5 Minutes with Liv Little: Journalist, Culture Consultant And Founder Of Gal-Dem
If there’s anything that Liv Little loves, it’s a good story. The 26-year old Londoner founded Gal-dem, an online media platform dedicated to amplifying the voices of women and non-binary people of colour, as a student in 2015. In just five years, Gal-dem has grown into a print magazine and podcast, while Little’s career is now as diverse as the stories on her website. Her output spans journalism, filmmaking and script writing — the multi-faceted creator’s first piece of fiction – a short story – is soon to be published by Virago in a collection of short folk tales titled Hag. “For me, there’s no one suitable way to tell all stories,” she says. “Sometimes it’s through an exhibition. Sometimes film. Or an audio series, or fiction. It’s really interesting for me to think, ‘How can I do this story justice?’
Prior to our Whistles Book Club, where Little will interview Bernardine Evaristo about the dazzling Booker Prize-winning Girl, Woman, Other, we caught up with Little to talk about fun, frenetic fiction, the art of storytelling and the urgent need for diverse female narratives within literature.
First things first. What did you think of Girl, Woman, Other?
I loved it. I’ve read it twice. One of the things I love the most is that she explores what intergenerational tension of feminism, especially the dynamic between Yazz, Amma and Dominique — that dynamic of the younger, oh-so-woke generation and another generation trying to reconcile. But I also loved the multiplicity of voices and characters and stories, from straight women to queer women and pan-sexual women. There are so many different kinds of ‘woman.’
And that diverse array of narratives is also very Gal-dem, too, in that it’s a platform for a vast array of women to tell their own stories.
Exactly. It’s not about pigeonholing, it’s about celebrating the fact that there is vast difference within these identity categories with huge variety and perspective. It’s an interesting and deliberate choice by Bernardine to tell the story through 12 characters; it was an excellent way to incorporate so many different types of lived experience.
Gal-dem is even mentioned in the book as a publication that Yazz wants to write for. How did that feel?
It was a great moment. Bernardine is someone whose work I think is fantastic, not only Girl, Woman, Other but also Mr Loverman. She’s been very supportive from early on and always wanted us to succeed.
Do you think Bernardine’s writing has in any way shaped your own approach to storytelling?
Definitely. I think the way that you become good at anything is engaging with that particular thing. To be an excellent author you have to read a lot. I love the fact that Bernardine very deliberately ensured that the storytelling wasn’t poetry but it was poetic; she talks about her deliberate choice of using a lot of commas instead of full stops. She wanted it to feel quite fluid, which reflected the fluidity of the lives of the characters and the interconnectedness of their stories. You can learn a lot as a writer by picking up on story, character and form.
Black female voices have always been there — my mum’s bookshelves were always filled with writing by Maya Angelou.
Which other novels are you loving right now?
I love Queenie, by Candice Carty-Williams, which is set in south London where I grew up, so there are parallels there in terms of experience, which is comforting. I’m also reading an excellent book at the moment called Luster by Raven Lelani. It’s about this Black girl in her early 20s, navigating through the world and the various men and people she’s intimate with. It’s a really captivating book. I also love Sally Rooney and Nicole Dennis-Benn’s writing.
Why is it important for you to read books about women, and specifically by Black female authors?
There’s still a lot of issues within the industry, which was highlighted with the #publishingpaidme hashtag, looking at the direct comparisons between Black women authors and white women authors — and in the case of Black women they were often drastically underpaid. There has been a shift towards first person narrative storytelling in fiction, maybe there’s been an increase, but really, Black female voices have always been there — my mum’s bookshelves were always filled with writing by Maya Angelou.
Is reading escapist for you?
I read a lot of fiction rather than biographies, but they’re not about other magical worlds. There’s a relevance. Whenever I’m reading or having a cup of tea, that’s a sign to me that I am carving time out for myself.
Do you prefer reading or writing?
I recently realised that I love writing. Previously I would have said 90 percent reading, but now I think I am more split. I really enjoy stepping into that time and space to have creativity. The short story, which will be published in Hag, is one of the most interesting projects I’ve worked on. It’s a retelling of an old folk tale — set in London, I reimagined it as a queer, Black love story that centred around grief and family. It was audio first, then became an audio-visual exhibition in London, and now it’s being published. That’s the kind of storytelling that I love — one that is very holistic.