Girl, Woman, Other
Accomplished Anglo-Nigerian writer Bernardine Evaristo (Mr. Loverman) won the 2019 Booker Prize for this marvelous epic of black womanhood and queer identity in Britain. Girl, Woman, Other is a sprawling narrative that orbits the opening night at London's National Theatre for The Last Amazon of Dahomey, the breakout play by longsuffering lesbian playwright Amma Bonsu. Amid this triumph, 11 other female and nonbinary characters form a chorus line of intersecting lives shaped by years of racial and gendered progress. Amma's daughter, Yazz, a college student, is proud of her mother, although Yazz is embarrassed by the outrageous ensembles Amma wears, and they splash each other's waves of feminism.
These clashes in outlook and ideology slip and slide throughout the rapid-fire, interlocking stories of dynamic, ambitious people like Amma's best friend and fellow radical, Dominique, and Yazz's guest lecturer, Morgan. Blackness, womanhood, queerness--these concepts become simultaneously clearer and more individualized as the novel progresses, and as each character's circumstance is cemented in time, reaching back generations to Morgan's great- and great-great-grandmothers. Evaristo maintains an assured and graceful hand, though, never faltering in her ever-widening scope. And where social issues could grow prickly, Evaristo turns around with disarming generosity and good faith.
Her novel bursts with the joys and heartaches of seeking and finding one's community and place of belonging. (The indulgent descriptions of food are enough to lift readers' spirits!) Like The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis and Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, Girl, Woman, Other gauges progress with a wide generational lens, converging back on itself with a measured sense of satisfaction and expectation for what lies ahead. --Dave Wheeler, associate editor, Shelf Awareness