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Bernardine Evaristo

British-Nigerian novelist

February 5, 2009
4:15 p.m. Seminar | Assembly Hall, Campus Center
8:00 p.m. Reading | Assembly Hall, Campus Center
Free and open to the public

Bernadine Evaristo, born in London to an English mother and Nigerian father, is celebrated for imaginative, humorous and occasionally ribald explorations of the cultural intercourse between African and Western civilizations.


Her newest book is Blonde Roots (2008), a perceptive, unflinching and often brutal counter-historical novel that poses the question, “What if black Africans had enslaved white Europeans?”


Blonde Roots follows the story of Doris Scagglethorpe, the daughter of an English cabbage farmer who is kidnapped while playing hide-and-seek with her sisters in the fields near their home, and subsequently shipped across the ocean and sold into slavery. Renamed Omorenomwara, Doris nurtures dreams of escape while enduring the horrors of slavery at the hands of black masters and mistresses.

In a starred review, Publishers Weekly said, “British novelist Evaristo delivers an astonishing, uncomfortable and beautiful alternative history… [her] intellectually rigourous narrative constantly surprises….” The BBC Radio reviewer called it, “absolutely amazing... a reminder of what great literature is about.”

Blonde Roots is Evaristo’s first novel written exclusively in prose. Her earlier works include Lara (1997), a novel-in-verse that traces the roots of a mixed race family over 150 years; The Emperor’s Babe (2001), another verse novel that tells the story of a Sudanese girl living in London during Roman times; and Soul Tourists (2005), a “novel-with-verse” that follows a mismatched pair of black lovers as they investigate forgotten corners of black European history on a road tour through Continental Europe.

The Emperor’s Babe was named a “Book of the Year” by three of the UK’s leading newspapers, including The Times of London, the Daily Telegraph and the Independent Sunday. The London Sunday Times called it, “a fast, exciting read… a modern work of art that uses the literary traditions with such light assurance that everything seems new.” Lara received the Writer’s Award of the Arts Council of England and the EMMA Award for Best Novel and was named a “Book of the Year” by the Daily Telegraph and New Statesman (UK).




Bernadine Evaristo Blonde Roots.jpg

Bernadine Evaristo (credit Hayley Madden)


Read transcripts from Bernadine Evaristo's 2002 visit to the NYS Writers Institute:

Interview  /  Question and answer session

The founder of The Complete Works, a new mentoring program for poets of color in the United Kingdom, Evaristo is also a fellow of both the Royal Society of Literature and the Royal Society of Arts.

Bernadine Evaristo also visited the NYS Writers Institute in 2002.

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