Nigerian-British writer, Bernardine Anne Mobolaji Evaristo, has been named the author of the year at the British Book awards, the first black writer to ever win the category.
The British Book awards, also known as the Nibbies, are produced by the UK’s book trade magazine, the Bookseller.
Ms Evaristo, who was the joint winner of last year’s Booker prize for her polyphonic novel, ‘Girl, Woman, Other’, also won the fiction category, snagging the prize ahead of her fellow Booker winner Margaret Atwood, renowned Canadian author of “The Testaments.”
Last month, the Nigerian novelist became the first black woman to top the fiction paperback charts in the UK, a development she described as surreal.
This was after a widespread criticism of UK publishing industry of having biases against black and Asian writers against the backdrop of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I’ve been writing for a very long time, and it’s incredibly gratifying to know that my work is finally reaching a wider readership. It’s also fantastic to see so many other books by writers of colour storming the charts.
“I’m pretty sure this is unprecedented. Of course, this has been triggered by the tragedy of George Floyd’s death and we should always remember that,” the novelist said in a report by the Guardian UK.
Ms Evaristo is a signatory to an open letter from a newly formed Black Writers’ Guild which is calling for sweeping change in the British publishing industry. Publishers are “definitely listening to us today.” she was quoted as saying.
Meanwhile, another Nigeria writer, Oyinkan Braithwaite, won crime and thriller book of the year for her thriller novel, “My Sister, the Serial Killer” which has received many nominations and won the Anthony award for Best First Novel.
Bernardine Mobolaji Evaristo | Biography
Evaristo was born in Eltham, south-east London, and christened Bernardine Anne Mobolaji Evaristo. She was raised in Woolwich. She is the fourth of eight children born to her white English mother, and her Nigerian father, who migrated to Britain in 1949 and became a welder and local Labour councillor.
Evaristo 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, from where she received her doctorate in creative writing in 2013.
In 2019 she was appointed Woolwich Laureate by the Greenwich and Docklands International Festival, reconnecting to and writing about the home town she left when she was 18.
Evaristo is the author of eight books of fiction and verse fiction that explore aspects of the African diaspora.
Two of her books, The Emperor’s Babe (2001) and Hello Mum (2010), have been adapted into BBC Radio 4 dramas.
In July 2019, her novel “Girl, Woman, Other” was longlisted for the Booker Prize and shortlisted for the 2019 Gordon Burn Prize.The novel was on the Booker Prize shortlist announced on 3 September 2019, alongside books by Chigozie Obioma, Salman Rushdie and Elif Shafak, and on 14 October won the prize jointly with Atwood’s The Testaments.
The win made her the first black woman and first black British author to win the prize.
Girl, Woman, Other was shortlisted for the 2020 Women’s Prize for Fiction.
The novel was chosen by former US President Barack Obama as one of his 19 favourite books of 2019.
She is currently Professor of Creative Writing at Brunel University London and the vice-chair of the Royal Society of Literature.