The new novel out today by Brunel creative writing professor Bernardine Evaristo charts the lives of 12 characters, mostly women, black and British.
Girl, Woman, Other tells the tales through the years of their families, friends and lovers, across the country touching on teenage years, right through to old age.
Stepping firmly away from the mainstream, it spans 20th- and 21st-century Britain, bringing a brave new history of modern Britain and black womanhood.
“I was very frustrated that black British women weren’t visible in literature,” the award-winning British–Nigerian author told The Observer.
“There are many ways in which otherness can be interpreted in the novel – the women are othered in so many ways and sometimes by each other. I wanted it to be identified as a novel about women as well.”
One character in the book, Amma, draws on Bernardine’s own experience of theatre-based activism in the 1980s when she co-founded Theatre of Black Women.
Others are 10 year-old Grace, an orphan in 1905 Newcastle, who dreams of the mysterious African father she will never meet. There’s also Winsome, a young bride, recently arrived in 1950s Cornwall from Barbados, who realises the man she married might be a fool. Another is more recent – Morgan, who used to be Megan, is visiting Hattie who's in her nineties, who fights to stay independent but misses Slim every day.
Known for her experimental style and warm, wise, daring voice, Bernardine has written eight books, plus drama, verse and criticism. She leads Brunel’s creative writing research and founded a string of inclusive initiatives, including the 2012 launch of the Brunel International African Poetry Prize. She is Vice Chair of the Royal Society of Literature and an MBE.
“Girl, Woman, Other is brilliant,” said writer and psychotherapist, Philippa Perry. “I feel like a ghost walking in and out and in again on different people’s lives, different others. Some are so ‘other’ that I have to stretch myself to see them.”
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo is published today by Hamish Hamilton (£16.99).
Find out more about creative writing at Brunel University London.
Hayley Jarvis, Media Relations
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