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Black Inspirations: Bernardine Evaristo

Written by Comment

In the wake of protests across the world, our writers were invited to discuss a black individual who inspires them. In this piece, Nadia Ashbridge considers the life and work of author Bernardine Evaristo.

At the beginning of lockdown, I had the pleasure of reading Girl, Woman, Other, by Bernardine Evaristo; it turned out to be one of the most influential novels I have ever read. It inspired in me an internal consideration of many black and LGBTQ+ matters of which I had previously been ignorant. The ideas, creativity and literary style of the author was captivating: I would highly recommend this book to everybody.

Evaristo explores African diaspora with poetry and history

Evaristo was born into a large family in 1959, to an English mother and Nigerian father. Born and raised in south east London, she went on to study the theatre arts and later receive a doctorate in creative writing from Goldsmiths College, University of London. In 1994, she released her first published book, a poetry collection, and published her first novel, The Emperor’s Babe, in 2001. Her eight novels are primarily focused on African diaspora, and use unique and original ways to explore reality, including poetry, history and speculation. 

Evaristo has taken a stand against diversity panels

In addition to producing her multi-award-winning portfolio, Evaristo is a longstanding activist for the diversification of the arts. She’s involved in founding many successful projects to promote the inclusion of people of colour, dating back to 1982. She has, however, finally taken a stand against participating in diversity panels. To quote Evaristo: “literature’s gatekeepers are the ones to change their culture of exclusion, and many of us are fed up of being asked for solutions to systemic racism when we are not the perpetrators of it”.

Evaristo’s work is accessible and insightful

As a white woman, I have found Evaristo’s writings to be both accessible and insightful. They vehemently echo her argument that art offers a medium through which people with vastly different experiences “can interrogate universal truths about what it means to be human”. I strongly recommend Evaristo’s recent and topical article in British Vogue to anyone interested in both her work and her wider ambition to diversify the arts. 

Last modified: 12th June 2020

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