January: “Girl, Woman, Other” by Bernardine Evaristo
Girl, Woman, Other
by Bernardine Evaristo
Our January 2020 Book of the Month
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo, the British-Nigerian winner of the 2019 Booker Prize, compels me to use the often cliché term tour de force. This brilliant eighth novel outshines the lifetime achievement nod to Margaret Atwood that had it share the spotlight with an inferior work. Organized as a quartet of 3 characters each the novel paints the intimate, detailed, and plenary lives of 12 diverse British women. Each story may touch the others in a slight tangential way or have deep familial or communal ties. However, bound together they chronicle a complete and powerful story of what it is and has been to be a black woman or other in Britain. Evaristo shatters the illusion of a monolithic experience and breathes life into each of her characters’ lives as they span time and place. The novel explores deep themes of feminism, gender identity, and what it truly means to feel other. Each woman is skillfully sketched with a unique voice. I was drawn equally to all of their lives as they sought to fulfill their desires, shared their hopes and dreams, and lived through success and failure. Girl, Woman, Other is the January Book of the Month because it is a collection of perfectly rendered portraits that tell a powerful and unconventional story about how where we come from can not be extricated from who we become. This is a perfect book to start off great discussions in the new year.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Bernardine Evaristo is the winner of the 2019 Booker Prize and the first black woman to receive this highest literary honor in the English language. Girl, Woman, Other is a magnificent portrayal of the intersections of identity and a moving and hopeful story of an interconnected group of Black British women that paints a vivid portrait of the state of contemporary Britain and looks back to the legacy of Britain’s colonial history in Africa and the Caribbean.
The twelve central characters of this multi-voiced novel lead vastly different lives: Amma is a newly acclaimed playwright whose work often explores her Black lesbian identity; her old friend Shirley is a teacher, jaded after decades of 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 unforgettable characters also intersect in shared aspects of their identities, from age to race to sexuality to class.
Sparklingly witty and filled with emotion, centering voices we often see othered, and written in an innovative fast-moving form that borrows technique from poetry, Girl, Woman, Other is a polyphonic and richly textured social novel that shows a side of Britain we rarely see, one that reminds us of all that connects us to our neighbors, even in times when we are encouraged to be split apart.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Anglo-Nigerian writer Bernardine Evaristo is the celebrated author of eight books and the winner of the 2019 Booker Prize. Her writing is characterized by experimentation, daring, subversion, and challenging the myths of various Afro-diasporic histories and identities, and her books range in genre from poetry to short story to drama to criticism. She lives in London.
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