‘Another author’: outrage after BBC elides Bernardine Evaristo’s Booker win

News presenter alluded to her joint victory with Margaret Atwood but failed to give the name of Girl, Woman, Other’s author

The BBC has apologised after one of its presenters referred to Booker winner Bernardine Evaristo as “another author” while discussing her joint victory with Margaret Atwood.

Evaristo won in October for her polyphonic novel Girl, Woman, Other, which is told mostly from the perspectives of 12 black women. The honour was shared with Atwood, who won for The Testaments, in a controversial decision that some said diminished Evaristo’s achievement in being the first black woman to take the award.

Speaking on the BBC News Channel on Tuesday night, in a segment about the Turner prize nominees’ decision to share that award, presenter Shaun Ley compared the Turner news to the Booker judges’ split decision.

“Now, this is a bit different from the Booker prize earlier in the year where the judges couldn’t make up their minds, so they gave it to Margaret Atwood and another author, who shared the prize between them,” he said.

In response, Evaristo wrote on Twitter: “How quickly & casually they have removed my name from history – the first black woman to win it. This is what we’ve always been up against, folks.”

Pls RT: The @BBC described me yesterday as 'another author' apropos @TheBookerPrizes 2019. How quickly & casually they have removed my name from history - the first black woman to win it. This is what we've always been up against, folks. https://t.co/LxxDBJrUYh

— Bernardine Evaristo (@BernardineEvari) December 4, 2019

The clip had been shared by the Twitter account for the multicultural travelling book carnival, Book Love.

Evaristo’s comment quickly went viral, with her fellow authors offering their support. “That’s appalling, Bernardine. In all the countries I’ve visited recently (France, Spain, Portugal, Belgium) everyone is talking about your book,” said novelist Jonathan Coe.

Novelist Linda Grant tweeted: “I thought dividing the Booker prize this year was a serious mistake. The BBC naming the winner as Margaret Atwood and ‘another author’ is testament to how damaging it has been. All power to Bernadine Evaristo who should have won outright.”

Author Winnie M Li, winner of the Guardian’s Not the Booker prize, said she was fuming and called for an apology for a writer “who has been a champion for ‘Othered’ writers for decades & a serious acknowledgment of how much this mistake of yours says about media erasures & public recognition”.

A spokesperson for BBC News said: “Our presenter was speaking live when he made the comparison between the Turner and Booker prize results – this part of the item was unscripted and he didn’t say Bernardine Evaristo’s name at the time. We apologise to her for the offence caused.”


Alison Flood

The GuardianTramp

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