Booker Prize-winning author Bernardine Evaristo says she fears publishers’ interest in black authors is just a ‘trend or fad’ that could decline unless the business becomes more diverse .
Evaristo, who was the first black woman to win the literary prize for her novel Girl, Woman, Other in 2019, said the Black Lives Matter movement and the 2020 murder of George Floyd “really shook the industry to the core” and marked a turning point in previously “excluded” authors getting job offers. books.
She told a Hay Festival audience: ‘It’s a really good time for black writers to get published. Whether this is the case in five or ten years, we will have to see. What interests me is that our literature is rooted in culture rather than being part of a trend or a fad.
Evaristo considered it crucial for change to happen at the top: “You have to have [diversity among] decision-makers in publishing houses, and a wider range of writers, and writers from underrepresented communities, who are published. That’s certainly what’s happening right now and it’s a really positive thing.
Evaristo said the Booker had been a “powerful prize” to win because it “reached the middle of England [only] after that,” despite a 40-year writing career.
“People sometimes define [Girl, Woman, Other] in terms of race, but if you go beyond that you’ll see there’s a lot more. I think that probably makes it accessible in all sorts of ways to all sorts of readers, and because it had Booker’s stamp of approval, people overcame their previous barriers to reading my work and thought, I’m going to try.
Evaristo told festival audiences that she considered writing 1,000 black female characters in Girl, Woman, Other“What I wanted to do was put as many black British women as possible in one novel because I was fed up with the fact that we weren’t really present in British literature and I knew that to be present, we had to write these stories ourselves,” she said. But she decided a novel on this scale would be “impossible” and instead started writing the book with 100 characters. found herself devoting 30 pages to each, she narrowed down the final cast to the 12 that appear in the book.
Speaking of his recent memoirs, Manifesto: Never Give UpEvaristo said: “Although my origin story growing up in Woolwich in the 60s and 70s with a black father and a white mother placed obstacles in my way, I wanted to explore how it made me – as opposed to the how it kept me from being the person I have become.