Written By Guest Contributor “This Korean Woman Reads” – Anna Yeon
“This Korean Woman Reads” is a book review series by Anna Yeon, who will be writing for the site reviewing books written by BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) writers in Australia and from other parts of the world.
Headlines: Bernardine Evaristo lifts the veil on becoming an ‘overnight success’ at the age of 60 when she became the first Black female writer to win the Booker Prize. Here is an intimate manifesto for every storyteller and creative in pursuit of their dreams, disobedience and discipline which must be combined to produce good work, to (unjustly) oversimplify Manifesto: On Never Giving Up. This book serves as a manual not only for women of colour writers but for every writer whose call in life is to express themselves by the written word.
Mood: Solid. Reading Manifesto fortifies my strength as a creative spirit; my resolve as a writer in practice; my commitment to an uncompromising path of speaking in my own voice.
Pair with: Evaristo’s Booker Prize winner Girl, Women, Other (see review here )
I have a confession to make. In the last few months, I have become a.little.lazy in my review writing. I can blame it becoming (too) familiar with the template I’ve set up for myself for these reviews; I can blame it on taking up a new full-time job; I can even blame it on working as a guest editor with the utterly wonderful new literary magazine called Debris (a shameless plug – channelling Evaristo’s hustle and self-promotion in her early days in page 171-6!).
So reading Evaristo’s Manifesto came just at the right time to remind me: the creative writing practice commands a fearless and persistent commitment, as she has done for over forty years, crafting her practice of ‘fusion fiction’ genre in Girl, Women, Other.
Evaristo charts the elements that have laid the ‘foundation of [her] creativity’ in seven chapters chronologically from birth to now. And there is an actual manifesto of one and a half pages at the end that I think is worthy of being recited at (every) writers’ gathering the world over.
Through every chapter, from the stories of her ancestry to her romantic (mis)adventures and the creative process of her publication debut, there is a persistent theme: every life experience went into her writing; every hardship and prejudice that she overcame she channelled into consolidating her creative strength.
To all the writers (practising or aspiring), I particularly recommend Chapter Five, titled ‘poetry, fiction, verse fiction, fusion fiction’. As she notes, this chapter is not a ‘creative manual’ but a rare and ‘detailed illumination of an individual writer’s actual practice’. For me, it was a Masterclass for writers, but delivered in a concise form of less than 30 pages.
Until reading Manifesto, I hadn’t ever thought about the kind of writing I would wish to gift my younger self (Evaristo’s own choice to her younger self would be Girl, Women, Other, pg 144). But in the last pages of Manifesto, I sensed that my older self would be grateful for this book: a source of sound guidance and companionship on a lifelong pursuit of one’s creative practice.
Buy this book as a gift to: a) older women whose protagonist presence in our world provides strength and sustenance; b) writers of youth as a persuasive ‘pep talk’ in prose about the realities of being a writer (spoiler alert: it’s pretty different to being an insta influencer!); c) booklovers who take to the interior and meditative practice of deep reading.
In finishing Evaristo’s book, I remembered that I used to think I had ‘lost’ the ability to write creatively amidst migration as a child. Becoming bilingual was such a deep breaking away from how I read and wrote from birth to age 10 that, I had thought, muted my creative voice. I used to express the metaphor of losing ‘my writing spirit’ as a phantom limb; like an amputee soldier nursing the pain of a missing arm after it is no longer there.
I had forsaken creative writing for nearly twenty five years, before I found new life by taking it up again.
So in true spirit to this icon’s manifesto, writing for me is an affirmation on never.giving.up.
Here’s to happy reading,
This Korean woman reads
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