England’s most prestigious literary prize has been awarded to Bernadine Evaristo, an Anglo-Nigerian writer, for her eighth work of fiction, to be shared with Margaret Atwood , author of “The Testaments” in a surprise double award approved by the judging panel.
Of Nigerian and British parentage, Evaristo is the first black woman to win the Booker Prize, which honors the best novel of the year written in English and published in the UK and Ireland.
Ron Charles, Book World critic, wrote about Evaristo’s latest book: “Girl, Woman, Other” – “It’s a breathtaking symphony of black women’s voices, a clear-eyed survey of contemporary challenges that’s nevertheless wonderfully life-affirming.
“The Booker Prize has done a great service in giving an astonishingly creative, insightful and humane writer the worldwide attention she has long deserved.”
In the book, the author tells the stories of 12 black women living in Britain, between 19 and 93 years of age over the course of several decades and with various sexual orientations.
Evaristo, who lives in Britain and whose father was raised in Lagos and left Nigeria for Britain in 1949, participated in this year’s annual Ake literary festival in Lagos because it was important to “bridge the gap” between people in Africa and its diaspora.
Similarly, she hoped to bridge the gap in the UK where she felt the debate surrounding Britain’s exit from the European Union had led to an increase in “street level bigotry”.
“Literature speaks to our humanity and hopefully that’s what this book is doing, so hopefully it is helping people understand and create empathy about people they aren’t necessarily coming into contact with,” she said.
Evaristo said it was important for the book to be recognized because of the shortage of published literature either by, or about, black women in Britain.
“We need to see ourselves reflected in the society we’re living in. The fact that I have to draw attention to the fact that we are pretty absent from literature is a real problem because I think a lot of people don’t notice that.”
The prize comes with an award of $62,800 which will be split between Evaristo and Atwood. The book can be purchased through Amazon.