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Evaristo, Bernardine

Bernardine Evaristo

Elected: 2004

Year of birth: 1959

Image credit: Jennie Scott

Bernardine Evaristo won the Booker Prize 2019 with her eighth book, Girl, Woman, Other, the first black woman and black British person to win it. It was a #1 Sunday Times bestseller for five weeks, the first woman of colour to achieve this position in the paperback fiction chart, spending 44 weeks in the Top 10. It has sold well over a million copies in the English language alone, and been a bestseller in many other languages. There are now over 60 translations of Bernardine’s books.

The author of essays, poetry, journalism, literary criticism and drama, her other novels include Mr Loverman, Hello Mum, Blonde Roots, Lara and The Emperor’s Babe. Manifesto: On Never Giving Up (2021) is her first non-fiction book, along with Feminism (2021), part of Tate Britain’s ‘Look Again’ series, where she offers a personal survey of the art of British women of colour.

She has initiated many arts’ inclusion projects, from Theatre of Black Women (1982-88), Britain’s first such company, to The Complete Works Poetry Mentoring scheme, which mentored 30 poets between 2007-2017, many of whom are now among Britain’s leading poets; and also the Brunel International African Poetry Prize (2012-), which has introduced many new poets who are becoming major names in the poetry landscape. She also co-founded Spread the Word, London’s writer’s development agency (1995 -). Since 2020 she has been the curator of Black Britain: Writing Back for Penguin Random House, re-releasing books from the past. As a Sky Arts Ambassador, initiated the RSL/Sky mentoring scheme.

The subject of two documentaries: The Southbank Show (Sky Arts, with Melvyn Bragg) in 2020, and Imagine (BBC 1, with Alan Yentob) in 2021, Bernardine has been featured widely in the media.

Bernardine has judged and chaired many prizes including the Nero Gold Prize (2024) and the Women’s Prize for Fiction (2021). She has received over seventy awards and honours including the British Book Award’s Fiction Book of the Year & Author of the Year, and an MBE (2009) and OBE (2020).  She is Professor of Creative Writing at Brunel University London, an Honorary Fellow of St. Anne’s College, University of Oxford, an International Honorary Fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, formerly a Council member and Vice President. She is also President of Rose Bruford College of Theatre and Performance.

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Fellowship Election Process​

Fellows are nominated by peers and elected by our Council of writers – our governing Board. Being elected a Fellow of the RSL is a lifetime honour. This role gives them the opportunity to support other writers, readers and the future of literature. The RSL connects writers in the Fellowship to one another, and to a wider readership.