I haven’t been visiting the library lately. The pandemic has limited my visits to curbside pick-ups and quick dashes in and out to get something specific. So I missed out on browsing the February display of books for Black History Month and the March display of books promoting Women’s History.
These topics, however, shouldn’t be a one-month-a-year exercise. Black History, Women’s History, Asian History, Native American History— they belong in our consciousness twelve months a year as part of the standard history curriculum. The arrival of spring however, prompted me to use this space to recommend a book.
My recommendation: Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo.
Girl, Woman, Other a novel by Bernadine Evaristo won the 2019 Booker Prize along with The Testaments by Margaret Atwood. I read both books, or I should clarify that I listened to both books; and important detail when discussing Girl, Woman, Other. As a Margaret Atwood fan and a fan of Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” series , listening to The Testaments was a guilty pleasure. Girl, Woman, and Other was an interactive journey.
Girl, Woman, Other was my first exposure to Evaristo’s work. I found it to be entertaining, but more importantly—as a writer studying the craft it opened up new ways to approach narrative structure on the page by eliminating traditional sentences. No capitalization and no periods mean the positioning of the words on the page tell the reader when to pause and when to link phrases together. This approach has been compared to poetry. Certainly, this work cries out to be read aloud, which is why listening to it was so pleasurable. However, read it silently to yourself, and you’ll notice the spacing and positioning of the words forces you to hear each word. You cannot read this book quickly. It must be savored.
Told in five chapters that initially seem to be unconnected stories, gradually the relationships between the twelve characters in the novel are revealed. These are stories about women of color, people of various sexual orientations and ages– mothers, daughters, grandmothers, friends, lovers, spouses. The story arc traverses several generations. If you are looking for a book to begin exploring the role of women in multiple cultures, this book is a great choice.
Other books I’ve read and enjoyed by women writers recently include, Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmere , Barkskins by Annie Proux , Landslide by Susan Conley, Trust Exercise by Susan Choi, The Murmur of Bees by Sofia Segovia, and Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls by T. Kira Madden. Happy reading.
If you have a book you’d like to suggest, please share.