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, Look Again: Feminism (Tate Galleries/Tate Publishing 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, 2024).
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 over 76 awards, nominations, fellowships and honours, and her books have been a Book of the Year sixty times. She was voted one of 100 Great Black Britons in 2020 and made the Black Powerlist 100 in 2021, 2022 and 2023. 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. In 2022 she made the Sky Arts’ list of ‘Britain’s 50 Most Influential Artists of the Past 50 years’. She received an MBE in 2009 and an OBE in 2020, both in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List.
Bernardine is the 2023-2024 Literature Mentor for the Rolex Mentor & Protege Arts Initiative (est. 2002), one of five international mentors representing five art forms who are mentoring a solo artist each. Her mentee is the Ghanaian novelist, Ayesha Harruna Attah.
Bernardine’s life-long fellowships include being elected a: 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 Member 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 in 2022 she received Honorary Doctorates from Kings College London; Queen Mary, University of London; Glasgow Caledonian University; South Bank University and the University of Greenwich. She is Professor of Creative Writing at Brunel University London.
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, and she is also the first president who was not educated at Oxford, Cambridge or Eton.
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 on their podcasts: Adwoa Aboah, Samira Ahmed, Elizabeth Day, Grace Dent, Annie MacManus (Annie Mac), 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 is a contributor for BBC Radio 4’s essay series, A Point of View, writing and presenting her opinion on topical subjects. 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.
Bernardine’s 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.
She guest-edited the UK Sunday Times Style magazine in July 2020 with a black women & womxn take-over, and she has edited several other publications. Her literary criticism and other writing has appeared in many national newspapers and magazines including the Guardian, Times Literary Supplement, Observer, Times, Independent, New Statesman, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Conde Nast Traveller. Bernardine has written many book introductions since 2019. She has also judged many literary awards and is on the Editorial Board of the African Poetry Book Fund (USA) for all its publications and prizes.
Since 1996 she has accepted numerous invitations to undertake international visits and tours as a writer. She gives readings, talks, delivers keynotes, chairs panels and delivers creative writing activities and courses. In 2019 she was the inaugural Woolwich Laureate, appointed by the Greenwich & Docklands International Festival. She is reconnecting to the home town she left at eighteen and writing about it.
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. There are now over 60 foreign editions of her books in nearly 40 languages.
A staunch and longstanding activist and advocate for the inclusion of artists and writers of colour, Bernardine has initiated several successful schemes to ensure increased representation in the creative industries.
Bernardine Evaristo was born the fourth of eight children, in Woolwich, south east London, 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; 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 PhD (Creative Writing). She spent her teenage years at Greenwich Young People’s Theatre, which was where she first became involved in the arts.
She lives in London with her husband.