Bernadine Evaristo has been announced chair of the judging panel for the 2021 Women’s Prize for Fiction. This comes months after she was shortlisted for the same prize for her eighth novel Girl, Woman, Other. She is joined on the panel by podcaster, author and journalist Elizabeth Day; TV and radio presenter, journalist and writer Vick Hope; Guardian columnist and writer Nesrine Malik; and Sky news presenter and broadcaster Sarah-Jane Mee.
The Women’s Prize for Fiction is one of the world’s most prestigious literary awards for women. It is open to a novel by a woman of any nationality written in English and published in the UK. While a number of African authors have been duly represented on its long and shortlists over the years, the prize has been clinched by an African only once, in 2007, by Nigeria’s Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie for Half of a Yellow Sun.
On chairing the 2021 panel, Evaristo said:
“The Women’s Prize for Fiction is such an essential and exciting prize. ‘I’m looking forward to chairing it this year, and to discovering a wide range of novels that will give me a strong sense of the preoccupations, styles and aesthetics of contemporary women’s fiction. I hope to be blown away by some exceptional novels and to discover some hidden gems that deserve more attention and a wider readership.’
The significance of Evaristo’s appointment is not lost on us. Following the black lives matter protests, which, in addition to fighting police brutality, exposed the systemic inequality present in cultural institutions, literary institutions based in the west have had to do a lot of soul searching. Evaristo—who has openly called on the British literary industry to become more inclusive of writers of color, who is an award-winning, veteran novelist, and who has lots of experience in publishing—is poised to make a difference.
The longlist will be announced on 10 March 2021.
Watch the Judges talk about on the kind of novels they look forward to reading.