Mies, Maria

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Biography Maria Mies is a Marxist feminist scholar who is renowned for her theory of capitalist-patriarchy, which recognizes third world women and difference. She is a Professor of Sociology at Fachhochschule in Cologne, Germany, but retired from teaching in 1993. Since the late 1960s she has been involved with feminist activism. In 1979, at the […]

Zimbabwe’s Struggle for Liberation

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“To outsiders, perhaps, Zimbabwe is just a name signifying some random geographical boundaries… But for me it is different. Rhodesia was a forbidden country for me, a white man’s play land…I was always outside looking in…And I did not know until years of bloodshed and turmoil later just how sweet life could be here…I had […]

Yoruba Women and Gelede

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The Yoruba The Yoruba are one of the three major ethnic groups in Nigeria, concentrated in the south of the country.  Archeological evidence suggests that the Yoruba have lived in the general area since prehistoric times. The Yoruba kingdom was of considerable power and importance and it was broken up through a series of wars […]

Yeats, W.B. and Postcolonialism

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Which Yeats? There are many versions of William Butler Yeats (b 1865  d 1939),  Ireland’s most famous poet, dramatist, critic, and Senator. Variously claimed by nationalists, occultists, fascists, modernists, Romantics, and postcolonialists, Yeats’s life and work are open to many interpretations. As a writer who devoted himself to building Irish culture and literature, Yeats’s position as […]

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 […]

Victorian Women Travelers in the 19th Century

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Why Women Began To Travel Women began to travel in the nineteenth century for many personal and political reasons. Some women sought to further a cause, like missionary work, while others traveled to satisfy personal curiosities of “exotic” lands. Most women, however, traveled to escape gender oppression in Europe (Stevenson 2). One form of gender […]

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 […]

Postcolonial Performance and Installation Art

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This article discusses contemporary performance and installation artists who address the objectification of the non-white bodies in Western culture: Coco Fusco and Guillermo Gomez-Peña, Joyce Scott and Kay Lawal, James Luna, Renée Green, Lyle Ashton Harris and Renée Cox, and Grace Jones. Significantly, many of these performance artists use their own bodies as a medium to interrogate the history of “human […]

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 […]

Museums and Colonial Exhibitions

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The tradition of exhibiting people of color in Western societies has existed since the earliest encounters between Europeans and indigenous populations in the New World and in Africa. Indeed, on his return to Spain after his first voyage to the New World in 1492, Columbus brought several Arawaks to Queen Isabella’s court, where one of them […]

Homophobia and Postcolonialism

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Let the Americans keep their sodomy, bestiality, stupid and foolish ways to themselves, out of Zimbabwe.  – Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe Frantz Fanon, one of the earliest and most influential postcolonial theorists, saw homosexuality as a sign of psychological distress, exclusive to Western peoples (that is people of western/Caucasian racial stock) and directly related to […]

Gender and Nation

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The “Public” and “Private” Realms of Political Personhood Colonial powers brought with them daunting philosophical, theological, naval and mercantile traditions they used to justify occupation and control. Separating public from private, particular from universal, human from divine, family from state, and male from female realms of experience and action forms a crucial aspect of these […]

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 […]

Divorce in India

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The Law All major religions have their own laws which govern divorces within their own community, and many have separate regulations regarding divorce in interfaith marriages in India. Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, and Jains in India are governed by the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955; Christians by the Indian Divorce Act, 1869; Parsis by the Parsi Marriage […]

Chicana Feminism

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Chicana Defined “Chicana” refers to women of Mexican descent who are born and/or raised in the United States. Although the term is widely used by Chicana activists and scholars today, many Chicana women debate the term’s origin and early connotations. Some believe that the term originated with the indigenous Mexica (Meh-sheik-a) tribes of Mesoamerica while […]

Bollywood and Women

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Brief History of Indian Cinema In 1896, India was first exposed to motion pictures when the Lumiere Brothers’ Chinematographe showed six soundless short films on July 7 in Bombay. By 1899, Harishchandra Bhatvadekar shot two short films, which were exhibited with Edison’s projecting kinetoscope. Throughout the first two decades, the trend continued with filmmakers such […]

Arranged Marriages, Matchmakers, and Dowries in India

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Arranged Marriages in India Arranged marriages have been part of the Indian culture since the fourth century. Many consider the practice a central fabric of Indian society, reinforcing the social, economic, geographic, and the historic significance of India (Stein). Prakasa states that arranged marriages serve six functions in the Indian community: (1) helps maintain the social […]

Apartheid Literature

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A Brief Introduction to the Apartheid After much conflict, in 1910, the Afrikaner community(the descendants of Dutch traders, live stock farmers and religious refugees from west Europe) and the British established a nations-state called the Union of South Africa.  The National Party was formed by the Afrikaners and the British formed the South African Party. […]

Kaige, Chen

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Introduction Unlike the United States, China regards its cinema as a high art rather than a form of entertainment. According to David A.Cook’s History of Narrative Film, Chinese Cinema is “taught and understood as another form of literature.” This is due in part to its mastery of film aesthetics including cinematography, montage, and mise-en-scène. Simple plot […]

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 […]

Davis, Angela

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Biography “The work of the political activist inevitably involves a certain tension between the requirement that positions be taken on current issues as they arise and the desire that one’s contributions will somehow survive the ravages of time” – Angela Davis, (“Women, Culture and Politics,” 1989). Student, Professor, Communist, Activist, Radical, Presidential Candidate, Fugitive, Feminist, […]

Chow, Rey

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A critic of the way sinologists, Orientalists, and Western intellectuals have traditionally approached China and the “East,” Rey Chow refuses to assign China “absolute difference” from the West and instead stakes her ground “neither in the Chinese nor the Western but rather on a dialectic on which ‘Chinese’ and ‘Western’ is played” (WCM x.v.i.i.). As […]

