Bernardine Evaristo’s biography, fact, career, awards, net worth and life story

Intro British author and academic
Is Writer
From United Kingdom
Type Academia
Gender female
Birth 1959, London, England, UK
Age 62 years
Goldsmiths, University of London doctorate
Rose Bruford College
Eltham Hill School
Member of the Order of the British Empire
Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts 2006
Fellow of the English Association
Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature 2004
Booker Prize 2019

Bernardine Evaristo, MBE FRSL FRSA, (born 1959) is a multiple award-winning British writer.


Evaristo was born in 1959 in London to an English mother, who was a schoolteacher, and a Nigerian father, who migrated to Britain in 1949 and became a welder. Her paternal grandfather was a Yoruba Saro who returned from Brazil to Nigeria and her paternal grandmother was from Abeokuta in Nigeria. Her mother’s paternal great-grandfather arrived in London from Germany in the 1860s and settled in Woolwich, south-east London, and her mother’s maternal grandmother arrived in London from Ireland in the 1880s and settled in Islington. The fourth of eight children, Evaristo was raised in Woolwich. She was educated at Greenwich Young People’s Theatre, Eltham Hill Grammar School for Girls, the Rose Bruford College of Speech and Drama and Goldsmiths College, University of London, where she earned her Doctorate of Philosophy. She is Professor of Creative Writing at Brunel University London. She lives in London with her husband.


Evaristo is the author of seven books of fiction and verse fiction that explore aspects of the African diaspora. She is a noted experimenter with form and narrative perspective, often merging the past with the present, fiction with poetry, the factual with the speculative, and reality with alternate realities.

Her most recent work is Mr Loverman (Penguin UK, 2013/ Akashic Books USA, 2014), about a septuagenarian Caribbean Londoner who is a closet homosexual and considering his options after a 50-year marriage to his wife. It won the Publishing Triangle Ferro-Grumley Award for LGBT Fiction (USA) and the Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize.

Her other books include the verse novel Lara (Bloodaxe Books, 2009, with an earlier version pbd in 1997), which fictionalised the multiple cultural strands of her family history going back over 150 years as well as her mixed-race London childhood. This won the EMMA Best Novel Award in 1998.

Her verse novel The Emperor’s Babe (Penguin, 2001) is about a black teenage girl whose parents are from Nubia, who comes of age in Roman London nearly two thousand years ago. It won an Arts Council Writers Award 2000; a NESTA Fellowship Award in 2003; it was chosen by The Times as one of the “100 Best Books of the Decade” in 2010; and it was adapted into a BBC Radio 4 play in 2013.

Next she published Soul Tourists (Penguin 2005), about a couple driving across Europe to the Middle East, which featured ghosts of colour from European history.

Her novel Blonde Roots (Penguin, 2008) is a satire that inverts the history of the transatlantic slave trade and replaces it with a universe where Africans enslave Europeans. Blonde Roots won the Orange Youth Panel Award and Big Red Read Award.

Her novella Hello Mum (Penguin, 2010) was chosen as “The Big Read” for the County of Suffolk, and adapted into a BBC Radio 4 play in 2012.

She has also had numerous creative works produced and published including drama for stage and radio, as well as poetry, short fiction, non-fiction and literary criticism.

As an editor, she guest-edited the September 2014 issue of Mslexia magazine. Other editorships include the Poetry Society of Great Britain’s centenary winter issue of Poetry Review (2012), titled “Offending Frequencies”; a special issue of Wasafiri magazine called Black Britain: Beyond Definition (Routledge, 2010), with poet Karen McCarthy-Woolf; Ten, an anthology of Black and Asian poets, with poet Daljit Nagra (Bloodaxe Books, 2010). In 2007, she co-edited the New Writing Anthology NW15 (Granta/British Council). She was also editor of FrontSeat intercultural magazine in the 1990s.

In 2015 she wrote and presented a two-part BBC Radio 4 documentary, Fiery Inspiration – on Amiri Baraka and his influence on her generation of writers.

Teaching and touring

Evaristo has taught creative writing in a variety of settings for more than 20 years. She is currently Professor of Creative Writing at Brunel University London and she taught the University of East Anglia-Guardian “How to Tell a Story” course for four seasons in London. She has also been awarded many writing fellowships and residencies, including the Montgomery Fellowship at Dartmouth College, New Hampshire, in 2015; Georgetown University, Washington DC; Barnard College/ Columbia University, New York; University of the Western Cape, South Africa; the Virginia Arts Festival (Virginia, USA), and Writing Fellow at the University of East Anglia, UK. Since 1997 she has accepted more than 140 international invitations as a writer. These involve writer-residencies and visiting fellowships, British Council tours, book tours, teaching creative writing courses and workshops as well as keynotes, talks and panels at many conferences and literary festivals. She has also toured the UK widely and frequently hosts and chairs events.

