The Anti-Racism Reading Group started in October 2020 as part of Black History Month and recognising that more was needed to further knowledge and ultimately take positive action to tackle our own and institutional racism in order to be better allies to our colleagues and friends. This is done through seeking out texts and other resources to inform learning. Each month the group select a book as a focus to support and encourage this process and the group is open to all to attend. While the groups focus is on Anti-Racism so often the books show the importance of understanding intersectionality and how the different elements that make a person who they are can be in conflict.
In this blog Gemma Clarke, Visitor Services Assistant at Elsecar Heritage Centre shares her thoughts on ‘Mr Loverman’ by Bernardine Evaristo.
Mr Loverman written by Bernardine Evaristo focuses on an LGBT themed story and gives an insight into the complicated lives of the characters, the journey of an Antiguan man who as well as dealing with uncertainty around his marriage, sexuality and partnership. He also thinks about the feelings towards him as a Black man in a new country and raising his children within this context too.
Evaristo has written a fascinating book that explores many different themes and is powerful in reminding the reader that only thirty decades ago life was still difficult for the LGBT community. The world thought it was wrong and you were ill or disgusting if you were found to be involved in a same sex relationship. The world has changed, and it continues to do so for many people so hopefully in the future there will not be marriages like the one detailed throughout this book where two people are not happy. One character cannot express his true feelings and be himself and the other cannot understand why she cannot make the other person happy. The book written in the genre of fiction helps the reading public to engage with the story, and at the same time helping people to understand why it is so important for there to be an open and active LGBT community.
The story focuses on the year 2010 when for the characters in the story a lot of life changing developments happen. For the reader we follow the story of Barry Barrington, the lead character who struggles with his sexuality and from a young age has had a long-term relationship with another Antiguan man called Morris. When Morris decides to go to England to start a new adventure, he marries a lady called Odette and when his lover Barry arrives, they both don’t expect each other to be married. However, their love for each other continues throughout the decades and they always stay together no matter what happens.
Barry, who married a young pretty girl called Carmel in Antigua soon set sail for England to start a new life. The young couple are inspiring as they start a new life in a new country where there are many issues that they would never have dreamt of having to cope with such as the local feelings towards them and not being as welcome as they had hoped. Evaristo also helps the reader to understand Carmel’s character and how she has such a hard life growing up with her father abusing her mother. The young girl wishes to be happy and is excited by the prospect of love and unfortunately, she marries a man who from their wedding night, the very first night they were truly alone, and she couldn’t understand why he didn’t want to touch her and be with her. These feelings stayed with Carmel and the early years of abuse in her life and the birth of her children led to depression and anger. Barry loves spending nights out with Morris as he can be truly himself, but Carmel hates her husband being out all night and just wants him to love her. Barry feels he must hide the truth and for him and Morris being in a marriage with other people and having children helps to hide their identity.
As Evaristo helps the reader to explore many different issues with her characters in the present day. She also takes her readers back to past events being remembered by the main characters in the story which sheds light on other events that happened in their life that affect their present-day issues. For example, Carmel educated herself in England achieving a degree and a fantastic job and she made friends and had loads of fun. She also met someone called Reuben Balazs from Town Planning where she worked, and she ended up having a romantic love affair and it was the first time she felt truly desired. The book shows how Barry thought his wife was cold, depressed and always angry but the only reason her character ended up this way was because Barry couldn’t love or desire her because his love was for another person that he felt he could not share publicly.
However, I admire Barry’s character for staying with Carmel and looking after her while she was suffering from depression after her children were born. After the children were grown up, he continued to stay with his wife. However, there was a point in the story when both characters needed to change for them to enjoy the rest of their lives and in a massive turning point unexpected for both characters both of their lives changed for the better.
Mr Loverman written in 2013 is an excellent story and well worth a read, it is engaging and brings so many serious issues to the forefront in a fun and exciting way. Her most recent book published in 2019 called Girl, Woman, Other is again a fantastic piece of fiction bringing strong issues about racism to the forefront in an easy way to follow that leaves you fascinated to learn more about each character’s individual story. Other issues are raised in Evaristo’s book around parenting, friendships and they are just a few of the examples giving the reader a wide range of different characters to identify with and learn more about as they engage with the story.
For more information about the author Bernardine Evaristo please click here: https://bevaristo.com/
Want to learn more? The group have also read:
Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race – Reni Eddo-Lodge
The Good Immigrant – Edited by Nikesh Shukla
White Fragility – Robin DiAngelo
Girl, Woman, Other – Bernardine Evaristo
Brit(ish): On Race, Identity and Belonging – Afua Hirsch
The Vanishing Half – Brit Bennett
Barnsley Libraries celebrates LGBT+ History Month
Find a fab range of eBook, eAudiobooks, and magazines here