Brunel professor Bernardine Evaristo wins Booker Prize

Writer inspired by her childhood experiences of ‘belonging and not belonging’ is honoured alongside Margaret Atwood

October 15, 2019
Bernardine Evaristo
Source: Jennie Scott

Bernardine Evaristo, professor of creative writing at Brunel University London, shares this year’s Booker Prize for Fiction – perhaps the most prestigious literary award in the English-speaking world.

The author of seven earlier works of fiction, including The Emperor’s Babe, Blonde Roots and Mr Loverman, Professor Evaristo also founded the Brunel International African Poetry Prize in 2012 and recently told Times Higher Education that she enjoyed teaching her creative writing students how to “develop their own unique voice” through “encouraging them to experiment and providing imaginative exercises that free them from traditional ways of writing fiction”.

In the same interview, Professor Evaristo explained that “as the fourth of eight children born to a Nigerian man and white English mother in what was then a white London suburb”, she had been affected by “the concept of race and being viewed as an outsider” from the day she was born. All her writing, she added, was “shaped by the dichotomies of my childhood, of belonging and not belonging, the black and white of it, the socialist activist father and the Roman Catholic inculcation”.

Her prizewinning novel, Girl, Woman, Other, which she described as a work of “fusion fiction”, tells the story of 12 loosely linked characters, most of them black British women.

Asked how she wished to be remembered, Professor Evaristo told THE that she hoped it would be “as an individualistic writer who understood the meaning of the word ‘community’”. The judges, who took the unusual step of awarding her the Booker Prize jointly with the Canadian novelist Margaret Atwood, should ensure that her work now reaches a far wider readership.

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