Walcott, Derek

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I who am poisoned with the blood of both Where shall I turn, divided to the vein? I who have cursed The drunken officer of British rule, how choose Between this Africa and the British tongue I love? “A Far Cry from Africa” Introduction When the Swedish Academy awarded poet and playwright Derek Walcott the Nobel […]

Vassanji, M. G.

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Biography Moyez G. Vassanji was born in Nairobi, Kenya in 1950 and raised in Tanzania. His family was part of a community of Indians who had emigrated to Africa. When he was 19, Vassanji left the University of Nairobi on a scholarship to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he studied nuclear physics in which he later […]

Women, Islam, and Hijab

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Background The practice of hijab among Muslim women is one based on religious doctrine, although the Qur’an does not mandate it. Instead, it comes from the Hadith of Sahih Bukhari. The Hadith, the “tradition of Mohammed,” reveals the teachings of the Prophet to believers. Bukhari’s version of this text is generally regarded as the standard […]

Transnationalism and Globalism

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Defining the Term In sweeping strokes, we can understand “globalism” as closely related to the term “postcolonialism” itself. The two terms share the idea of cosmopolitan centers in changing relations with rural areas and the emerging metropolises of the Third World. For the purposes at least of this page, however, we will use “globalism” to […]

Third World and Third World Women

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What geographical regions constitute the Third World? Who are Third World women? Who defines and writes about the terms “Third World” and “Third World Women”? The answers to the above questions are important to both postcolonial studies and feminist studies. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak explains that the term “Third World” was initially coined in 1955 by those […]

Partition of India

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“A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.” – Jawarharal Nehru, “Tryst With Destiny” speech celebrating Indian independence Whether the partition of these countries was wise and whether it […]

Filipino American Literature

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“The identity of a Filipino today is of a person asking what is his identity.” – Nick Joaquin “This is then what one finds in Filipino fiction: a self that shares in all of the contradictoriness of the national self.” – Ninotchka Rosca The Postcolonial Meets the “Ethnic” United States The study of Filipino American literature offers […]

Female Genital Cutting

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The knife cut down the guardian of the village today. Now he is dead and gone. Before the village was dirty, But now without the guardian it is clean. So look at us, we are only women and the men have come to beat the tam-tam. They have phalli like the elephants. They have come […]

Nettleford, Rex

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The power to create and innovate remains the greatest guarantee of respect and recognition. (Nettleford Mirror 227) Biography: The Formation of a Caribbean Intellectual Rex Nettleford, a leading Caribbean intellectual visionary and renaissance figure, was born on February 3rd, 1933 in the rural town of Falmouth, Jamaica. Enveloped by the folklore of of Jamaica and the natural integration […]

Gilroy, Paul: The Black Atlantic

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Intellectual History in a Transatlantic Frame While some critics annotate the social and cultural impact that time-space compression has on our contemporary situation — in which material practices around the world speed up and reduce the distances between far-flung places — others have turned their attention to history to investigate what forms the transnational has […]

Vargas Llosa, Mario

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Biography Peruvian novelist, essayist, journalist, literary critic, and recipient of the 2010 Nobel Prize in Literature, Mario Vargas Llosa was born in Arequipa, Peru, in 1936. He attended Leoncio Prado Military Academy from 1950 to 1952 and Colegio Nacional San Miguel de Piura in 1952. From 1955 to 1957, he studied Literature and Law at the University […]

Tharoor, Shashi

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“In writing of Indian culture, I am highly conscious of my own subjectivity; arguably, there is more than one Indian culture, and certainly more than one view of Indian culture.” – Shashi Tharoor (HAPR) Introduction As a diplomat and writer, Shashi Tharoor has explored the diversity of culture in his native India. By exploring the themes […]

Soyinka, Wole

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Biography Wole Soyinka, the Nigerian born writer of international renown, is an artist proficient in multiple genres. Soyinka has written in the modes of drama (Death and the King’s Horseman and Madmen and Specialists), poetry (Idanre and other Poems), autobiography (Ake: The Years of Childhood), the novel (The Interpreters), literary and cultural criticism (Myth, Literature and the […]

