Belfast Telegraph

Bernardine Evaristo hopes first Booker win for black woman will alter attitudes

She has made Booker Prize history.

Bernardine Evaristo won the Booker Prize (Booker Prizes/PA)
Bernardine Evaristo won the Booker Prize (Booker Prizes/PA)

By Craig Simpson, PA

Bernardine Evaristo said she will continue to talk about her “historic” Booker Prize win, the first for a black woman.

She hopes her victory will change the perceptions of black British women that she claims pervade Middle England.

Evaristo has said these woman are an “unknown quantity” in fiction and in the preconceptions of sections of UK society.

The author made history after being awarded the prestigious annual honour along with Margaret Atwood, as judges ignored rules against dividing the spoils.

Evaristo was hailed for her work Girl, Woman, Other, which explores a range of black female voices.

The writer, 60, hopes her decades of perseverance and recent victory will inspire other authors and a change in the attitudes to black women.

She said: “My work being read by all kinds of people all over the world is really amazing.

“But also the impact of being the first black woman to win the Booker is something that I will continue to talk about.

“It’s significant, it’s historic, it’s really important that it’s finally happened.

“It encourages us to have a conversation about why it didn’t happen before.

“What kind of literature is valued, who gets anointed and who doesn’t.”

Evaristo believes that, as well as her talent, the presence of a larger proportion of women on the judging panel helped secure her Booker win.

She said that changes in the make-up of panels, and society’s attitudes, will help open up prizes to black women, and open people’s mind’s to black experiences.

The London-based writer said: “We’re not really out there, we’re sort of an unknown quantity really, black British women.

“We don’t really people the pages of British fiction.

“One of the things that I hope the book will do is see the variety of who we are. To see how different we are, but also a shared humanity.

“I want people who pick up this book now, who may encounter many people of colour in their lives, and that would say be Middle England, and other parts of the UK – that it will open up something of our experience.”

While Atwood has said she will give her £25,000 prize money away, Evaristo has more practical plans.

She said: “I have mortgage and I’d like to reduce it. So that’s what’s happening with it.”

PA

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