Critic and advocate

Evaristo writes book reviews for several national UK newspapers, including The Guardian, The Observer, The Independent and The Times. In 2012, she was Chair of judges for the Caine Prize for African Writing and Chair of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize. She has also judged my other literary prizes including the Poetry Society’s National Poetry Competition, Costa Book Awards, the T. S. Eliot Prize, Orange Award for New Writers and Next Generation Poets. She is a patron of the SI Leeds Literary Prize. In 2012, she initiated the Brunel University African Poetry Prize.

In 2006 Evaristo initiated an Arts Council-funded report by Spread the Word writers’ organisation into why black and Asian poets were not getting published in the UK, which revealed that less than 1% of all published poetry is by non-whites. When the report was published she then initiated The Complete Works poetry mentoring scheme, now in its fourth year, with Spread the Word. Twenty poets have thus far been mentored and are already publishing books, winning awards and receiving acclaim for their poetry.

She has also served on many key councils and advisory committees for various organizations including the Arts Council of England, the London Arts Board, the British Council, the Society of Authors, the Poetry Society (Chair) and Wasafiri international literature magazine.

In the 1980s, together with Paulette Randall and Patricia Hilaire, she founded Theatre of Black Women, Britain’s first such theatre company, formed at a time when there were limited acting opportunities for black women in British theatre and film. In the 1990s she organized Britain’s first black British writing conference, held at the Museum of London, and also Britain’s first black British theatre conference, held at the Royal Festival Hall. In 1995 she co-founded and directed Spread the Word literature development agency, now in its 20th year.

Academic honours

  • 2015 CBASS Award for Excellence, Brunel University London
  • 2014 Appointed The Public Orator, Brunel University London
  • 2014 Brunel University London Inspirational Teacher Award – finalist

Honours, awards, fellowships

  • The Booker Prize 2019
  • 2020: British Book Awards: Author of the Year
  • 2020: British Book Awards: Fiction Book of the Year
  • 2020: Indie Book Award for Fiction
  • 2020: Voted one of 100 Great Black Britons (campaign/book)
  • 2020: The Vogue 25 for 2020 – list of Britain’s 25 most influential women
  • 2020: Elle 50 – list of Britain’s gamechangers
  • 2020: The Orwell Prize for Political Fiction (finalist)
  • 2020: Women’s Prize for Fiction (finalist)
  • 2020: The Glass Bell Awards (finalist)
  • 2020: Visionary Honours Awards (finalist)
  • 2020: Australian Industry Book Awards (longlist)
  • 2020: Ferro-Grumley Awards USA (finalist)
  • 2019: Financial Times: list of 14 women gamechangers for 2019
  • 2019: Goodread’s Choice Award Best Fiction (finalist)
  • 2019: Gordon Burn Prize (finalist)
  • 2019: Winner of the Booker Prize, October 2019
  • 2018: Elected a Fellow, Rose Bruford College of Theatre & Performance
  • 2017: Elected a Fellow, the English Association
  • 2015: Triangle Publishing Awards: Ferro-Grumley Award for LGBT Fiction, USA
  • 2015: The Montgomery Fellowship, Dartmouth College, USA
  • 2014: Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize
  • 2010: The Emperor’s BabeThe Times (UK) “100 Best Books of the Decade”
  • 2010: Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, USA (finalist)
  • 2010: Poetry Book Society Commendation for Ten, co-edited with Daljit Nagra
  • 2009: International Dublin Literary Award, nominated for Blonde Roots
  • 2009: Big Red Read Award, Fiction and overall winner for “Blonde Roots”
  • 2009: Awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for services to Literature
  • 2009: Orange Prize Youth Panel Choice for Blonde Roots
  • 2009: Orange Prize for Fiction, nominated for Blonde Roots
  • 2009: Arthur C. Clarke Award, nominated for Blonde Roots
  • 2006: Elected a Fellow, Royal Society of Arts (est. 1754)
  • 2006: British Council Fellow, Georgetown University, USA
  • 2004: Elected a Fellow, Royal Society of Literature (est. 1820)
  • 2003: NESTA Fellowship Award (National Endowment of Science, Technology & The Arts)
  • 2002: UEA Writing Fellow, University of East Anglia
  • 2000: Arts Council England Writer’s Award 2000, for The Emperor’s Babe
  • 1999: EMMA Best Book Award for Lara

About the author