Sidhwa, Bapsi

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Biography Bapsi Sidhwa is Pakistan’s leading diasporic writer. She has produced four novels in English that reflect her personal experience of the Indian subcontinent’s Partition, abuse against women, immigration to the US, and membership in the Parsi/Zoroastrian community. Born on August 11, 1938 in Karachi, in what is now Pakistan, and migrating shortly thereafter to Lahore, […]

Seth, Vikram

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Biography A small, wiry soap opera enthusiast with well-defined features and a ready smile, Vikram Seth was born in Calcutta in 1952 (also the home of Indian literary giant Rabindranath Tagore). Throughout Seth’s childhood, his father Prem Seth was a shoe company executive and his mother Laila Seth served as a judge. Vikram Seth is […]

Selvadurai, Shyam

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“The magic of fiction seems to be the more specific you are, the more universal you end up becoming.” – Shyam Selvadurai, in an Outlines Interview, May 1996. Biography If postcolonialism is the Empire writing back, many Sri Lankans have had to write back to an Empire in which they now reside. Emigrating to the United Kingdom, […]

Schwarz-Bart, Simone

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Biography Simone Schwarz-Bart is an internationally known writer in the company of Guadeloupean novelists Maryse Condé and Myriam Warner-Vieyra. Born in 1938 in the French West Indies to a teacher and military man, Schwarz-Bart studied in Pointe-á-Pitre, Paris and Dakar. Her four novels have each achieved laudatory reviews in The New York Times Book Review, The Sunday […]

Rushdie, Salman

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Biography Salman Rushdie was born in Bombay in 1947, just months before the Partition of British India. His father, Ahmed, was a businessman and his mother, Negin, was a teacher. He grew up loving the escape literature and film offered, and he wrote his first story when he was ten years old. He encountered some […]

Ondaatje, Michael

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Biography Michael Ondaatje was born on September 12, 1943 in Colombo, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). The son of Mervyn Ondaatje, a tea and rubber plantation superintendent and Doris Gratiaen, a part-time dancer inspired by Isadora Duncan. As a result of his father’s alcoholism, Ondaatje’s parents eventually separated in 1954 and he moved to England with […]

Nwapa, Flora

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Nigerian Literature – Cries of Protest Nigerian literature often expresses the struggles of a nation that has survived the exploitation of colonialism and capitalism as well as the devastation of civil war and authoritarianism. Given the turmoil in Nigerian history, it is inevitable that the postcolonial Nigerian artist would fulfill the traditional role of artist as the […]

Naipaul, V.S.

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Biography Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul was born in Chaguanas, Trinidad, on August 17, 1932. His Hindu grandfather had emigrated to Trinidad from West India as an indentured servant. His father, Seepersad (1906-53), was a journalist, whose literary aspirations were inherited by V.S., and his brother, Shiva. The family moved to Port of Spain, where Naipaul attended […]

Mukherjee, Bharati

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Biography Bharati Mukherjee was born on July 27, 1940 to wealthy parents, Sudhir Lal and Bina Mukherjee in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), India. She learned how to read and write by the age of three. In 1947, she moved to Britain with her family at the age of eight and lived in Europe for about three […]

Mootoo, Shani

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“Cultural bastards, Janet, cultural bastards. Dat is what we is.” Out on Main Street Biography Shani Mootoo was born in Ireland in 1958 and raised in Trinidad. She moved to Canada at the age of 19, where she began a career as a visual artist. A skilled multimedia artist and video maker, she has had exhibitions […]

Mistry, Rohinton

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Biography Rohinton Mistry was born in 1952 in Mumbai and is of Parsi descent. He earned a B. A. in Mathematics and Economics at the University of Bombay. In 1975, at the age of 23, he immigrated to Canada where he studied at the University of Toronto and received a B. A. in English and […]

