Introductions: Bernardine Evaristo
January 25, 2022
By Rebecca Hoogs, Executive Director
I came to Bernardine Evaristo after she won the 2019 Booker Prize for her novel, Girl, Woman, Other. Her win was notable for several reasons. It was the first time that the Booker had been shared by two writers—Margaret Atwood was the other winner for The Testaments. Evaristo describes the award ceremony: “Margaret and I met at the steps of the stage and hugged—two women, two races, two nations, two generations—two members of the human race—and then we ascended the stage hand-in-hand to rapturous applause. It was a landmark historical moment for literature and for the sisterhood.” Evaristo was also the first Black woman and first Black British person ever to win the prize.
That hug, that sisterhood, that intertwining of hands is reminiscent of the magic of Girl, Woman, Other, one of my favorite books of that year. It was also one of Obama’s favorites too. The book tells the linked stories of twelve Black British women over several decades. The New York Times described it “as a big, busy novel with a large root system.” Writer Chris Abani praises her writing, saying “Bernardine Evaristo uncovers characters lost to history and myth and with compassion, an original and brilliant voice, and an unparalleled craft—all tinged with humor—she restores them and thus us.”
In her new book, Manifesto: On Never Giving Up, Evaristo recounts her childhood, education, romantic relationships, friendships, art, and activism. At the end of the book she shares “The Evaristo Manifesto.” “There is a manifesto in each one of us, emerging over the course of our lives, changing & reconfiguring through our experiences.” I loved reading and reflecting on each of her statements, and I know you will too. One that struck me especially poignantly at this moment of intense disconnection was the following: “Personal success is most meaningful when used to uplift communities otherwise left behind. We are all interconnected & must look after each other.”
Evaristo’s work reminds us to uplift others, to remember the root system, and to link hands and ascend together.
Rebecca Hoogs gave this introduction to open our 2021/22 Literary Arts Series event with Bernardine Evaristo on January 24, 2022. Tickets to view the recorded event are still available through Monday, January 31, 2021 at 7:30 p.m. (PT).