The Book Nook
Le Coin Lecture
Curl up and grab one of these books to help you navigate the work that's ahead.
This list is meant to help, challenge, and encourage discussions around DEI, Anti-Racism and Emerging Leadership practices.
December 1, 2022
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
What's this about?
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo follows the story of twelve different characters who, we slowly learn, are all linked in some way. Each character has their own chapter, in which their individual story unfolds, but they are also mentioned in other characters’ stories, where they take a secondary role or are mentioned in passing.
The novel opens with the story of Amma, a lesbian playwright with socialist inclinations, at the opening of one of her plays, one of her crowning achievements as a writer and artist. This is also where we meet many of our protagonists, as they attend the event, in different capacities. Some of them are relatives, friends, lovers. Others just happen to visit the theatre that night. A few are even in the throes of a harsh Twitter war and online arguments.
As the novel progresses, we encounter characters such as Dominique, Amma’s best friend; Morgan, a non-binary person who explores their gender identity through online content; Shirley, a teacher in London; Yazz, Amma’s daughter, amongst many others.
About The Author
Bernardine Evaristo is a Black British author, with over ten books and other writings under her belt spanning a wide array of genres, from poetry to non-fiction, short fiction, journalism and theatre drama, to name a few. Girl, Woman, Other is her eighth work of fiction, and it received many accolades, including the Booker Prize, the British Book Award’s Fiction Book of the Year and Author of the Year, and the Indie Book Award for Fiction.
Not only was Evaristo the first Black woman to win the prestigious Booker Prize in 2019 with Girl, Woman, Other, she was also the first Black British writer to ever receive it in its fifty years history. She also became the first woman of colour to stay #1 on the Sunday Times bestsellers' paperback fiction chart for five weeks, spending a total of 44 weeks in its Top 10.
Evaristo’s books have been translated in over 40 languages.
2SLGBTQIA+ literature, Racial justice, Black Lives Matter, Black women writers, Literary fiction
What We Liked
Most of the characters are Black women, most of them are British, but they are all moving through the world at different times, in different places, and coming into their own and their identities in different ways. In fact, though the characters and their stories overlap, most of them couldn’t be further from one another, their backgrounds and choices having led them through completely different experiences with gender, sexuality, time periods, where they live, and how they exist in the world. This is one of the many reasons why Evaristo’s novel is so compelling and reads so fluently; there is something deeply irresistible about the way the characters are brought to life and relate to each other.
Girl, Woman, Other is an unusual novel, not only because of its structure, but also because of its experimental writing style, somewhere between poetry and prose, without ever becoming one or the other. The writing, like the characters, is plural, and blurs the line between genres, in a style that is both masterful and unapologetically Evaristo’s.
What we remember : the final chapter, which confirms how some of the stories and characters are actually interlinked, giving the reader not only closure, but also a deep sense of having been a part of a story that is both mundane and larger than life.
What this book is : one of a kind. Girl, Woman, Other is more than a novel with very compelling characters, it’s also a stylistic experiment, pushing the boundaries between poetry and prose.
What this book isn't : a collection of short stories. Although there are twelve stories in the novel, they are all part of the same larger narrative and cannot properly exist without one another.
Why Read This Book
Girl, Woman, Other is the kind of novel that stays with you long after you finish reading it, maybe because many of the stories Evaristo explores in the novel are not commonly depicted in fiction. She writes stories in which race, gender, sexuality intersect constantly and in wildly different ways, creating nuanced narratives with characters that feel grounded, alive, realistic – yet there is something almost mythical about some of them, about their journeys, their hardships, their successes, their love stories. There is something larger, grander than life about the way the twelve different characters are intimately intertwined and create, in many ways, their own modern multigenerational mythology.
But first and foremost, Girl, Woman, Other is a love song to Black womanhood, an ode to modern Britain, a poem dedicated to past, current and future generations and the way we are all, in the end, the sum of the ancestors that came before us and the ones that will come long after we’re gone. There is something celebratory, dynamic, vibrant about Evaristo’s style and writing that commands attention, that brings to life a new kind of history, full of energy and overflowing with life, in all of its joyful messiness and glorious imperfection.
“Ageing is nothing to be ashamed of
Especially when the entire race is in it together
Although sometimes it seems that she alone among her friends wants to celebrate getting older
Because it’s such a privilege to not die prematurely” (p. 126)
“Let us wonder at how X was just a rare letter until algebra came along and made it something special that can be unravelled to reveal inner value.” (p. 43)
Get the Gist
“Girl, Woman, Other follows the lives of twelve very different people in Britain, predominantly female and black. Aged 19 to 93, they span a variety of cultural backgrounds, sexualities, classes and occupations as they tell the stories of themselves, their families, friends and lovers, across the country and through the years.” Read more on Bernardine Evaristo’s website.
How does it fare?
“Girl, Woman, Other is about struggle, but it is also about love, joy and imagination. The book culminates with her protagonists – black women of different generations, faiths, classes, politics and heritages, and a few men too – thrown together at a party for a soap opera-style grand finale. Evaristo’s world is not idealised, but there is something uniquely beautiful about it.”
- Micha Frazer-Carroll, The Guardian
“‘Girl, Woman, Other’ presents a landscape of abiding multicultural sensitivity. Evaristo’s dedication sets the tone: “For the sisters & the sistas & the sistahs & the sistren & the women & the womxn & the wimmin & the womyn & our brethren & our bredrin & our brothers & our bruvs & our men & our mandem & the LGBTQI+ members of the human family.”
- Dwight Garner, The New York Times