The Booker Prize for Fiction is the leading literary award for the best novel of the year published in English. 2019 marks the award’s 50th anniversary, and while it’s not the first time the award has been split between two authors, it’s the first time in history the award is split between two women!
One of the two Booker Prize winners is Canadian author Margaret Atwood for the sequel to her critically-acclaimed novel The Handmaid’s Tale. Though published in 1985, the pertinent message of The Handmaid’s Tale has captivated a contemporary audience with its 2017 Hulu adaptation. The book, which is set in a dystopian world where women are forced to bear children against their will, has inspired dozens of feminist protests around the world. Amid the cultural hype of The Handmaid’s Tale, Atwood released its sequel, The Testaments, back in September. The novel earned Atwood the Booker Prize for its timeliness and cultural relevance.
“Dear Readers: Everything you’ve ever asked me about Gilead and its inner workings is the inspiration for this book. Well, almost everything! The other inspiration is the world we’ve been living in,” writes Atwood in The Testaments’ preface.
The second winner is British author Bernardine Evaristo for her novel Girl, Woman, Other. Setting out to write about the African diaspora, Evaristo attempted to bridge together the stories of 12 black British women in her novel. The result is a re-imagined history of the United Kingdom that has so often been hidden from British literature.
Evaristo is also the first black woman to ever win the Booker Prize. When writing Girl, Woman, Other, her intention was to highlight the black community that classic British literature failed to represent. Now, with Evaristo’s award-winning novel, the history of literature has taken a new twist and shines a light on the lives of other women just like her.