Mehta, Deepa

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Biography Canadian-based filmmaker Deepa Mehta was born in Amritsar, India in 1949. She received a bachelors and masters degree in philosophy from the University of New Delhi, where she met her husband, Canadian filmmaker and producer Paul Saltzman. Shortly after getting married, she immigrated to Canada in 1973. However, the marriage was short lived, and […]

Marshall, Paule

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Biography In 1929, Paule Marshall was born Valenza Pauline Burke in Brooklyn, New York. She visited Barbados, her parents’ birthplace, for the first time at the age of nine. Marshall graduated from Brooklyn College in 1953 and graduate school at Hunter College in 1955. Early in her life, Marshall wrote a series of poems reflecting […]

Maraire, J. Nozipo

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Biography J. Nozipo Maraire was born in Harare, Zimbabwe in 1966 during the transition of the country from colonial Rhodesia under Britain to the independent country of Zimbabwe. Maraire’s grandparents, parents, and other close family members were directly involved in the war for independence from both the British and the white elite. Maraire left Zimbabwe […]

Lee, Li-Young

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Family History Li-Young Lee was born in Jakarta, Indonesia in 1957, the son of exiled Chinese parents. His mother came from a noble family; her father Yuan Shi-kai was the first president of the Republic of China. Lee’s father, Lee Kuo Yuan, came from a family of gangsters and entrepreneurs. Their marriage received official disapproval; moreover, […]

Lamming, George

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When I review these relationships they seem so odd. I have always been here on this side and the other person there on that side, and we have both tried to make the sides appear similar in the needs, desires, and ambitions. But it wasn’t true. It was never true. When I reach Trinidad where […]

Lahiri, Jhumpa

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Biography Growing up in America under the supervision of a mother who wanted to raise her children to be Indian, it is no surprise that Jhumpa Lahiri puts so large an emphasis on the “stories of Indians in what for them is a strange land” (Rothstein 1).  After publishing her first book, Interpreter of Maladies, in […]

Kureishi, Hanif

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“From the start I tried to deny my Pakistani self . . . it was a curse and I wanted to be rid of it. I wanted to be like everyone else.” – Kureishi, “The Rainbow Sign” Biography Born December 5, 1954 in Bromley, England, to an Indian father and an English mother, Hanif Kureishi grew up […]

Kincaid, Jamaica

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Biography Jamaica Kincaid was born in 1949 as Elaine Potter Richardson on the island of Antigua. She lived with her stepfather, a carpenter, and her mother until 1965 when she was sent to Westchester, New York to work as an au pair. In Antigua, she completed her secondary education under the British system due to […]

Khan-Din, Ayub

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Biography “This was our Pakistani life; this is how we existed outside Salford. A life none of my friends knew or could understand…I think in [East is East] I came as close as possible to understanding my father’s motivation in the way he tried to bring us up,” explains Ayub Khan-Din with regard to his […]

Khalifeh, Sahar

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Biography Much postcolonial fiction available to English-speaking readers is written by native historical witnesses; that is to say, the author has lived through what s/he writes, or is inspired by events and circumstances occurring in the country of his/her origin. Sahar Khalifeh, a Palestinian from Nablus, a town in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, is no […]

Huidobro, Vicente

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Biography Vicente García Huidobro Fernández was born to a distinguished aristocrat family in Santiago, Chile in 1893. In his teenage and early adult years, the works of modernist Chilean writer and poet Rubén Darío inspired him. He praised Darío as “a renovator of poetry” (Camurati 29) and as an homage to him, he began to publish his own work […]

Hodge, Merle

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Biography Merle Hodge was born in 1944, in Curepe, Trinidad, the daughter of an immigration officer. She received both her elementary and high school education in Trinidad, and as a student of Bishop Anstey’s High School, she won the Trinidad and Tobago Girls Island Scholarship in 1962. The scholarship allowed her to attend University College, London, where she pursued studies […]

