Girl, Women, Other won the Booker Prize for Bernardine Evaristo in 2019. This mimics one of her twelve characters, Amma. Her play at The National, The Last Amazons of Dohomey is a popular and critical hit. Amma, the outsider, has become Amma, the insider. Bernardine Everisto, playwright, poet, author and critic has become part of the cultural elite. An insider and outsider.
Four chapters, twelve characters. Each chapter giving verse of their black lives. Evaristo has her own rules of how a sentence should look and construct meaning. Her characters are all related in some way, but also autonomous, orbiting each other until they come together in the After-Party.
Chapter One, for example, has Amma, Yazz and Dominique.
Yazz is Amma’s daughter from a sperm donation. Dominique is Amma’s soulmate. Young radicals, they put together shows featuring black women that are not prostitutes or stupid. It’s not black lesbian agit-prop. Not really. Although they both like women, they don’t have sex with each other. They like different kind of women. Dominique falls for the wrong kind, gas-lighting her, taking her to America, cutting her off from her friends who refuse to understand. Femicide is largely a male trait, but here is the black swan.
Winsome has retired to Barbados. Her family brought up in Britain visit her.
‘her favourite poetry book is called I is a Long Memoried Women by a Guyanese Woman called Grace Nichols
we the women/whose promises go usung/whose voices go unheard.’
Misogyny, class and race all have their place in a toxic mix of who are you? What are you?
‘[Winsome] and the reading group had the big argument, no, it wasn’t no argument, it was debate…about whether a poem was good because they related to it, or whether it was good in and of itself.’
I wasn’t sure about Girl, Women, Other. It took me several months to read. I’m not sure if it was because I couldn’t relate to it, the writing style, or it was just too other. I’m—dare I say it—too conservative.
Dominique, for example, finds herself on the wrong side of other—a trans troublemaker. Her conservatism was she announced a festival for ‘women-born women as opposed to women-born men’.
But this is a book good and of itself. Auntie and Uncle Toms that add colour to the Tory scumocracy such as Priti Patel and Rishi Sunak should have this book at the top of their reading list. But they’ve no class and they’re the wrong class for that.