BOOK REVIEW: Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo

Review by Tina Isaacs

[Honest review in exchange for a review copy by Times Reads​]

Girl, Woman, Other (Hamish Hamilton, May 2019) is a portrayal of the interconnected lives of twelve protagonists, predominantly women of colour, in modern day Britain. The novel presents a compelling narrative which spans generations, presenting the loves and tribulations of an array of characters: from first generation immigrant matriarchs to disillusioned youth, women traumatised by betrayal to feminist activists.

This is my first encounter with Bernardine Evaristo and I am now most assuredly a fan. Like sharp nails digging into my brown skin, the novel’s depiction of the struggle of “Otherness” in Britain resonated deeply with my experience as a teen of colour in the English education system during the 80s. The dialogue and characters’ reflections on their seemingly bleak lot in life were delivered with insightful aplomb and humour. I still can’t shake off the image of the old lady whose “face gone slack except for a mouth that holds all her misery like a drawstring tightened around a pouch”, or the people “wearing outfits so tight you can see their hearts beating”. Then there’s the precocious child who “was never told off for speaking her mind, although she was told off for swearing because she needed to develop her vocabulary”. When I wasn’t enraptured by the protagonists’ pain and courage, I was nodding and laughing away.

Evaristo’s experimental style throws writing rules out the window – more “telling than showing” and prose in stanza format. The fast-paced plot is delivered without linear chronology but never loses the reader’s engagement. As I delved deeper into the novel, I found myself on tether-hooks to find out how the different lives intersected. As it neared its conclusion, I was already planning a reread.

In the seeming dearth of literature portraying women of colour, Evaristo’s book stands out as a heartfelt contemplation of their experiences in modern times, generations after the abolishment of slavery, apartheid, and the advent of feminism. In my humble opinion, this 2019 Booker Prize Shortlister* is undoubtedly a necessary testimony to their voices.

For me, Girl, Woman, Other earns a perfect 5/5 Star score and I am pleased to recommend it to those fond of literary realism or fiction which focus on the existential and philosophical reflections, with a twist of humour.

*EDIT: This book was subsequently named joint winner of the Booker Prize 2019, with Margaret Atwood’s The Testament.

Publication news: “The Ultimate Indulgence” in the Hungry In Ipoh anthology – Now on sale!

We are pleased to confirm that Fixi Novo’s latest anthology ‪#‎HungryInIpoh‬ was launched last Saturday in Ipoh, and contains Tina’s short story “The Ultimate Indulgence” about Malaysia’s fanged bloodsucker.

Get your copy now at Kedai Buku Fixi in Jaya Mall, Section 14 Petaling Jaya. 
It will also be in major stores around the Klang Valley and the rest of Malaysia soon.

In the meantime, those overseas can already place orders with

Thank you for your generous support!

Getting Your Groove

A mom’s advice to the teenager

 by Tina Isaacs


It’s very easy to be caught up in the things that happen around you – people who seem important enough for you to emulate or hang around with (they say you are who you mingle with, rite?), ideals that need to be chased, clothes need to be worn, words needed to be said – so much so that it’s sometimes difficult to find yourself amongst the utter mess of everything. 

You can fake it with most of the people around you but not so much with your closest friends (if you can, perhaps they’re not that close after all?) or your family who has known you all your life. Most importantly, you cannot lie to yourself.

Another thing: if you lie about yourself to others, this becomes obvious to anyone who spends enough time around you, you slip up, you act inconsistently to the situations and events that occur around you, you end up resenting having to keep up the falsity – because it is not natural to you – and you cause pain to yourself, the ones you love and those who love or care about you.

Remember that, although life feels absolutely momentous right now, your teenage years are a transitional period of the life of an average person who lives till their mid-70s. No matter what hardship and sacrifices you make now, these are TEMPORARY. That means if you don’t quite fit in with ‘cool crowd’, are hated by the bullies in school, this is only a temporary phase in your life which will go away once you leave school, become an adult and build a life for yourself.

Getting or achieving your groove is important because it is the beat that takes you on your life’s journey, it is the song that accompanies your every step, it’s the rhythm that swings you through your life. Your GROOVE is what allows you to live your life at its calmness, happiest, most serene and positive.

In order for you to achieve your groove, you need to ask yourself: what rings true to you? What’s true in your heart, what does not hurt or cause you harm, what provides for your long-term wellbeing, and nurtures you as a person, a soul, a spirit?

Find it and be true to yourself. 

If you love yourself absolutely and find that groove, regardless of the temporary occurrences around you, it will take you into a happy adulthood, and give you the strength to forge through the building of a strong personal life, and a successful professional life too.

And don’t be afraid to make mistakes. What I mean by that is not to throw caution to the wind (trying everything and anything merely for the purpose of gaining experience in your life). No. That’s wrong. Because, you musn’t forget that some life experiences can scar you FOREVER and some scars can never be taken away from your physical or mental being.  What I mean by not being afraid of making mistakes is that when you don’t get it right the first few times, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, don’t be afraid to say “this is not me”, and walk on to forge a new you. Never be afraid to say I’m sorry, especially to the people that you hurt. And never be afraid to say sorry to yourself.

Find your groove.

I wish you a happy journey into adulthood.