British writer Bernardine Evaristo is the award-winning author of seven 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. She is also an editor of anthologies and special issues of magazines. She is currently Professor of Creative Writing at Brunel University London.
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, was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in 2006, and she received an MBE in the Queen’s 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. In 2015 she wrote and presented a two-part BBC Radio 4 documentary called Fiery Inspiration: Amiri Baraka and the Black Arts Movement. Her novel Mr Loverman is in development with BBC television drama and the Bush Theatre, London.
Her editorships including co-editing 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 co-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, Britain’s best-selling writing magazine. She is on the Editorial Board
of the African Poetry Book Fund, USA, for all its publications and competitions.
Her literary criticism appears in the national newspapers including the Guardian and Independent and she has judged many literary awards including the Goldsmiths Prize in 2016. In 2012 she was Chair of both the Caine Prize for African Fiction and the Commonwealth Short Story Prize.
Since 1997 she has accepted invitations to participate in over 150 international trips 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 she has initiated schemes to ensure that they are heard and represented in the creative industries. Her recent advocacy literary projects include founding The Complete Works mentoring scheme in 2008 (http:thecompleteworkspoetry.com) which has seen 30 poets mentored. Most of them have since been published and won some of Britain’s top literature prizes; and she founded the annual £3000 Brunel International African Poetry Prize in 2012 http://www.africanpoetryprize.org/. All the shortlisted and winning poets have had poetry pamphlets published with the African Poetry Book Fund Next Generation Series. These include Warsan Shire, Safia Elhillo, Gbenga Adesina and Nick Makoha.
Bernardine Evaristo was born in Woolwich, south east London, the fourth of eight children, to an English mother of English, Irish and German heritage and a Nigerian father of Nigerian and Brazilian heritage.Her father was a welder and local Labour councillor, and her mother was 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 her Doctorate of Philosophy in Creative Writing. She spent her teenage years acting at Greenwich Young People’s Theatre.
She lives in London with her husband.