Booker prize winner's Manifesto shows life is tough, never give up

Reflections on never giving up from Booker prize winner, Bernardine Evaristo and a manifesto for prioritising creativity.

Thursday, 4th November 2021, 6:00 am

In seven themed chapters, each one numbered in the five languages of the author’s heritage, she gives insight to different aspects of her life – family, housing, relationships, but also creativity, writing, community, activism. She shares an in-depth and practical enquiry into her creative development, a process that led to her becoming the first black woman to win the Booker.

Evaristo calls writing a memoir ‘a massive act of self-interrogation’. A process, she says, that she’s become adept at, because ‘a tough inner core has been essential to my creative survival’. Starting from her discovery in interviews after her 2019 Booker win for Girl, Woman, Other, that she is unstoppable, she illustrates so many potential stoppages.

She’d worked in the arts for forty years but was called an ‘overnight success’. She realised she could have caved but she hadn’t. Manifesto clearly illuminates Evaristo’s determination as well as her talent. It provides fascinating insight to her creative process and a realistic picture of what it has taken for her to achieve recognition and success.

Bernardine is the fourth of eight children, born in London with a black Nigerian father and white English mother. Her creative life started in youth theatre and acting before moving into writing. It’s no smooth journey, but: Storytellers must overcome all internal and external obstacles by prioritizing our commitment to ambition, hard work, craft, originality and unstoppability.

Commentary on societal norms across half a century, is woven throughout; the impact of racism and sexism on individuals, and how change can and does make a difference. Evaristo offers hope – things are better now than they were – but is clear that we mustn’t lose sight of the need for continuing change, we mustn’t let progress recede.

Right at the end, her manifesto provides a satisfying distillation of the preceding wisdom on being creative, making success happen, living on your own terms, finding a sense of belonging. The Evaristo Manifesto. Concise, poetic, practical. Life is tough: never give up.​​​​​​​