Girl, Woman, Other – A Love Letter to Black Womanhood ★★★★

Bernardine Evaristo became the first black woman to co-win the Booker Prize, alongside Margaret Atwood. Her book, Girl, Woman, Other, follows the lives of 12 black women in the UK. Evaristo spins their disparate stories around Amma’s – a gay black theatre writer – opening night at the National Theatre. 

The book deals with themes of patriarchy, identity, gender, sexuality, feminism, and success, and Evaristo’s energetic style maintains intrigue throughout. The lack of full stops and capital letters accentuate the key artistic quality of the novel – fluidity. 

Fluidity of prose characterizes the novel, and fluidity of class, sexuality, and gender. Through Carole, a banker, we witness how success for black women is only attainable by leaving their working-class roots behind. Evaristo describes her book as one that delves into the lives of ‘12 black womxn,’ the ‘x’ being trans-inclusive, as she tackles gender fluidity through the character of Megan/Morgan. 

Evaristo’s writing flows as well. The novel is structured as a prose poem, meaning that, even for a novel with no plot, the momentum does not falter. 

The lack of homogeneity among the 12 distinct lives accentuates the variety of female experiences during the transition from womanhood to adulthood. The contemporary themes accentuate Evaristo’s underlying message: “We are as varied and multiple, in who we are and how we behave in our desires, as any other social group or demographic anywhere.”

Evaristo carefully analyses the ‘other’ in her title, exploring how women of colour are othered in society. She states that “the women in the book are ‘othered’ in terms of their sexuality, on account of their class, on account of whether they are immigrants or not, and they even ‘other’ each other”. 

These questions of feminism and race are timeless. Evaristo’s ability to deliver equal measures of empathy to all 12 women lets us sympathise with their individual stories; they are all survivors in their own way.

Evaristo writes the experiences of African and Caribbean women with passion, energy, and humour. Her fresh, inspiring, and lyrical approach makes for an engrossing hybrid of prose and poetry about the African diaspora.

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