Gaiutra Bahadur

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Gaiutra Bahadur
Author photo of Gaiutra.jpg
New Amsterdam, East Berbice-Corentyne, Guyana
OccupationWriter and journalist
Alma materYale University
Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism
Notable workCoolie Woman: The Odyssey of Indenture

Gaiutra Bahadur is an award-winning Guyanese-American writer. She is best known for Coolie Woman: The Odyssey of Indenture, which was shortlisted for the Orwell Prize in 2014.[1]

Early life[edit]

Bahadur was born in New Amsterdam, East Berbice-Corentyne in rural Guyana and emigrated to the United States with her family when she was six years old.[2][3] She grew up in Jersey City, New Jersey and earned her bachelor's degree, with honors in English Literature, at Yale University and her master's degree in journalism at Columbia University.


Before winning a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard University when she was 32, she was a staff writer for The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Austin American-Statesman. In her decade as a daily newspaper reporter, she covered politics, immigration and demographics in Texas, Pennsylvania and New Jersey and spent three months in the spring of 2005, during the Iraq war, as a foreign correspondent in Knight Ridder's Baghdad bureau. Since then, she has worked as an essayist, literary critic and freelance journalist, contributing to The New York Times Book Review, The New York Review of Books, The Nation, The New Republic, Lapham's Quarterly, Dissent,The Virginia Quarterly Review, The Boston Review, The Los Angeles Review of Books, Ms. Magazine and other publications.[2]

Her book Coolie Woman was published in 2013. It is partly a narrative history of indentured women in the Caribbean and partly a family history focusing on her great-grandmother, Sujaria, who left Calcutta for British Guiana in 1903 to work as an indentured plantation labourer.[4] The book was a finalist for the 2014 Orwell Prize and won the Gordon K. and Sybil Lewis Prize.[5] The Chronicle of Higher Education included the book in its round-up of the best scholarly books of the decade in 2020.[6]

She collaborated[7] with poet and translator Rajiv Mohabir to recover the only known text by an indentured immigrant in the Anglophone Caribbean, a songbook by Lal Bihari Sharma first published as a pamphlet in India in 1915. Mohabir's English translation, I Even Regret Night: Holi Songs of Demerara, was published in 2019[8] with an afterword by Bahadur, who first encountered the text in the British Library while doing research for Coolie Woman.[9]

She is an assistant professor of journalism at Rutgers University-Newark and has taught creative nonfiction at the University of Basel in Switzerland[10] and Caribbean literature at City College of New York.[11]



  • Coolie Woman. University of Chicago Press. 2013. ISBN 978-0226034423. Co-published by C. Hurst & Co in the UK, Hachette in India and Jacana in South Africa
  • Family Ties. Scholastic. 2012. ISBN 978-0531225547.
  • "Rescued From the Footnotes of History". Cite journal requires |journal= (help) Afterword to I Even Regret Night. Kaya Press. 2019. ISBN 978-1885030597.



  • "Tales of the Sea". Cite journal requires |journal= (help) In We Mark Your Memory: Writing from the Descendants of Indenture. The University of London. 2018. ISBN 978-1912250073.
  • "Of Islands and Other Mothers". Cite journal requires |journal= (help) In Nonstop Metropolis. University of California Press. 2016. ISBN 978-0520285958.
  • "Ogling the Statue of Liberty". Cite journal requires |journal= (help) In Living on the Edge of the World. Touchstone/Simon & Schuster. 2007. ISBN 978-0743291606.


Notable Articles and Essays

Major Awards and Recognition[edit]

  • 2018 Literary Arts Residency, Bellagio Center in Italy, The Rockefeller Foundation[13]
  • 2018 Scholar-in-Residence, The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library[14]
  • 2016-2017 Fellow, W.E.B. Du Bois Institute, Harvard University[15]
  • 2015 MacDowell Artists Colony Residency[16]
  • 2014 Orwell Prize (shortlist), Coolie Woman[1]
  • 2014 Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature (nonfiction shortlist), Coolie Woman[17]
  • Two-time winner of the New Jersey State Council on the Arts Award for Prose, 2013[18] and 2019[19]
  • 2007-2008 Nieman Fellow, Harvard University[20]


  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ a b "Gaiutra Bahadur". Pulitzer Center. Retrieved 13 February 2017.
  3. ^ "Gaiutra Bahadur: enigmas and arrivals - Caribbean Beat Magazine". Caribbean Beat Magazine. 1 May 2014. Retrieved 13 February 2017.
  4. ^ Bahadur, Gaiutra (14 June 2016). "Gaiutra Bahadur: 'How could I write about women whose existence is barely acknowledged?'". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 February 2017.
  5. ^ "Gaiutra Bahadur". Hutchins Center. Retrieved 11 February 2017.
  6. ^ "The Best Scholarly Books of the Decade". The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved 23 April 2020.
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External links[edit]