Although the twelve main characters in Bernardine Evaristo‘s novel ‘Girl, Woman, Other’ have their own chapters based on their individual stories, their lives are interconnected because of a few common threads. While most of them are friends, relatives or lovers, others are just acquaintances who happened to come together to watch a play by one of them.
They are all predominantly black, but the book is not about racial issues, but of the daily challenges they face in careers, relationships, and child-raising because of their gender and their sexual preferences. All are women too, except for one, a gender-queer girl.
Is this a true chronicle of the collective black female experience? No. It is more about how feminists incorporate relationships with men in their lives. It also has interesting discussions on privilege, patriarchy, and appropriation.
Every character is flawed (as all human beings are), which evokes empathy and makes it easy to relate to them, regardless of their race, gender, or sexual preferences. Even though they are of different generations, classes, faiths, heritages, and politics, the characters support each other.
Their world has a multicultural sensitivity reflected in Evaristo’s dedication: ‘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.’
The book does not have a solid plot, and I had no idea where it was leading me. It reads like half prose and half poetry, with long sentences that have no capital letters at their beginning and no periods at their ends. Usually, such things irritate me. However, it was so engaging, witty, and full of emotion. No wonder it won Evaristo the Booker Prize.