Manifesto. On Never Giving Up by Bernardine Evaristo
If you, like me decide to listen to rather than read Bernardine Evaristo’s memoir, Manifesto, you are in for a special treat. Ms. Evaristo does not just read about her life, she performs it, elucidating the words in a crisp and clear oration that hearkens to her theater days. It is always such a joy when the stage meets the page. There is a warmth in the authenticity of her storytelling. It often felt like listening to a Master Class delivered by a gifted storyteller. You can sense that desire to let her experience be a beacon of light for someone else’s journey. I certainly felt buoyed and motivated listening to the unconventional path she took to become a literary heavyweight. Her background as the mixed-race offspring of a Nigerian father and a British mother, influences her gallant defiance of the standard way of writing. This is another gift that she presents to the reading public. One reader who is dyslexic shared with Ms. Evaristo that she found her work easier to read than others: an unintended consequence of the writer’s determination to think outside of the creative box.
A writer’s memoir is always enjoyably gratifying to read, especially for other writers who recognize aspects of their own journey in the story being told. Ms. Evaristo is generous with the details of her life, economically using words to dig deep and excavate buried memories of her singular journey. Some of these are not pleasant memories but in making herself so vulnerable to share these parts of her life, she delivers an inimitable gift to the world: a writing journey which can best be described as a path to self-discovery.
Those who have read Girl, Woman, Other – the book that earned her the prestigious Booker prize for Fiction – will recognize the elements of Ms. Evaristo’s life in her memoir. It’s like they say – some of the baker’s sweat gets into the bread.
It was the Booker Prize that launched Ms. Evaristo into a place of visibility and stardom. Almost overnight, she was thrust into the spotlight and her work was given the place of prominence it had always deserved. No one would fault her if she decided to rest on her laurels, using her newfound status to do things that benefited her. It is a testament to her strength of character that she continues to be a tireless advocate for representation in the arts. Wandering through her social media pages, you will find her still going gangbusters for the minority community. It takes an abundance of humility, dedication, and a strong sense of self to be able to do this – not forgetting where you have come from and looking out for those who are coming behind you. It reminds me of something I read recently: And when you get to where you’re going, turn around and help her too. For there was a time, not long ago when she was you. If Manifesto tells us anything, it is that Ms. Evaristo has been where many writers like me are, that she has not forgotten is not just admirable, it is motivating to know that she is looking out for others.