Chen, Kaun-Hsing

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Biography Kuan-Hsing Chen grew up in Taiwan and completed his college education there before he went to the U.S. for graduate study. Chen received his Ph.D. from University of Iowa in 1988. He then moved back to Taiwan and joined the faculty of the Foreign Language and Literature Department at National Tsinghua University in Hsinchu. […]

Smith, Zadie

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Biography Zadie Smith grew up in Willesden Green, England. She was born into a mixed race family; her mother is from Jamaica, and her father is English. She has two brothers, both younger than she, and two older half-siblings. Smith began writing poems and short stories when she was six. In addition to writing, she loved […]

Silko, Leslie Marmon

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Biography Leslie Marmon Silko, an accomplished Native American writer, was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1948. She has a mix of Laguna Pueblo, Mexican, and white ancestry. Silko grew up at the Pueblo of Laguna, located in west central New Mexico. She attended a Catholic school in Albuquerque, commuting from Laguna. In 1969 she […]

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, […]

Shaarawi, Huda

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Huda Shaarawi (1879-1947), a feminist nationalist activist, is considered to be a central figure in early twentieth century Egyptian feminism. Born into a very wealthy family, Shaarawi spent her early years in the harem, an experience described in her memoirs, Harem Years. Philanthropic Work Shaarawi was involved in philanthropic projects throughout her life. In 1908, she created […]

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 […]

Schreiner, Olive

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Biographical Overview On March 24, 1855, Olive Emilie Albertina was born the ninth of twelve children to Gottlob and Rebecca Schreiner. Her German father and English mother, both missionaries in South Africa, provided a household grounded in a strict Calvinist tradition. Gottlob Schreiner’s failures in mission work as well as a number of businesses prompted […]

Saadawi, Nawal el

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Biography Egyptian writer and feminist Nawal el Saadawi was born in 1931 in the village of Kafir Tahla. Her father, an official in the Egyptian Ministry of Education, provided all nine of his children with a university education. El Saadawi qualified as a doctor in 1955 in Cairo. She has published at least twenty-four books […]

Roy, Arundhati

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The information provided on this site for Arundhati Roy is spread across multiple entries. Please click on the following entries for more information about Roy and her most famous novel, The God of Small Things. Kerala and The God of Small Things Caste System in India Christianity in India Communism in India Divorce in India Kathakali

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 […]

Nasrin, Taslima

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Introduction “She is either the bravest or most foolish person I’ve ever met,” a friend of Nasrin’s is quoted as saying (Weaver 49). There is no question about the bravery of Taslima Nasrin — the daughter of a county physician father and a devoutly religious mother, who was suddenly thrust into the spotlight after the angry […]

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 […]

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 […]

McGuckian, Medbh

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“I know being a woman for me for a long time was being less, being excluded, being somehow cheap, being inferior, being sub. I associated being a woman with being a Catholic and being Irish with being from the North, and all of these things being not what you wanted to be. If you were a […]

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 […]

Lorde, Audre

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Coal I is the total black, being spoken from the earth’s inside. There are many kinds of open how a diamond comes into a knot of flame how sound comes into a words, coloured by who pays what for speaking. Some words are open like a diamond on glass windows singing out within the crash […]

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 […]

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 […]

Hulme, Keri

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Biography Keri Hulme, a New Zealand native, was born on March 9, 1947, in Christchurch, New Zealand. She is the daughter of John W., a carpenter and businessman, and Mere, a credit manager, and sister to five siblings. Her father died when she was eleven years old. Hulme is descended from a rich background. She […]

Hossain, Rokeya Sakhawat

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Biography Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain was born into a Bengali Muslim upper-class family in the small village of Pairaband in the district of Rangpur, north of present day Bangladesh, then a part of the colonial British province of Bengal Presidency. Her date of birth is not known. However, a nephew of hers posits Dec. 9, 1880. Her mother was Rahatunnessa […]

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 […]

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 […]

Devi, Mahsweta

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Biography Mahasweta Devi was born in 1926 in the city of Dacca (now Dhaka) in East Bengal (modern-day Bangladesh). As an adolescent, she and her family moved to West Bengal in India. Born into a literary family, Mahasweta Devi was also influenced by her early association with Gananatya, a group who attempted to bring social […]

Das, Kamala

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Biography Recognized as one of India’s foremost poets, Kamala Das was born Kamala Madhavikutty on March 31, 1934 in Malabar in the state of Kerala (Dwivedi 297). Her love of poetry began at an early age through the influence of her great uncle, Nalapat Narayan Menon, a prominent writer. Das remembered watching him “work from morning […]

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 […]

Dangarembga, Tsitsi

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Biography In 1959, Tsitsi Dangarembga was born in Rhodesia, now called Zimbabwe, in the town of Mutoko. She spent her early childhood, ages two through six, in Britain. She began her education in a British school but after returning to Rhodesia with her family, she concluded her early education, her A-levels, in a missionary school in the […]

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 […]

Boland, Eavan

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Biography Eavan Boland was born in Dublin in 1944 and lived in Ireland until she was six years old. At the age of six, she and her family moved to London, where Boland had her first experiences of anti-Irish sentiment. Dealing with this hostility strengthened Boland’s identification with her Irish heritage. She speaks of this […]

Blixen, Karen (Isak Dinesen)

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Biography Karen Blixen remains a complex figure in the writing and history of colonial Africa. Author, storyteller, and early colonizer, she helped to define Africa and its people for the many Europeans who read her novels, chiefly Out of Africa and Shadows on the Grass. Criticism of her work frequently shifts from admiration of her form to outrage […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]