|Publisher||C. Hurst & Co.|
Coolie Woman (full title: Coolie Woman: The Odyssey of Indenture) is a book written by Gaiutra Bahadur and co-published in 2013 by Hurst and Company of London in Europe and the University of Chicago Press in the US. Editions from Hachette in India in 2013 and Jacana in South Africa in 2014 followed.
The book is a biography of Sujaria, the great-grandmother of the author and simultaneously an exploration of the indentured labor system, which was practiced in the Caribbean. Tracing Sujaria's 1903 journey as a Brahmin caste woman from Bihar, India's poorest state, to the sugarcane plantations of British Guiana, Bahadur wove both archival and published records, as well as folk and oral sources, to tell the broader story of "the exodus and settlement of Indian women to the Caribbean". She critically examined the Hindu caste system, Indian family structure, and the indenture system itself in an attempt to understand how each of these shaped her grandmother and how migration changed or effected women's lives. For a woman of high caste, unsuited to labor in the cane fields, to become a coolie, which in India is a baggage carrier but which throughout the British Empire referred to indentured workers from Asia, was considered pejorative to the workers themselves as well as shocking. Bahadur, chose the title to acknowledge the stigma, but also as a metaphor for the baggage women carried as a result of colonialism.
Reviewers have pointed to the importance the work holds for a "neglected area of scholarship", in the age when Asian indentured workers replaced African slaves on plantations in the Caribbean, as well as its exploration of feminist themes of societal and family oppression, poverty, lack of power, sexual abuse and violence. Praised for her storytelling, as well as academic treatment, the book has appeal for both scholars and casual readers. Coolie Woman was shortlisted for multiple literary awards, including the Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature (2014) and the Orwell Prize (2014). It won the 2014 Caribbean Studies Association's Gordon K. and Sybil Lewis Prize, which annually recognizes interdisciplinary works that examine Caribbean culture and society, have been published within the preceding three years, and are written in one of the languages prevalent in the region.
- Afzal, Ahmed (Summer 2015). "Intimacies, Relationships and Socialities: South Asians and Racialist America in the Early Twentieth Century". American Studies. Lawrence, Kansas: Mid-America American Studies Association by the University of Kansas. 54 (2): 59–71. doi:10.1353/ams.2015.0059. ISSN 0026-3079. Retrieved 1 November 2016 – via Project MUSE. (Subscription required (help)).
- Carter, Marina (1 January 2015). "Book Reviews: "Coolie Woman: The Odyssey of Indenture", by Gaiutra Bahadur". The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History. London, England: Routledge, Taylor & Francis. 43 (1): 145–164. doi:10.1080/03086534.2015.997464. ISSN 0308-6534. Retrieved 1 November 2016 – via EBSCOhost. (Subscription required (help)).
- Mukherjee, Arun P. (14 January 2015). "Book reviews: "Coolie woman: the odyssey of indenture"". Canadian Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Studies. Calgary, Canada: University of Calgary Press. 39 (1): 170–187. ISSN 0826-3663. Retrieved 1 November 2016.
- Paul, Annie (31 March 2014). "A Coolie Woman's Work is Never Done". Asian American Writer's Workshop. New York, New York. Archived from the original on 4 May 2016. Retrieved 1 November 2016.
- Premdas, Ralph (19 February 2015). "Book reviews: "Coolie woman: the odyssey of indenture"". Ethnic and Racial Studies. Abingdon-on-Thames, England: Routledge. 38 (3): 516–517. doi:10.1080/01419870.2014.946940. ISSN 1466-4356. Retrieved 1 November 2016 – via EBSCOhost. (Subscription required (help)).
- Romero, Ivette (31 May 2014). "The Gordon K. and Sybil Lewis Award 2014—Caribbean Studies Association". Poughkeepsie, New York: Repeating Islands. Archived from the original on 24 June 2016. Retrieved 1 November 2016.
- Tripathi, Salil (5 November 2013). "Review – Coolie Woman: The Odyssey of Indenture, By Gaiutra Bahadur. Hurst £20". London, England: The Independent. Archived from the original on 1 November 2016. Retrieved 1 November 2016.
- "'Coolie Woman' Rescues Indentured Women From Anonymity". Washington, D.C.: NPR. 19 November 2013. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 1 November 2016.
- "Gaiutra Bahadur". The Orwell Prize. London, England: King’s College London. 2014. Archived from the original on 9 January 2015. Retrieved 1 November 2016.
- "Gaiutra Bahadur, NF '08, Wins Award for Book". Nieman Foundation for Journalism. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University. 12 September 2014. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 1 November 2016.
- "Gaiutra Bahadur's Coolie Woman shortlisted for Orwell Prize". Georgetown, Guyana: Stabroek News. 1 May 2014. Retrieved 1 November 2016.
- "Ten writers vie for the 2014 OCM Bocas Prize". Bocas Lit Fest. St. Clair, Port of Spain, Trinidad. 25 February 2014. Archived from the original on 5 April 2016. Retrieved 1 November 2016.