How Bernardine Evaristo Conquered British Literature

Posted in Articles, Biography, Media Archive, United Kingdom, Women on 2022-02-15 23:03Z by Steven

How Bernardine Evaristo Conquered British Literature

The New Yorker

Anna Russell
London, United Kingdom

There were people who thought my career was great as it was,” Evaristo says. “But they didn’t know what I really wanted for myself, you know?
Photograph by Ekua King / Evening Standard / eyevine / Redux

In a new memoir, the writer describes how she was long excluded from the halls of literary power, and how she finally broke in.

hen the British author Bernardine Evaristo was in her early twenties, she and her drama-school friends would go to London’s theatres and heckle the performances. “It wouldn’t have been anything like ‘Rubbish!’ because it was a political heckling,” Evaristo, now sixty-two, told me recently. They would have been more likely to yell “Sexist!” or “Racist!” and then disappear, giddily, into the night. Recounting the habit this past December, Evaristo put on a mock posh accent and called it “appalling, appalling behavior.” The week prior, she had been named president of the U.K.’s Royal Society of Literature, becoming the first person of color to hold the position in the organization’s two-hundred-year history. (She is also the first who did not attend at least one of the following: Oxford, Cambridge, Eton.) Evaristo has some sympathy for her younger, angrier self. If social media had been around in her youth, she thinks she might have been one of what she calls the “Rabid Wolves of the Twittersphere.” “But we do need these renegades out there, don’t we?” she said. “We do need these people who will just lob a verbal hand grenade.”

Since 2011, Evaristo and her husband, David Shannon, have lived on the outskirts of West London, where she has dubbed herself “Mz Evaristo of Suburbia.” When I met her at her home recently, the doors to each room were painted a different bright color: blue, yellow, pink. Evaristo is tall, with a booming laugh. It’s been a long time since she has heckled anyone. These days, she sees herself as a diplomatic, modernizing force at the top of the British literary establishment from which she was long excluded. “The person I am today no longer throws stones at the fortress,” she writes in her new memoir, “Manifesto: On Never Giving Up,” which was published in the U.S. by Grove Atlantic last month. She used to laugh when people told her to think before she spoke. Now: “I’m so careful about everything I say.”…

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Honoring one of their own

Posted in Articles, History, Media Archive, United States on 2013-11-14 04:04Z by Steven

Honoring one of their own

Bucks County Courier Times
Levittown, Pennsylvania

Phil Gianficaro, News columnist

The inscription on the small old tombstone in the shadow of the majestic oak tree is practically illegible. Weathered and darkened by 148 years, the tablet-shaped marker pales in comparison to others that are more ornate in the Hatboro Baptist Church Cemetery. A noteworthy war veteran from Hatboro, it would seem, deserves a more appropriate remembrance.

Now he has one.

Near that barren oak tree this week, they gathered on a sunny Veterans Day morning to honor one of their own, Barclay J. Stagner, the town’s first man of color to serve in the Civil War. A new tombstone, supplied by the Veterans Administration, was dedicated to Stagner and placed several feet from the old stone and beside the gravestone of his mother, Elizabeth.

“This is a special, long overdue honor,” said David Shannon, Hatboro historian and curator of the cemetery, before a small gathering at the graveside. “While many in the congregation were aware of Barclay, we were intent on letting the community know he existed.”…

…Stagner was born during the time of slavery. He wasn’t a member of the Hatboro Baptist Church, but was a close friend of Union Army Gen. William Davis, who was. That relationship, combined with his light skin color and blue eyes that belied his race, likely helped Stagner get accepted into the Union Army at a time before blacks were recruited or permitted to enlist.

“We don’t know if Barclay was black or what used to be called mulatto, or a mixed race,” Shannon said. “He was likely of mixed race. But because he wasn’t dark skinned, they probably didn’t know.”

Stagner became a sergeant in the 6th Pennsylvania Volunteer Cavalry, and fought in the Battle of Gettysburg. Upon his re-enlistment as a veteran volunteer, he rose to the rank of corporal. He died in Virginia at age 28 on Jan. 3, 1865, and his remains were sent to Hatboro to be interred…

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