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She was born in London to an English mother and Nigerian father and was raised in Woolwich, south-east London. The fourth of eight children, her mother was a schoolteacher and her father a welder, labour councillor, shop steward and political activist. She was educated at Eltham Hill Girls Grammar School and The Rose Bruford College of Speech and Drama. She spent her teenage years acting at Greenwich Young People's Theatre.
Evaristo is the author of six books of fiction and verse fiction that include: Lara, a verse novel, based on her family history, with roots in England, Nigeria, Ireland, Germany and Brazil (Bloodaxe Books, 2009). It is a revised and expanded (by a third) version of an earlier edition of the book (1997); Hello Mum, a Quick Reads novella about teenage knife crime (Penguin, 2010); Blonde Roots, her first fully prose novel, in which she created a fictional world where Africans enslave Europeans (Penguin UK, 2008/Penguin US, 2009); Soul Tourists, an experimental novel that fuses poetry, prose, scripts and other non-literary devices. The novel is about a car drive across Europe in the late 1980s and ghosts of colour of European history including Alexander Pushkin, Shakespeare’s "Dark Lady of the Sonnets", Mary Seacole, the Chevalier de Saint-George and Alessandro de' Medici (Penguin, 2005); The Emperor’s Babe, a verse novel about a black girl called Zuleika who grows up in Roman London nearly 1800 years ago (Penguin UK, 2001/ Penguin US, 2002).
Her seventh book, a novel called "Mr Loverman' will be published by Penguin on August 29th, 2013.
Her website is www.bevaristo.com
She edited Ten, the anthology of Black and Asian poets with poet Daljit Nagra (Bloodaxe Books, 2010.) This is part of The Complete Works project (see below). She also edited, with poet Karen McCarthy, a special issue of Wasafiri called Black Britain: Beyond Definition (Routledge, 2010) and she edited the New Writing Anthology NW15 in 2007 with the novelist Maggie Gee (Granta/British Council) She is Guest Editor of Poetry Review, Winter 2012.
Teaching & Touring
Evaristo is Reader in Creative Writing at Brunel University (Since Sept 2011) and currently teaches the UEA-Guardian How to Tell a Story course, in London (University of East Anglia). She has also held many writing fellowships and residencies including Georgetown University, Washington DC; Barnard College, New York; University of the Western Cape, South Africa; the Virginia Arts Festival (Virginia, USA), and Writing Fellow at the University of East Anglia, UK. Since 1997 she has been on over 80 international writing tours which involve writer-residencies and fellowships, British Council tours, book tours, teaching creative writing workshops as well as conference and literary festival appearances.
Evaristo writes book reviews for the national UK newspapers including the Guardian, The Independent and the Times. She has also written for theatre, magazines and written drama and fiction for BBC Radio 4.
In 2012, she was Chair of the Caine Prize for African Fiction; Chair of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize; Judge of the Poetry Society's Poetry News Competition; and she is Guest Editor of the Poetry Society's winter issue of Poetry Review. In the past she has been a judge of various literary awards including the TS Eliot Prize, Orange Award for New Writers and Next Generation Poets.
In 2012, she initiated the Brunel University African Poetry Prize, a major new poetry award for African poets.
In 2006 Evaristo initiated an Arts Council report into why black and Asian poets were not getting published in the UK that revealed that under 1 per cent of all poetry books are by poets of colour. When the report was published she initiated a poets' mentoring scheme called The Complete Works (TCW) with Spread the Word  literature development agency. TCW mentored ten poets who worked with ten of Britain's leading poets over the course of two years 2008-2010. A second scheme is in development.
She has also set on councils and advisory committees for various organisations including the British Council, Society of Authors, The Poetry Society (Chair), Wasafiri magazine and London Arts Board.
Honours and Awards
Since 1999 Evaristo's books have been a Book of the Year 12 times in British newspapers
- 2010 The Emperor's Babe was one of the 'Times' (UK) '100 Best Books of the Decade'
- 2010 The Hurston/Wright Legacy Award (shortlist)
- 2010 Poetry Book Society Commendation for poetry anthology 'Ten', co-ed w/ Daljit Nagra
- 2009 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award (nominated)
- 2009 Big Red Read Award (Fiction and overall winner)
- 2009 Awarded an MBE in Queen's Birthday Honours List
- 2009 Winner, Orange Prize Youth Panel Award
- 2009 Orange Prize for Fiction (longlist)
- 2006 Elected a Fellow, Royal Society of Arts
- 2004 Elected a Fellow, Royal Society of Literature
- 2003 NESTA Fellowship Award
- 2000 Arts Council Writers Award
- 1999 BT EMMA Best Book Award
She lives in London with her husband.
Hello Mum, a novella (Penguin UK, 2010)
Lara - new, expanded version (Bloodaxe Books, 2009)
Blonde Roots (Hamish Hamilton/Penguin, 2008 & Riverhead/Penguin, US in 2009)
Soul Tourists (Hamish Hamilton/Penguin, 2005)
The Emperor's Babe (Hamish Hamilton/Penguin, 2001)
Lara (Angela Royal Publishing, 1997)
Island of Abraham (Peepal Tree, 1994)