Words Worth Noting

Favorite Quotes

"Le coeur a ses raisons que la raison ne connait point. French. Pascal. The heart has its reasons, whereof reason knows nothing."— Madeleine L'Engle

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Girl, Woman, Other. Chapter 2: Her Warring Thoughts

Book cover of Girl Woman Other by Bernardine Evaristo

Chapter 2: Carole, Bummi, and LaTisha.

Fictional Carole's story caught me by surprise with its sort of duality—how it contained two things at war with each other in the same space— her privileged adult life with a pretty happy ending, loving mother and genuinely loving husband on one hand, and the violations she's endured, big and small, as an adult and as a child, and how hard she works to expunge thoughts that don't fit the life/ narrative she's built or simply don't serve her in it.

Like, for example, this section in which Carole is psyching herself up for an early morning meeting with a "new client based in Hong Kong whose net worth is multiple times the GDP of the world's poorest countries" but "can't help remembering all the little hurts":


   she can’t help thinking about the customs officers who pull her over when she’s jetting the world looking as brief-cased and be-suited as all the other business people sailing through customs – un-harassed

   oh to be one of the privileged of this world who take it for granted that it’s their right to surf the globe unhindered, unsuspected, respected

   damn, damn, damn, as the escalator goes up, up, up

   c’mon, delete all negative thoughts, Carole, release the past and look to the future with positivity and the lightness of a child unencumbered by emotional baggage

   life is an adventure to be embraced with an open mind and loving heart 


Also, that last sentence reminds me of another nice detail revealed just prior to this quote, that Carole's bookshelves are stacked with motivational books "ordered from America." She vows that the meeting will be "fan-bloody-tastic!" Just as the books say— "if you project a powerful person, you will attract respect." 

She's retrained her mind with these self-help books. Or she's trying to. But it seems like a constant fight to keep reality at bay. Carole's story isn't as dramatic as some of the others in Girl, Woman, Other, and she isn't always entirely sympathetic. But she seemed really human to me and not just because of her name. ;)

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Sunday, October 04, 2020

Review: Girl, Woman, Other

Girl, Woman, Other Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I truly loved it. I couldn't stop reading and stayed up late, then got up early to finish. The only challenge in writing a review is that my highlights aren't as useful as they usually are because I highlighted way too much (literally hundreds of paragraphs), seemingly almost everything because every line has meaning. For example, this passage on the indelible Amma:

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

Girl, Woman, Other is many things: a brilliant social novel, heavy on well-observed, sharp societal commentary, but organically so, and never weighed down by it. Very specific in its characterizations and voice. A tapestry in verse. An engrossing, often witty, ensemble drama about Black British women of different backgrounds, sexuality, and social strata with some surprising formal anomalies like no periods and little capitalization. Those formal elements are partly responsible for creating Girl, Woman, Other's wonderful sense of lyricism. They also effectively mimic trains of thought and conversation. Eventually, though, they easily fade into the background.

One passage I loved in the first section, partly because it made me laugh, was when Yazz, the daughter of Amma, now a playwright/theatre director, and Roland, a professor/public intellectual, was mentally running through how she had won an argument with her Dad, taking him down a notch by questioning lofty position as "the country's first Professor of Modern Life." I enjoyed Yazz's loving intergenerational warfare with people who are used to being/thinking of themselves as the avant garde.

Dad didn’t reply
he wasn’t expecting this, the student outwitting the master (grasshopper rocks!)
I mean, how on earth can you be a Professor of Modern Life when your terms of reference are all male, and actually all-white (even when you’re not, she refrained from adding),

And I was moved by the interplay between Yazz and her uni friend Waris, who's from Somalia, which appears shortly after that, and the conversation with her white working class friend Courtney about relative privilege and context, which is an interesting counterpart to Yazz's triumph over Roland:

Yazz doesn’t know what to say, when did Court read Roxane Gay – who’s amaaaazing?
was this a student outwitting the master moment? #whitegirltrumpsblackgirl

Funny, poignant, ironic. Brilliant.

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