This essay from award-winning Sunderland-born writer Jessica Andrews reflects on the many facets of north-eastern female identity and how it is perceived today. It is inspired by the life of Eileen O’Shaughnessy Blair, George Orwell’s often overlooked first wife who was born in South Shields.
Jessica Andrew’s debut novel, Saltwater was published by Sceptre in 2019 and won the Portico Prize in 2020. It explores mother-daughter relationships and shifting class identity in relation to place and the body. Her second novel, Milk Teeth interrogates wanting, denial, food and shame and was published in July 2022. She writes for the Guardian, the Independent, BBC Radio 4, Stylist and ELLE magazine, among others. She was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction Futures in 2022 and nominated for the ELLE list in 2020. She co-runs literary and arts magazine, The Grapevine and co-presents literary podcast, Tender Buttons. She teaches Creative Writing at Roehampton University.