I sat down to read the first chapter of Manifesto, a memoir and, yes, manifesto about Bernardine Evaristo’s beliefs and attitude to life and literally couldn’t stop reading it. This was a one-sitting book for me – that should tell you how interesting and captivating it is!
Opening sentence: When I won the Booker Prize in 2019 for my novel Girl, Woman, Other, I became an ‘overnight success’ – after forty years working professionally in the arts.
I was, in fact, one of the readers whose attention was drawn to Bernardine Evaristo after her Booker Prize win for Girl, Woman, Other. I knew of her as she is a local author to me (she is from the same part of London I live in now, which made this memoir even more interesting to me) but I didn’t know her story. And what a story!
In Manifesto, Bernardine takes us back to her beginnings, from her childhood in South-East London, where she grew up as one of eight children to a white mother and black father.
Yet, while I am equally black and white in terms of ancestry, when people look at me, they see my father through me, and not my mother.
She recounts how racism was a continuous thing in her life, which is a lot for anyone, but especially a child to deal with:
You feel hated, even though you have done nothing to deserve it, and so you think there is something wrong with you, rather than something wrong with them.
A true creative
Bernardine has had such a fascinating life – she tells us about her days being an actress and co-founding the Theatre of Black Women to how her writing is heavily inspired by poetry; she has a true love of the arts.
Men and women live in the same world, but we experience it so differently.
Manifesto explores many themes across Bernardine’s life in such an eloquent and engaging way. From her thoughts on feminism and the issues with representation in the majoritively white publishing industry, to more personal stories about her relationships with men and women, including what she learnt about herself from a controlling relationship, through to how her nomadic and sporadic lifestyle living all over London has shaped her. There were so many things to think about, I loved the blending of facts and thoughts, it made it a really rich read.
The Evaristo Manifesto
Having grown up in an unconventional household, I’d learned to wear my outsider status with pride.
Manifesto is both a warming and moving memoir and a brilliant rally-cry of positive thinking, perseverance and following your dreams. I loved discovering more about Bernardine and am taking her kindness + you-can-do-it + always-be-yourself approach into my everyday.
I’m now also adding Blonde Roots, Lara and Mr. Loverman, I mean, all of her back-catalogue really, to my TBR!
- Thank you to Lou Nyuar for the ARC;
- Get your copy of Manifesto here;
- Published by Hamish Hamilton 7th October 2021;
- 224 pages;
- My rating: