Tuesday, 10 December 2019

Bernardine Evaristo and David Olusoga in conversation

The synopsis of Bernardine Evaristo's Booker Prize winning novel reads

Girl, Woman, Other follows the lives and struggles of twelve very different people. Aged 19 to 93, they span a variety of ages, cultural backgrounds, sexualities, classes and occupations as they tell the stories of themselves, their families, friends and lovers, across the country and through the years. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly given it's recent Booker Prize Award, the majority of the conversation is spent discussing this particular publication. I found it fascinating to hear about the structure of the book and how she has constructed it so that each chapter focuses on one character, and links form between the chapters. 

Discussion regarding the politics around the Booker Prize, the judging panel and the source of funding for the Prize highlighted the sheer importance and level of achievement reached by Evaristo at becoming the first black woman to win the award.

Evaristo explained how she felt like she needed to represent a group of people whose stories had not been told. When asked to discuss her thoughts on writing a non-binary character when she does not identify as non-binary, she recognises that she was very careful in doing so, and conducts and uses her research so as to try to limit any misrepresentation or offence caused. She acknowledges that she never tries to pretend to be non-binary, and as the novel is a work of fiction, feels as though she has the right to be creative and include things that are not necessarily true. In a recent newspaper article she was quoted as saying 

"This whole idea of cultural appropriation, which is where you are not supposed to write beyond your own culture and so on, is ridiculous. Because that would mean that I could never write white characters or white writers can never write black characters."

Following another question about how she manages her anger, Evaristo clearly stated that she did not think it was at all healthy or beneficial to carry anger around with her and therefore any anger she does feel is turned into energy. She then tries to channel this energy into something positive that can make a difference and force change. She recognises that there are things that one has to leave to others to deal with. She knows that her talent is for writing and her passion is to change the way that black women are represented.

I found it refreshing to hear her talk about her life as an author. She has no set routine, and emphasised the importance of fitting in her writing in and amongst her usual daily activities. She cycles, watches daytime TV, socialises with friends, but her main focus remains her writing.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

No comments: