A lugubrious yet creative novel intended to illustrate that black lesbian feminists and transgender persons eventually achieve social success, the reader would be more interested in the ultimate success of heterosexual normativity among persons with gender dysphoria.
Evaristo’s work is certainly challenging since it lacks ordinary punctuation and reads like 452 pages of a stream-of-consciousness free verse poem. However, it never reads as preachy despite its anti-Trump/pro-racist Barack Obama allusions or the feminist, lesbian, and transgender nonsense permeating the work.
Much of it is, in fact, comic. Several passages can make the reader howl with delight, especially when the leftist characters talk about the usual canards of their philosophy, such as “the evils of capitalism and colonialism and the merits of socialism” (12). The Babylon Bee should film the litany of leftist groups’ demands on management of a building they appropriated for themselves (17-8) or the passage concerned with “white privilege” (65-6).
Furthermore, the tired feminist ideology and the newer transgender lunacy will make readers laugh at the passage where a character’s mother “was unthinkingly repeating patterns of oppression based on gender” (307) or another passage where “Megan was a woman who wondered if she should have been born a man, who was attracted to a woman who’d once been a man, who was now saying gender was full of misguided expectations anyway, even though she herself transitioned from male to female / this was such head fuckery” (321).
Despite the lesbian and transgender blabber, most ordinary readers will appreciate the ineluctable trend to heterosexual normativity in the narrative.
The lesbian main character, Amma, manifests the inherent heterosexual normativity of her gender when it is disclosed that “Yazz [her daughter] was the miracle she never thought she wanted, and having a child really did complete her, something she rarely confided because it somehow seemed anti-feminist” (36).
Moreover, the abstract importance of the heterosexual family is obvious, even among these lesbian and transgender characters. For example, the crucial role of the mother is illustrated in one powerful line: “when your own mother pretends you don’t exist, it is like you are dead” (159). Another female character acknowledges the inherent natural law against lesbianism when she objects to her husband’s approval of Amma’s lesbianism thus: “it’s not that she’s backwards or anti-gay, it’s more of a gut response to something that doesn’t feel natural” (234).
Of course, given the leftist politics of the characters, heterosexual normativity is never completely respected and is often disparaged. For example, Dominique and her lover Laverne reverse the usual practice of marriage between a man and a woman (getting married first and then having children) by adopting children and then entering a “marriage” which may be legal but not sacramental. Similarly, the heterosexual appreciation of unborn children is negated in this work. One character views unborn children as “fatherless timebombs” (128); the concern for fatherlessness is evident again in another character who “had three kids […] / who’d grow up with no fathers in their lives” (212).
One character’s anguish over being adopted (a variation of heterosexual normativity to some, but excruciating for her) is painfully succinct: “she was an orphan / a bastard / unwanted / rejected” (282).
Of course, it wouldn’t be a feminist take on the British family in the 1950s and 1960s if the novel did not include a Tarzan-like summary of patriarchy at work (in the tired language of feminist theory, “oppressing women”), as one character’s husband puts it: “me hunter – you homemaker / me breadwinner – you bread-maker / me child maker – you child raiser” (289).
Given all of the above, it is surprising, then, that, despite all the feminist, lesbian, and transgender instances which could have been vehicles to indoctrinate readers to their respective philosophies, the novel ends with an eminently heterosexual resolution. Hattie, an old matriarch who had never disclosed that her father had taken her bastard daughter away from her and who never knew what happened to the baby, reunites joyously with her daughter at novel’s end.
While feminists, lesbians, and transgender persons, therefore, may not appreciate this denouement, the rest of us ordinary readers will laugh at the leftist lunacies scattered in the 452 pages and then simply rejoice over a happy ending.
This was the third of five novels I examined for a presentation before a scholarly audience on recent transgender literature and the right-to-life issues. My recommendation is that it is neither worthwhile nor necessary to purchase this novel (especially not from Amazon, which supports pro-abortion politicians), but pro-life readers may want to borrow it from their local libraries instead.