Bernardine Evaristo

British writer Bernardine Evaristo is the author of ten books and numerous writings that span the genres of fiction, verse fiction, short fiction, non-fiction, poetry, essays, literary criticism, journalism, and radio and theatre drama. Bernardine’s novel Girl, Woman, Other won the Booker Prize 2019. She was the first black woman and black British person to win it in its fifty year history.  The novel also won many other prizes including the British Book Award’s Fiction Book of the Year & Author of the Year, and the Indie Book Award for Fiction. It was a #1 Sunday Times bestseller for five weeks, the first woman of colour to achieve this position in the paperback fiction chart, spending 44 weeks in the Top 10. There are now over 60 translations of Bernardine’s books in over 40 languages.

Her writing and projects are based around her interest in the African diaspora. Her first non-fiction book, Manifesto: On Never Giving Up, was published by Penguin UK in October 2021 & by Grove Atlantic USA, January 2022. Her second non-fiction book, Feminism (Look Again series, Tate Publishing, Nov. 2021) is a survey of the representation of women of colour in British art, responding to a major rehang of the galleries in Tate Britain, the National Collection of British Art, launched in 2023. In 2020 she collaborated with Pierpaolo Piccioli, Creative Director of Valentino, on his Collezione Milano collection, writing poetic text to accompany photographs of the collection by the photographer Liz Johnson Artur. This was published as a coffee table book – Collezione Milano (Rizzoli, 2021). She has written over twenty book introductions since 2020, including for the reissue of Beloved by Toni Morrison (Vintage Penguin Random House, 2022) and For Coloured Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf by Ntozake Shange (Faber, 2022).

Her verse novel The Emperor’s Babe was adapted into a BBC Radio 4 play in 2013 and her novella Hello Mum adapted as a BBC Radio 4 play in 2012. Mr Loverman Girl, Woman, Other are currently in development for both theatre and the screen.

She has received many awards, nominations and honours, including being voted one of 100 Great Black Britons in 2020 and making the Black Powerlist 100 in 2021 and 2022. In 2021, she was the 151st honoree on The Bookseller’s Powerlist 150, making her the defacto Person of the Year of the most important publishing industry magazine in Britain. She received an MBE in 2009 and an OBE in 2020, both in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List .

She is Professor of Creative Writing at Brunel University London. Her life-long fellowships include: Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, 2004; Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, 2006; Honorary Fellow of the English Association, 2017; Fellow of Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance, 2018 (where she graduated in 1982), assuming the role of President in 2021, succeeding Sir Richard Eyre; Honorary Fellow of St Anne’s College, University of Oxford, 2020; and International Honorary Fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, 2021. In 2022 she was made a Fellow of Goldsmiths, University of London (where she earned her PhD in 2013) and she was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Letters (D.Litt) from Queen Mary, University of London; Glasgow Caledonian University; and the University of Greenwich.

She is a Forbes ’50 over 50′ honoree for 2022 for the Europe, Middle East, & Africa region. Bernardine joined the governing Council of the Royal Society of Literature (RSL) in 2016, was Vice Chair from 2017-2020, became a lifetime Vice President in 2020, and she was selected as its 19th President in November 2021 (tenure: 2022-2026), succeeding Dame Marina Warner. She is the second woman and first writer of colour to hold the position since the RSL was founded in 1820.

 

Bernardine has been widely featured in the UK and international media. She has been the subject of two major arts’ documentary series: The Southbank Show, with Melvyn Bragg (Sky Arts TV, 2020) and Imagine, with Alan Yentob (BBC TV, 2021), and she has given hundreds of interviews including for HARDtalk, with Stephen Shakur (BBC World, 2020) and This Cultural Life, with John Wilson (BBC4, November 2021). She was also the subject of Profile (BBC R4, 2019) and Desert Island Discs (BBC R4, 2020) interviewed by Lauren Laverne.  In 2015 she wrote and presented a two-part BBC Radio 4 documentary called Fiery Inspiration: Amiri Baraka and the Black Arts Movement. Her many podcast appearances include being interviewed by the following people who have their own podcasts: Adwoa Aboah, Samira Ahmed, Elizabeth Day, Grace Dent, Annie MacManus, Graham Norton, James O’Brien, Natalie Portman, Jay Rayner, Simon Savidge and Jeremy Vine.

She has edited several publications and is currently curating Black Britain: Writing Back, a new book series with Penguin UK re-publishing books that have been out of circulation. The first six books, all novels, were published on February 4th 2021. The oldest book on the list is Minty Alley (1936) by C.L.R. James. The second series of books, non-fiction, was published in February 2022. She has written for many newspapers and magazines including the Guardian, New Statesman and British Vogue; has chaired and judged many literary awards including chairing the Women’s Prize for Fiction (2021), and she is on the editorial board of the African Poetry Book Fund (USA) for all its publications and prizes.

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