British writer Bernardine Evaristo is the award-winning author of eight books and numerous other published and produced works that span the genres of fiction, poetry, verse fiction, short fiction, essays, literary criticism, and radio and theatre drama. Her latest novel, Mr Loverman, is about a 74 year old Caribbean London man who is closet homosexual (Hamish Hamilton/Penguin, 2013 & Akashic Books, USA, 2014). Her writing is characterised by experimentation, daring and subverting the myths of various Afro-diasporic histories and identities. She is also an editor of anthologies and special issues and a literary advocate on behalf of writers of colour.
Her awards include the Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize, EMMA Best Book Award, Publishing Triangle Ferro-Grumley Award for LGBT Fiction (USA), Big Red Read Award, Orange Youth Panel Award, NESTA Fellowship Award and the Arts Council of England Writers’ Award 2000. Her books have been a Notable Book of the Year thirteen times in British newspapers and The Emperor’s Babe was a (London) Times ‘Book of the Decade’. She was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2004, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in 2006, and she received an MBE in the Queens’ Birthday Honours List in 2009.
Her verse novel The Emperor’s Babe was adapted into a BBC Radio 4 play in 2013 and her novella Hello Mum was adapted as a BBC Radio 4 play in 2012. Her new novel Mr Loverman has been optioned by BBC television drama and the Bush Theatre, London.
She is co-editor of two recent anthologies: NW15 (Granta/British Council) and Ten: New Poets (Bloodaxe). She guest-edited the Winter 2012 issue of Poetry Review, Britain’s leading poetry journal. Her issue, Offending Frequencies, featured more poets of colour than had ever previously been published in a single issue of the journal, as well as many female, radical, experimental and outspoken voices. She also guest-edited a special issue of Wasafiri magazine in 2009: Black Britain: Beyond Definition, which celebrated and reevaluated the black writing scene in Britain; and she guest-edited the Autumn 2014 issue of Mslexia magazine for writers.
Her literary criticism appears in the national newspapers including the Guardian and Independent and she has judged many literary awards. In 2012 she was Chair of both the Caine Prize for African Fiction, the Commonwealth Short Story Prize, a judge of Poetry News and the Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets, and that year she also founded the annual £3000 Brunel University African Poetry Prize, open to African poets worldwide: http://www.africanpoetryprize.org/. It is the largest cash prize for African poets in the world.
Since 1997 she has accepted invitations to take part in over 140 international visits and tours as a writer. She gives readings and delivers keynotes, chairs panel discussions and runs creative writing workshops and courses. She has also toured the UK widely.
The first monograph on her work, Fiction Unbound by Sebnem Toplu, was published in August 2011 by Cambridge Scholars Publishing. A second monograph by Ester Gendusa was published in Italy in 2015. And her books have been translated into several languages including Czech, Finnish, Hungarian, Italian & Mandarin.
She is a staunch and longstanding advocate for the inclusion of artists and writers of colour and has initiated schemes to ensure that they are heard and represented in the creative industries. Her recent literary projects include the Free Verse Report, The Complete Works mentoring scheme and the 3K Brunel University African Poetry Prize,
for African poets internationally.
Bernardine Evaristo was born in Woolwich, south east London, the fourth of eight children, to an English mother and Nigerian father. Her father was a welder and local Labour councillor and her mother a schoolteacher. She was educated at Eltham Hill Girls Grammar School, the Rose Bruford College of Speech & Drama, and Goldsmiths, University of London, where she earned a Doctorate of Philosophy. She spent her teenage years acting at Greenwich Young People’s Theatre. She teaches at Brunel University London where she is Professor of Creative Writing.
She lives in London with her husband.