British-Nigerian writer Bernardine Evaristo is the award-winning author of nine books and numerous other published and produced works that span the genres of novels, poetry, verse fiction, short fiction, essays, literary criticism, and radio and theatre drama. Her novel, Girl, Woman, Other (Hamish Hamilton/Penguin, 2019) won the Booker Prize 2019, and in 2020, the British Book Award’s Author of the Year and Fiction Book of the Year, and the Indie Book Award for Fiction. She is also an editor of anthologies and special issues of magazines. Her writing and projects are based around her interest in the African diaspora. She is Professor of Creative Writing at Brunel University London. Her first verse novel Lara (1997) was republished by Bloodaxe in 2009. She co-edited the Spread the Word new poets anthology Ten (Bloodaxe Books/The Complete Works, 2010) with Daljit Nagra. Her memoir Manifesto: On Never Giving Up was published by Pengiun in October 2021.
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. In 2019 she was the inaugural Woolwich Laureate, appointed by the Greenwich & Docklands International Festival.
Her awards include the Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize, EMMA Best Book Award, Publishing Triangle Ferro-Grumley Award for LGBT Fiction for Mr Loverman (USA), Big Red Read Award, Orange Youth Panel Award, NESTA Fellowship Award and the Arts Council of England Writers’ Award 2000. She received an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in 2009, and an OBE in 2020. 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 prizes. In December 2020 was appointed President of Rose Bruford College of Theatre & Performance, where she studied from 1979 to 1982. She joined the governing Council of the Royal Society of Literature in 2016 and became Vice Chair in 2017. She was made a Vice-President in November 2020, and a year later she was named as the 19th President of the the Royal Society of Literature. She will serve from 2022 to 2026.
Bernardine is a staunch and longstanding activist and advocate for the inclusion of artists and writers of colour, and she has initiated several successful schemes to ensure increased representation in the creative industries. She co-founded Theatre of Black Women with Patricia St Hilaire and Paulette Randall in the 80s, and Spread the Word writer development agency with Ruth Borthwick in the 90s (1995–continuing). Her recent literary advocacy projects include founding The Complete Works poets’ mentoring scheme (2007-2017) to redress the under 1% statistic of publications by poets of colour in the UK identified in the Arts Council’s Free Verse report she initiated. It has so far seen 30 poets of colour mentored by many of Britain’s leading poets. She also founded the annual £3000 Brunel International African Poetry Prize in (2012–continuing). All the shortlisted and winning poets of the Prize have had poetry pamphlets published with the Next Generation African Poets Series of box sets, with the African Poetry Book Fund, as well as first collections.
Bernardine Evaristo's website: https://bevaristo.com