daughter speak about LGBTQ matters and feminism is quite unconventional, as queer or political based subjects tend to be a taboo. This book shows a side of the black community that rarely makes it into the media or conversations about black people.
Personally, despite the novel being fictional, the incorporation of all types of people seems so facile it is presented as a documentation of people’s lives. From non-binary character, Morgan, who explores their gender identity through the internet, to black straight women like Shirley, who find it difficult to navigate queer spaces, the spectrum is vast, just like our world.
This book helps readers step into the life of another and question what we accept as normal. It delves fully into the unconventional, unknown world of the UK that many may be oblivious to. I particularly love the book’s ability to provoke questions and thoughts on the meaning of ‘selling out’ - what it is like to settle for a man who upholds patriarchal views when you’re a feminist; what a chosen family truly means; the progression of equality over time. I would recommend this to anyone looking for a thought-provoking read, a book that gives new insight into the UK from minority perspectives.
AUTHOR: Olamide Taiwo
My name is Olamide Taiwo and I’m 18. I have always loved to write whether it be poetry, reviews, essays etc. Becoming a blogger allows me to write and publish issues that I see and go through. So I hope the readers hold on because this will be a pleasant but bumpy ride😊.