Girl, Woman, Other is a beautifully written novel which tells the story of girls, women and those on the non-binary spectrum who all collide at some point in the story. A sublime mixture of prose and poetry it is brilliantly crafted and the shifting narration allows the reader to explore the lives, experiences and ideas of black women in Britain.
Set in a single evening where Amma or Ams to her friends has the premiere of her stage play; we meet some of the guests who are coming to celebrate with her. These include Yazz, Dominique, Carole, Bummi, LaTisha, Shirley, Winsome, Penelope, Megan/Morgan, Hattie and Grace. Twelve characters in total who are all disciples of equality and justice.
The story is in part autobiographical; Amma, a black lesbian, set up a theatre company with her friend Dominique, and they struggled, as many young theatre practitioners do, to get their work acknowledged and seen. However, times were exciting and the experimentation in the world of the play was in part how Amma develops as a character. When we meet Amma now she is in her 50s and has her first play premiered at the National Theatre. A great accomplishment. However, she questions whether she has ‘sold out’ to the establishment or has she really achieved outside expectations. Evaristo herself was co-founder, with two other women, of the Theatre of Black Women in the early 1980s.
Amma has chosen to be a mother and asks her equally talented friend Roland, a gay academic to help. Roland for his part is more than a father in sperm donation and the birth of their daughter, Yazz, helps to contribute to the re-evaluation of his own work ethic and catapult him firmly into academia. Dr Roland Quartey is the country’s first professor of Modern Life at the University of London; with several books published and speaker engagements a-plenty. Yazz, enjoys her unconventional upbringing and has set her sights equally as high to gain a First Class degree in English Literature.
There is polyphony of voices which Evaristo portrays with sympathy, style, grace and humour. Each character has an incredible journey which mirrors many of those who came to the UK for the chance of opportunity and the belief that they may be able to make a better life for themselves and their children. Evaristo weaves connections between them rather like a suspense thriller. However, the final connection for Penelope, one of the most troubled characters will defy any reader to close the book without a tear in their eye.
Sarah, Arodene Road Book Group