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Bernardine shares Booker Prize with Atwood

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Brunel writer Professor Bernardine Evaristo has made history as the first black woman to win The Booker Prize.

In a surprise move, after taking longer than three hours to decide, judges ripped up their own rulebook and refused to name just one winner.

The award's £50,000 prize money will be split between Bernardine and Canadian literary legend, Margaret Atwood, who at 79 is the oldest Booker winner.

It will be a career ‘game-changer’ said Bernardine, who hopes her win will inspire fresh female black writing talent.

"I think I swore a lot,” the creative writing lecturer, 60, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning. “I was just flabbergasted and excited, it was completely wonderful.

"It means my work gets out there to a much wider audience around the world. There are lots of prizes people from certain communities don't win – certainly black people don't win lots of literary awards. No one seems to notice, but it's really important.

"Hopefully, this signals a new direction for the Booker and the kind of judges they have. This year there were four women judges and one male.

"I hope more black women win this prize."

When their names were called at a ceremony last night at London’s Guildhall, the pair linked arms on stage and Atwood joked: "I would have thought I would have been too elderly, and I kind of don't need the attention, so I'm very glad that you're getting some.

"It would have been quite embarrassing for me… if I had been alone here, so I'm very pleased that you're here too." She told Bernardine: "What you have done is to make it possible for more black women to consider that writing is something they can do."

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Girl, Woman, Other, Bernardine’s eighth novel, is a kaleidoscope of 12 different black women’s stories. “I just wanted to explore a range of black, British womanhood,” she said. Peter Florence, the chair of the judges said there was ‘something utterly magical’ about the characters he said ‘give a wonderful spectrum of black British women today’.

Atwood won the Booker for The Blind Assassin 19 years ago, and 33 years ago was nominated for her dystopian fiction, The Handmaid's Tale. Her winning book, The Testaments picks up 15 years after the end of that novel. Out in September, it sold more than 100,000 copies in the UK in its first week.

The Booker prize has been split twice before: in 1974 and in 1992. After 1992, the rules were changed to stress the prize ‘may not be divided or withheld’, but ignored for this year’s tough decision.

Read more about studying creative writing at Brunel.

Images: Janie Airey

Reported by:

Hayley Jarvis, Media Relations
+44 (0)1895 268176
hayley.jarvis@brunel.ac.uk