While the world of self-publishing has made it easier for some writers to achieve mainstream fame, the truth is that being a full-time professional writer in modern days is as hard as ever.
There’s no black author in the UK’s top 50 bestselling books. Being Black British doesn’t make it any easier, but Bernardine Evaristo begs to differ.
In her last interview, the best-selling author expressed optimism about the prospects of Black British writers in the latest years.
Bernardine Evaristo is a long-time advocate for the inclusion of writers and artists of color, and a large part of her activism is related to fulfilling that goal.
In a previous article featured in The Guardian, the Booker prize-winning author expressed her fear son publishers losing interest in Black authors as a trend or fashion that could eventually wane.
As a form of activism to counteract these issues, Evaristo joined forces with Canary Wharf to create short stories from up-and-coming black authors available for free to thousands of readers throughout Black History Month.
This is part of Canary Wharf’s Short Story stations, vending machines that’ll dispense short stories for free to raise awareness of black writers and their works.
This is all part of Evaristo’s Black Britain Writing Back campaign to provide Black authors the recognition they deserve.
The authors featured in the Short Story stations include Paul Mendez, Irenosen Okojie, Nicola Williams, Judith Bryan, and S.I. Martin. These Short Stories cover topics such as freedom, religion, sexuality, class, race, and culture.
At the Hay Festival, she told an audience how this is a really good time for Black writers to be published.
“Whether that will be the case in five or 10 years, we’ll have to see. What I’m interested in is for our literature to be embedded in the culture rather than being part of a trend or fashion.”
Evaristo states how change needs to happen at the top, where the decision-makers lie, rather than at the bottom of the publishing food chain.
While opportunities for Black artists are rising every year, many of them are accepted by white decision-makers and are still focused on a core white audience.
Evaristo was the first black woman to win the Booker literary prize for her novel Girl, Woman, Other in 2019. She stated how the Black Lives Matter movement had influenced industries worldwide to include certain authors getting book deals they’d otherwise be excluded from on a traditional basis.
Evaristo was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the Queen’s 2009 Birthday Honours and an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the Queen’s 2020 Birthday Honours, for her services to literature.