Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo is a heart-tugging and thought-provoking literary fiction novel that highlights the numerous social issues that people of color have to deal with and the timeless experiences that connect them to each other.

This compelling novel focuses on the lives and the unique voices of twelve main characters: Amma has recently become a highly commended playwright and her work often portrays powerful black lesbian women; Shirley is Amma’s oldest friend and she is a burnt out high school teacher who has spent decades of her life working in London’s underfunded schools; Carole is one of Shirley’s past students and she has always been good at math, now she is a successful investment banker; Bummi is Carole’s mother and she works as a cleaner. Bummi is proud of Carole’s achievements but she is worried that her daughter isn’t deeply rooted in their Nigerian traditions.

Each character had to face their own challenges and they persevered in spite of them. From a popular non-binary blogger to a ninety-three-year-old great-grandmother living on a farm in Northern England, these wonderful characters’ lives are connected because they are all searching for something or someone—whether it is a place to call home, a lover or a mother—regardless of their age, race, class or sexuality.

The Characters

Amma is an out and proud lesbian playwright and she is always the life of the party wherever she goes. Yazz is feisty and unapologetically sassy and she is Amma’s daughter. Dominique is Amma’s best friend and she used to work side by side with Amma before she went to America. Shirley is a history teacher and she is one of Amma’s oldest friends. Carole is an investment banker and she is extremely happy with her professional life but she keeps reliving a traumatic childhood event. Bummi left Nigeria with the hope that she will have a better life in England. Bummi works as a cleaner and she had to raise Carole on her own when her husband died.

I have so much love for these flawed and endearing characters! Bernardine Evaristo deserves the highest of fives because she created well-fleshed out and relatable characters and I could easily picture them in my mind.

The Writing Style

Bernardine Evaristo blew my mind with her skillfully constructed long-verse writing style. This story captivated me from the beginning until the last page because this author emphasized the huge impact that sexuality, race, class, gender and politics had on the lives of her unforgettable characters. I am a Caribbean woman and my heart is bursting with joy because Bernardine Evaristo has aptly portrayed the painful experiences of many Caribbean and West African immigrants and refugees who worked tirelessly to make a better life for their families and themselves in England from the 1940’s to this present day.

Pros And My Favourite Parts

I couldn’t get enough of Amma, Dominique, Yazz, Morgan and Bibi! I was living my best life because I happily tagged along with these fierce and determined characters who wanted to live life on their own terms in a country that has always treated them as outsiders, undesirables or “other” instead of embracing them as their own residents and citizens. This story is a literary tapestry because this phenomenal author has done a fantastic job of weaving the lives of twelve main characters together in an intricate way that left me speechless and sleepless in the Caribbean.

Cons And Heads Up

I really enjoyed every word of this lovely story but it took a while for me to get used to the lack of full-stops at the end of sentences and barely any use of capitalization throughout the novel.

The Conclusion

aprils favourite booksIf you’re a huge fan of literary fiction novels that portray resilient women of color and badass queer and non-binary characters who won’t allow anyone to define their identities or tell them how they should live and love, then this is definitely the story for you!

TLDR (too long didn’t read)

This story is a love letter to the African diaspora, women of color and the LGBTQ community and I think it deserves to be on everyone’s bookshelf or kindle.

Excerpt from Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo

at times like these Amma misses Dominique, who long ago absconded to America

they should be sharing her break-through career moment together

they met in the eighties at an audition for a feature film set in a woman’s prison (what else?)

both were disillusioned at being put up for parts such as a slave, servant, prostitute, nanny or crim

and still not getting the job

they railed against their lot in a grotty Soho caff while devouring fried egg and bacon slathered between two slabs of soggy white bread washed down with builder’s tea alongside the sex workers who plied their trade on the streets outside

long before Soho became a trendy gay colony

look at me? Dominique said, and Amma did, there was nothing subservient, maternal or criminal about her

she was über-cool, totally gorgeous, taller than most women, thinner than most women, with cut-glass cheekbones and smoky eyes with thick black lashes that literally cast a shadow on her face

she wore leathers, kept her hair short except for a black fringe swept to one side, and rode about town on a battered old butcher’s bike chained up outside

can’t they see I’m a living goddess?

Dominique shouted with a flamboyant gesture, flicking her fringe, adopting a sultry pose as heads turned

Amma was shorter, with African hips and thighs

perfect slave girl material one director told her when she walked into an audition for a play about Emancipation

whereupon she walked right back out again

in turn a casting director told Dominique she was wasting his time when she turned up for a Victorian drama when there weren’t any black people in Britain then

she said there were, called him ignorant before also leaving the room

and in her case, slamming the door

Amma realized she’d found a kindred spirit in Dominique who would kick arse with her

and they’d both be pretty unemployable once news got around

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Bits and Bobs

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