Black History Month: Writer’s Recommendations

Arts and Culture writer Madeleine Gauci Green shares some of her favourite Black authors and theatre!

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo
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Bernadine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other is a polyphonic novel made up of interconnected stories narrated through Evaristo’s original style which blends together both poetry and prose. The Booker Prize winning novel tells the tales of 12 characters, most of whom are Black British women, whose lives and stories overlap, interlink and connect despite their contrasting and distinct backgrounds and experiences. Evaristo creates a rich eclectic collection of perspectives from engaging, complex and flawed characters through tales of their families, friends and lovers. Girl, Woman, Other is a vignette of the lives of Black British women and the stories that make up their modern-day experience, exploring a wide range of relevant issues, questioning feminism, race and privilege throughout, ultimately displaying a huge sense of interconnectivity through the characters as well as the reader.

Small Island, a Rufus Norris adaptation of the award-winning novel by Andrea Levy
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Small Island, is a three-hour theatre production, of epic scope and scale, which explores a wide range of powerful themes from love, hope and sacrifice to racial identity, immigration and the role of women, all within Britain and Jamaica throughout the 40s. Director Rufus Norris’ adaptation of Andrea Levy’s prize-winning 2004 novel takes the audience on a journey between two world wars and the two countries. This tale is told through the lives of three protagonists, Hortense, Gilbert and Queenie whose interwoven stories create a rich, layered narrative of entwining interactions, connections and emotions.

This almost cinematic production is grand, both in scale and performance, taking advantage of the whole Olivier stage. At three hours long, the pace is sometimes slow; however, Norris uses this to create intimacy between the characters, producing a deep sense of connection and empathy for the audience watching. Quotidian scenes of normality and vulnerability, of shared moments and conversations, exhibit the reality. Small Island confronts the crushing personal struggles of everyday life for first-generation Jamaican immigrants in post-war Britain and the recurring racism and prejudice faced.

A poignant inspiring theme throughout is the hope of the protagonists, in the face of disappointment, lies and discrimination of Britain. Hortense and Gilbert share a dream of Britain, welcoming them with opportunity and potential, but once they finally achieve this dream and move there, they are faced with the cold harsh reality of racism and poverty for immigrants encountering brutality and prejudice.

The outstanding performances of the actors display immense resilience and strength despite the relentless prejudice and broken hopes and dreams. Ultimately, this momentous production is one abundant with pride, love and kindness and the importance of it in the face of bigotry, racism and prejudice, producing a powerful, moving tale overflowing with hope, strength and determination. Small Island is filled with energy, is poignant and important, and was uploaded to YouTube over lockdown at the perfect time, to continue the fight against racism, focusing on the humanity of individuals while also providing a panoramic sweep, demonstrating its everlasting relevance today.

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