Gaiutra Bahadur

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Gaiutra Bahadur
BornNew 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 a 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, Dissent 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 the Center for Documentary Studies Writing Prize at Duke University, and it won the New Jersey State Council on the Arts Award for Prose and 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 associate 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. Co-published by C. Hurst & Co in the UK, Hachette in India and Jacana in South Africa. 2013. ISBN 978-0226034423.
  • Family Ties. Scholastic. 2012. ISBN 978-0531225547.


  • Rescued from the Footnotes of History Afterword to I Even Regret Night. Kaya Press. 2019. ISBN 978-1885030597.
  • A House Filled with Women: In Memory of Meena Alexander Afterword to Fault Lines. Feminist Press Press. 2020. ISBN 978-1936932993.



  • How Could I Write About Women Whose Existence Is Barely Acknowledged? In Craft and Conscience: How to Write About Social Issues. Beacon Press. 2022. ISBN 978-0807046494.
  • Tales of the Sea. In We Mark Your Memory: Writing from the Descendants of Indenture. The University of London. 2018. ISBN 978-1912250073.
  • Of Islands and Other Mothers. In Nonstop Metropolis. University of California Press. 2016. ISBN 978-0520285958.
  • Ogling the Statue of Liberty. 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 "Orwell prize shortlist headed by Thatcher biography". the Guardian. 2014-04-24. Retrieved 2021-03-02.
  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. Archived from the original on 6 June 2017. Retrieved 11 February 2017.
  6. ^ "The Best Scholarly Books of the Decade". The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved 23 April 2020.
  7. ^ Khan, Aliyah. "Lalbihari Sharma, I Even Regret Night: Holi Songs of Demerara (Book Review)". Journal of West Indian Literature 27.2.
  8. ^ "I Even Regret Night: Holi Songs of Demerara |". Kaya Press. Retrieved 2021-03-01.
  9. ^ Bahadur, Gaiutra. "Rescued from the Footnotes of History: Lal Bihari Sharma's "Holi Songs of Demerara"". Los Angeles Review of Books. Retrieved 2021-03-01.
  10. ^ "Creative Nonfiction Writing | Gaiutra Bahadur | Centre for African Studies". Retrieved 2021-03-02.
  11. ^ "Captcha | Turing Test 1.0". Retrieved 2021-03-01.
  12. ^ "Go Home!". Feminist Press. Retrieved 2021-03-02.
  13. ^ "The Rockefeller Foundation Announces Selected Bellagio Center Resident Fellows". The Rockefeller Foundation. Retrieved 2021-03-02.
  14. ^ "Current Fellows: Schomburg Center Scholars-in-Residence Program". The New York Public Library. Retrieved 2021-03-02.
  15. ^ "Alumni Fellows". Retrieved 2021-03-02.
  16. ^ "Gaiutra Bahadur - Artist". MacDowell. Retrieved 2021-03-02.
  17. ^ "Coolie Woman". Trinidad Express Newspapers. Retrieved 2021-03-02.
  18. ^, Peggy McGlone | NJ Advance Media for (2013-02-21). "N.J. Arts Council awards 22 grants to individual artists". nj. Retrieved 2021-03-02.
  19. ^ "2019 Individual Artist Fellowship Awards" (PDF). Retrieved 2021-03-01.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  20. ^ "Nieman Foundation Announces U.S. and International Fellows for 2007-2008". Nieman Foundation. Retrieved 2021-03-02.

External links[edit]