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The first black woman to win the Booker Prize reveals that she struggled with racial identity as a child

First black woman to win the Booker Prize Bernadine Evaristo reveals she struggled with racial identity as a child and would cross the road to avoid being seen with her ‘very dark’ father

  • Bernadine Evaristo has revealed that she struggled with racial identity as a child
  • She grew up in Woolwich, South East London in the 60s and 70s
  • “ There was nothing around us that told us it was a good thing to be a person of color, ” she recalled during an interview on Desert Island Discs

The first black woman to win a Booker award, Bernadine Evaristo, has revealed that she struggled with racial identity as a child.

Evaristo recalled how as a child growing up in the 60s and 70s she would deliberately cross the road to avoid being seen with her ‘very dark’ father because she ‘didn’t want to be associated with him’.

The acclaimed author, 61, grew up in Woolwich, South East London and was the daughter of a white English teacher and a Nigerian welder.

The first black woman to win a Booker award, Bernadine Evaristo, has revealed she struggled with racial identity as a child

The first black woman to win a Booker award, Bernadine Evaristo, has revealed she struggled with racial identity as a child

Speaking today on Radio 4 on Desert Island Discs, Evaristo recalled, “ I remember when I was about 11 I saw him walk up the street and cross the road because I didn’t want to say hello to him because I did not ‘I want to be associated with him.

‘I mean that feels awful now, but it was because when I grew up in the 1960s and 1970s, in a very white area, there was nothing around us telling us that it was a good thing to have a person of color. ‘

Evaristo was the fourth of eight children and said she and her siblings had learned nothing about their Nigerian origins while growing up. Her father, born Julius Taiwo Obayomi Evaristo, took the English name Danny.

‘He [my father] had four boys, four girls at a time when there was a lot of racism on the streets before the Race Relations Act, ”she said.

Bernadine Evaristo

Bernadine Evaristo

Her father, Julius Taiwo Obayomi Evaristo, who took the name Danny

Her father, Julius Taiwo Obayomi Evaristo, who took the name Danny

Evaristo, on the left, was the fourth of eight children and said she and her siblings had learned nothing about their Nigerian ancestry growing up, and her father, born Julius Taiwo Obayomi Evaristo, on the right, took the English name Danny.

“So he had kids in a society where it was okay to be racist, and he had to protect us.”

The Race Relations Act 1965 was the first piece of legislation in the UK to address the prohibition of racial discrimination.

The law banned racial discrimination in public places and criminalized the promotion of hatred based on “color, race, or ethnic or national origin.”

Evaristo believes her father’s reluctance to tell his children about Nigerian culture was because he was concerned about them. ‘He hasn’t told us anything. He later said that he wanted us to grow up as English children, so it would not be wise to tell us about his past or pass on his language, Yoruba. ‘

Evaristo is depicted as a child, second right, with the rest of her family. Evaristo was the fourth of eight children and said she and her siblings had learned nothing about their Nigerian origins while growing up

Evaristo is depicted as a child, second right, with the rest of her family. Evaristo was the fourth of eight children and said she and her siblings had learned nothing about their Nigerian origins while growing up

Evaristo is depicted as a child, second right, with the rest of her family. Evaristo was the fourth of eight children and said she and her siblings had learned nothing about their Nigerian origins while growing up

She also explained how she would be referred to as ‘half caste’ by other black people in the UK because of her mixed ancestry. ‘Growing up we were called … half caste and it didn’t feel like an insult. That was what people of mixed race were called, ”she said.

The author’s Booker-winning novel ‘Girl, Woman, Other’ topped the top-selling charts for five weeks during the summer in the wake of the widespread Black Lives Matter protests.

She became the first BAME woman and the first black British writer to top the British paperback fiction charts.

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