Bernardine Evaristo

Booker Prize-winning Novelist
Essayist, Dramatist & Literary Critic
Advocate & Activist for Inclusion In the Arts

Readings &
Lecture Topics
  • Girl, Woman, Other
  • How To Tell A Story 
  • On Character
  • Fiery Inspiration
  • An Evening with Bernardine Evaristo 

Biography

“Bernardine Evaristo uncovers characters lost to history and myth and with compassion, an original and brilliant voice, and an unparalleled craft—all tinged with humor—she restores them and thus us.” —Chris Abani

“Evaristo is known for narratives that weave through time and place with crackling originality.” —Vogue

“Evaristo has a gift for appraising the lives of her characters with sympathy and grace while gently skewering some of their pretensions.” —The New York Times

“Evaristo writes sensitively about how we raise children, how we pursue careers, how we grieve, how we love…. She captures the shared experience that make us members of the human family.” —Financial Times

Bernardine Evaristo is the author of the 2019 Booker Prize-winning novel Girl, Woman, Other. Her numerous other works span the genres of fiction, verse fiction, short fiction, poetry, essays, literary criticism, and radio and theatre drama. Other fiction titles include Mr. Loverman, a novel about a closet gay septuagenarian Antiguan-Londoner which explodes cultural myths and fallacies and shows the extent of what can happen when people fear the consequences of being true to themselves; Blonde Roots, a prose novel in which Africans enslave Europeans; and Lara, a semi-autobiographical verse novel of a mixed raced daughter of an Englishwoman and a Nigerian man. Her first non-fiction book, Manifesto: On Never Giving Up, will be published in 2022 by Grove Atlantic. In all of her work, Evaristo’s writing is celebrated for its experimentation, daring, subversion, and challenging the myths of Afro-diasporic identities and histories. She describes her writing style as a fusion: “As a writer of fictions I like to mix things up temporally, spatially and stylistically—to cross the borders of genre, race, culture, gender, history, and sexuality.” The Booker Judges citation praises Girl, Woman, Other for this fusion, saying “The language wraps the reader by force, with the quality of oral traditions and poetry. This is a novel that deserves to be read aloud and to be performed and celebrated in all kinds of media.”

In Girl, Woman, Other Evaristo offers a magnificent portrayal of the intersections of identity and a moving and hopeful story of an interconnected group of black British women that paints a vivid portrait of the state of contemporary Britain and looks back to the legacy of Britain’s colonial history in Africa and the Caribbean. “This masterful novel is a choral love song to black womanhood.”, wrote Elle magazine, while The Washington Post proclaimed, “Girl, Woman, Other as “A breathtaking symphony of black women’s voices, a clear-eyed survey of contemporary challenges that’s nevertheless wonderfully life-affirming.” Evaristo won the Booker Prize alongside Margaret Atwood, to which the Washington Post also remarked, “Girl, Woman, Other received half a Booker Prize, but it deserves all the glory.”

Evaristo’s Afro-diasporic interests have led her to writing books that connect ancient and modern history with our contemporary society. She writes, “One of my aims as a writer is to explore the hidden narratives of the African diaspora, to play with ideas, conjur up original and innovative fiction and forms, and to subvert expectations and assumptions. Writing is an adventure, a journey into the unknown, and I enjoy liberating myself from the shackles of convention.” Addressing the themes and style of her other novels, she expands: “In Blonde Roots and The Emperor’s Babe I employ lashings of anachronisms to create worlds with shifting time frames that explore the relationship between the past and the present. In Lara I created multiple, inter-generational, inter-racial and inter-continental voices that examine the multicultural roots of the eponymous, mixed-race Lara. In Soul Tourists the past is revisited through ghosts of colour based on real characters in European history.”

Evaristo has edited several publications and her literary criticism appears in national newspapers and magazines including The Guardian, The New York Times Literary Supplement, The New York Observer, The New York Times, The Independent, and The New Statesman. Her books have been a “Notable Book of the Year” thirteen times in British newspapers. The Emperor’s Babe was a London Times Book of the Decade. Her books have been translated into several languages including Czech, Finnish, Hungarian, Italian & Mandarin.

In the genre of radio drama, in 2015 she wrote and presented a two-part BBC Radio 4 documentary called Fiery Inspiration: Amiri Baraka and the Black Arts Movement. In 2013, her verse novel The Emperor’s Babe was adapted into a BBC Radio 4 play, and in 2012, her novella Hello Mum was adapted as a BBC Radio 4 play.

A staunch and longstanding activist and advocate for the inclusion of artists and writers of color, Evaristo has initiated several successful schemes to ensure increased representation in the creative industries. 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 labor councilor; her mother was a schoolteacher. She spent her teenage years at Greenwich Young People’s Theatre, which was where she first became involved in the arts. In 2019, Evaristo served as the inaugural Woolwich Laureate, appointed by the Greenwich & Docklands International Festival.

Among her many honors, Evaristo was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature (2004), a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (2006), a Fellow of the English Association (2017), and a Fellow of Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance (2018). She joined the governing Council of the Royal Society of Literature in 2016 and became Vice Chair in 2017.

Evaristo lives in London with her husband, where she is Professor of Creative Writing at Brunel University London.

Short Bio

Bernardine Evaristo is the author of the 2019 Booker Prize-winning novel Girl, Woman, Other. Her numerous other works span the genres of fiction, verse fiction, short fiction, poetry, essays, literary criticism, and radio and theatre drama. Other fiction titles include Mr. Loverman, Blonde Roots, and Lara. Her first non-fiction book, Manifesto: On Never Giving Up, will be published in 2022 by Grove Atlantic. Her writing is celebrated for its experimentation, daring, subversion, and challenging the myths of Afro-diasporic identities and histories. A staunch and longstanding activist and advocate for the inclusion of artists and writers of color, Evaristo has initiated several successful schemes to ensure increased representation in the creative industries. She is Professor of Creative Writing at Brunel University London.

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