Head, Bessie

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“Love is so powerful, it’s like unseen flowers under your feet as you walk.” – Bessie Head, A Question of Power Bessie Head, one of Africa’s most prominent writers, was born in South Africa in 1937. The child of an “illicit” union between a Scottish woman and a black man, Head was taken from her mother […]

Harris, Wilson

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Biography A Guyanese of Amerindian, African, European, and possibly Asian descent (Harris 1999: 237), Wilson Harris was born in New Amsterdam, Guyana (then and up until 1966 British Guiana) on March 24th, 1921. Having been educated at Queen’s College in the nation’s capital of Georgetown, he went on to become a government surveyor employed in […]

Gunesekera, Romesh

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Biography Romesh Gunesekera was born in Sri Lanka in 1954, moving to London in 1972. He grew up speaking both English and Sinhala. Gunesekera won the Liverpool College Poetry Prize in 1972, the Rathborne Prize in Philosophy in 1976, and the first prize in the Peterloo Open Poetry Competition in 1988. Gunesekera’s first book, Monkfish Moon, was […]

Gooneratne, Yasmine

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Biography Novelist, poet, and critic Yasmine Gooneratne, a graduate of Bishop’s College, went on to graduate from the University of Ceylon in 1959 and also received a PhD in English Literature from Cambridge University in 1962. Gooneratne became a resident of Australia in 1972. In 1981, she received the first higher doctoral degree of Doctor of […]

Ghosh, Amitav

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Biography Amitav Ghosh was born in Calcutta in 1956. He grew up in Bangladesh (then East Pakistan), Sri Lanka, Iran and India. After graduating from the University of Delhi, he went to Oxford to study Social Anthropology and received a Master of Philosophy and a PhD in 1982. In 1980, he went to Egypt to […]

Emecheta, Buchi

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Biography On July 21, 1944 in Yaba near Lagos, Nigeria, Buchi Emecheta was born to Jeremy Nwabudike and Alice Okwuekwu Emecheta. At a young age, Emecheta was orphaned and she spent her early childhood years being educated at a missionary school. In 1960, at the age of sixteen, Emecheta was married to Sylvester Onwordi, a […]

Djebar, Assia

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Biography Assia Djebar was born Fatima-Zohra Imalayen in Cherchell, Algeria on August 4, 1936. She published her first novel, La Soif, under pen name Assia Djebar in 1957, followed by her second novel, Les Impatients, in 1958. In that same year, Djebar married Walid Garn and worked toward advanced degree in history at University of Algiers. In 1962, Djebar […]

Divakaruni, Chitra Banerjee

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Biography Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is an award-winning author and poet. Her work is widely known, as she has been published in over 50 magazines, and her writing has been included in over 30 anthologies. She was born in India in 1956 and lived there until 1976, when, at age nineteen,  she left Kolkata and came […]

Darío, Rubén

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Biography Rubén Darío was born on January 18, 1867 in Metapa, Nicaragua (later renamed Ciudad Dario). At birth, he was named Félix Rubén García Sarmiento and later took the old family name, Darío. His parents divorced and he was adopted and raised by his godfather, Colonel Félix Ramírez. Dubbed “El Niño Poeta” (the poet child), […]

Danticat, Edwidge

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Biography Edwidge Danticat was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti in 1969. Her father immigrated to the United States just 2 years later looking for work. Her mother followed him in 1973. Danticat remained in Haiti eight more years, raised by her aunt. At age 12 she reunited with her parents in a predominantly Haitian-American neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York. Two […]

Damas, Léon

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Biography Léon-Gontran Damas was born in Cayenne, French Guiana in 1912 to a middle-class family. His father was of European and African descent and there was Amerindian and African ancestry on his mother’s side of the family. Young Damas received his primary education in Cayenne, but he later moved to Martinique and attended Lycée Schoelcher there. At Lycée, he shared […]

Dabydeen, David

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Biography David Dabydeen was born on December 9, 1955 to Krishna Prasad and Vera Dabydeen, the parents of a peasant family, in a county in Guyana named Berbice. Until 1966, Guyana was a British colony predominantly inhabited by Africans and Indians who immigrated to the Caribbean during a massive movement, which transplanted more than half a […]

Conway, Jill Ker

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Biography Jill Ker Conway was born in Hillston, New South Wales, Australia in 1934. She resided in the Australian outback until the death of her father in 1945. At that time, Conway, her mother, and two brothers moved to Sydney, an industrious seaport city. Conway received most of her education in the neighboring private schools […]

Coetzee, J.M.

