Reading guide for Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo

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Girl, Woman, Other

A Novel

by Bernardine Evaristo

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine  Evaristo X
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine  Evaristo
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    Nov 2019, 464 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Elisabeth Cook
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Reading Guide Questions Print Excerpt

Please be aware that this discussion guide will contain spoilers!

  1. Of the various characters in Girl, Woman, Other, which did you relate to the most and why? Consider why the author chose to start the novel with Amma, Yazz, and Dominique's stories. Who is being othered in the novel? Provide examples from the text to support your answers. Share what the title means to you. What experiences have you had that made you feel a sense of otherness?
  2. It is believed that the last Amazon of Dahomey, a woman named Nawi, died in 1979 at the age of 100. What is the significance of the play and what does it reveal about Amma? Of the twelve women, who do you think represents Nawi in the novel? Talk about the lives and occupations of the female characters. How do they evolve over the course of the story? What events trigger their growth?
  3. Discuss how marriage, identity and sexuality are depicted in the novel.
  4. The definition of "winsome" is "attractive or appealing in appearance and character." Why do you think the author chose this name for one of the women? Discuss whether the naming is an indication of character. What are your thoughts about Winsome's betrayal and her lack of remorse?
  5. Take it a step further and examine the differences and similarities between Shirley and her mother, Winsome. Not many people seem to find Shirley interesting or like her. She's a closeted homophobe who considers Amma one of her best friends. Explain the cognitive dissonance of the character.
  6. Talk about Evaristo's unusual structuring of the novel. There are no periods or capitalization, and the stories weave through time and jump to different points of view. How did this affect your understanding of the characters and the novel as a whole? Did this help you to develop an intimacy with the women? Explain your answers.
  7. Evaristo's depiction of the lesbian experience is nuanced, varied, and complex. How does the novel undo the frequently used lesbian trope of everything ending badly? What other lesbian tropes does the novel dismantle?
  8. Different eras in British history are used to convey a sense of place in the novel. What is unique about the various settings, and how did it enhance or take away from the stories?
  9. How does Evaristo incorporate historical occurrences such as Brexit and aspects of the African diaspora into her stories? What other themes did she emphasize in the novel, and what do you think she was trying to get across to the reader about colorism and racism?
  10. Evaristo illuminates the traumatic effects of rape and how one life-changing moment can "other" the victims. This theme is explored in detail in the "Carole" story. How does her ordeal as a teen change her life and relationships going forward? Share how reading about her secret made you feel.
  11. What are the major conflicts in the story, especially between mothers and daughters? Why does Grace refuse to connect with her daughter Harriet? Consider what the author is saying about the complicated relationship between a mother and child.
  12. Discuss the group dynamic of the Unfuckwithables. Compare and contrast the new guard of activism of Yazz's group and Morgan to that of the old guard of Amma and Dominique.
  13. Take a closer look at how Evaristo uses Amma's play, The Last Amazon of Dahomey, to explore the creative process. Roland and Dominique both think that Amma could be doing more with her talents, with Dom going so far as to plead with her to move to the States to explore new opportunities. Had the novel continued, what do you think would have been Amma's decision? If you were in Amma's situation, what would your choice have been?
  14. On page 447, Dominique says to Amma, "Feminism needs tectonic plates to shift; not a trendy make-over." What are your feelings about what she says? Do you consider yourself a feminist and if so, what does feminism mean to you? What does Dom and Amma's conversation about modern feminism and transgender rights say about them as individuals?
  15. As the story unfolds, we learn that Penelope is adopted. What else do we learn about her? When did you start to suspect her identity? Did the author leave clues along the way? Did you envision a different ending for the characters? Explain your answers.


Suggestions for Further Reading:

Difficult Women by Roxane Gay
Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown
Third Girl from the Left by Martha Southgate
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
Zami by Audre Lorde
Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde
We Should All be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Reading Group Guide by Keturah Jenkins

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Black Cat. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.

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