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Biography John Maxwell Coetzee, better known as J.M. Coetzee, was born in South Africa to Afrikaner parents on February 9th, 1940. His father worked for the government and also was a sheep farmer. When Coetzee was eight, his father lost the government job due to his differing views from the apartheid government. The family then moved […]

Cliff, Michelle

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Biography Michelle Cliff was born in Jamaica and grew up there and in the United States. She was educated in New York City and at the Warburg Institute at the University of London, where she completed a PhD on the Italian Renaissance. She is the author of novels (Abeng, No Telephone To Heaven, and Free Enterprise), short […]

Chandra, Vikram

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Biography A relative newcomer to the literary scene, Indian author Vikram Chandra garnered much praise for his debut novel Red Earth and Pouring Rain. Following this well-received work of 1995, Chandra dazzled critics once again with the release of Love and Longing in Bombay, a unique collection of five lengthy stories for which he won the Commonwealth Writers’ […]

Césaire, Aimé

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Biography Aimé Césaire was born in 1913 in Martinique in the French Caribbean. He left for Paris in 1931 at the age of 18 with a scholarship for school. During his time at the Lycee Louis-le Grand, he helped found a student publication, Etudiant Noir.  In 1936, Césaire started working on his famed piece Cahier, which was not published […]

Ben Jelloun, Tahar

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Biography Born in Fez, Morocco to a shopkeeper and his wife in December of 1944, Tahar Ben Jelloun is one of North Africa’s most successful post-colonial writers. Winner of France’s Prix Goncourt, Ben Jelloun moved at eighteen from Fez to Tangier where he attended a French high school until enrolling at the Université Mohammed V in Rabat in 1963. It was at the university where Ben Jelloun’s writing […]

Basquiat, Jean-Michel

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Basquiat and Postcoloniality On Basquiat, art critic Robert Farris Thompson writes, “What identifies Jean-Michel Basquiat as a major artist is courage and full powers of self-transformation. That courage, meaning not being afraid to fail, transforms paralyzingly self-conscious’predicaments of culture’ into confident ‘ecstasies of cultures recombined.’ He had the guts, what is more, to confront New York […]

Badami, Anita Rau

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Biography Due to her first novel Anita Rau Badami was considered one of the newest writers in the vibrant field of Indian subcontinental literature.  Ms. Badami was born in 1961 in Rourkela, Orissa, India (Nurse 53).  Her debut novel, Tamarind Mem, received critical acclaim. Her father worked as a mechanical engineer on the railroads.  Because of her father’s […]

Alvarez, Julia

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Biography Although Julia Alvarez was born in New York City on March 27, 1950, her family moved to the Dominican Republic shortly after her birth, and it was there that she spent the majority of her childhood. In 1960, when Alvarez was ten years old, her family emigrated to the United States, fleeing the Dominican […]

Alexander, Meena

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Biography Mary Elizabeth Alexander was born in Allahabad, India, on February 17, 1951. Although christened Mary Elizabeth, she has been called “Meena” since birth, and, in her fifteenth year, she officially changed her name to Meena. Not so much an act of defiance as one of liberation, Alexander writes: “I felt I had changed my […]

Adcock, Fleur

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“I no longer feel inclined to make comments on my own work, which I feel should speak for itself.” (qtd. in Feminist Writers) Introduction Kareen Fleur Adcock was born February 10, 1934, in Papakura, New Zealand to Cyril John and Irene Robinson Adcock. She legally changed her name to Fleur Adcock in 1982. She spent most […]