Jan Shinebourne

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Jan Lowe Shinebourne
Born 1947 (age 68–69)
Berbice, Guyana
Occupation Novelist, reporter
Nationality Guyanese of mixed Chinese and Indian origin
Education Bachelor of Arts
Alma mater University of Guyana, Master of Arts
University of London
Period mid-1960s–present
Notable works Timepiece

Jan Lowe Shinebourne (born 1947), also published as Janice Shinebourne, is a Guyanese novelist who now lives in England.[1] Being of mixed Chinese and Indian ancestry and from Guyana allows her to represent a shared cultural experience that is very dynamic. She is praised for having a strong literary impact through her representations of the Chinese Caribbean diaspora. Being able to provide an insight into Chinese-Caribbean culture has really enabled Shinebourne to have a distinguishing and rare voice in literature.[2] In addition to being an author, Shinebourne also worked in London as an editor for several journals, as a political and cultural activist, and as a college and university lecturer. Jan has also done reading tours in many countries in North America, Europe and Asia.[3] Shinebourne is one of only a few authors who have used their novels to bring to light the aspects of Chinese Caribbean studies. In general there is not a large emphasis on the Chinese diaspora, but Jan has used her novels to examine the relationship among many characteristics. These relationships include the impact between homeland and country of residence on the diaspora.[4]


Born in Canje, a plantation village within Berbice, Guyana, she was educated at Berbice High School and the University of Guyana. After leaving school she was a reporter in Georgetown. She stayed in Guyana for her first 20 years and then in 1970 she emigrated to London, England where she lived for 40 years.

While living there, Shinebourne did her postgraduate literary studies at the University of London and obtained her Bachelor of Arts in English. Moreover, she then began lecturing at colleges and universities and also became the co-editor of Southhall Review. She began writing in the mid-1960s, and in 1974 was a prize-winner in the National History and Arts Council Literary Competition. While living in England she developed a friendship with writer and publisher John La Rose, who introduced her to many people that would have an influence of her career.[3][5] After living in London for 40 years, she made the move to Sussex, which is where she currently lives. Her works have been praised by Anne Jordan and Chris Searle for her literary value and political engagement.[6]

Literary influence[edit]

Shinebourne is the author of novels, short stories, and essays. Her works represent the history of Chinese labourers who migrated to Guyana. Through her own upbringing and experiences she is able to portray the raw sense of womanhood, sexuality, and the limitations of patriarchy that she often writes about in her novels. Shineborune has a rare voice in her writing style that distinguishes her from other authors. This allows her to be one of the most influence authors in Chinese-Caribbean diaspora literature.[7]

She has produced works set in Guyana, the United Kingdom, and Canada that often deal with the idea of traditional Chinese values and culture. The representation of these particular belief systems is demonstrated through her attitude towards death within her works. Although Shinebourne is of Chinese ancestry and has not lived in China, the use of these ideologies is why she is defined as a Chinese Diaspora writer. However, she has shown scepticism within her identity and its consideration as being "real chinese".[2] This can be seen through several of her short stories. Her characters are often thought to portray real events that Shinebourne experienced. Some of her essays have been published in major journals.



  • Timepiece (1986) is one of Shinebourne's earliest novels. After being offered a job as a reporter, Sandra Yansen must leave behind her home village to go to Georgetown. As she is saying goodbye to her family and friends she feels a sense of betrayal for leaving where she was raised and confusion about her decisions. Once settled in her new job, she finds racial tension and the want for political freedom to be overwhelming. In this book, Shinebourne captures the need for independence and self-acceptance within a young woman who is faced with many difficult questions of identity.[6] The racial tension in the work between Indo-Guyanese and Afro-Guyanese is apparent throughout the novel. Shinebourne puts more emphasis and focus on Indian cultural aspects, rather than Chinese ancestry. The emphasis creates an opportunity for readers to have varying viewpoints regarding ancestry and culture.[4]
  • The Last English Plantation (1988), one of her most famous books, is a fast-paced novel set in the 1950s that gives insight to two weeks of a young girl's life in Guyana during a time of turmoil.[8] In the novel, June Lehall, attends her first few days of secondary school before a revolt erupts at the village sugar plantation, which causes June and her village to take a second look at Guyana and its ongoing racial tensions. June is forced to face the breakdown of the British plantation system while addressing questions of her individualism. This novel is an example of Asian diaspora literature and the struggles small countries such as Guyana live with.[8] This work puts an emphasis on Chinese ancestry and focuses on the history of the Chinese in the Caribbean.[4]
  • Chinese Woman (2004) is a novel in which the pain left from the mistreatment of Caribbean cultures and the resentment of political Islam are used to create a captivating story of a young boy named Albert Aziz, a Guyanese Indian Muslim who develops an obsessive love for a girl on his sugar can plantation. Years later, still harbouring feelings of anger about the way he was treated as a child, he turns to radical Islam for comfort. This novel portrays a young boy turned man who still has not dealt with his animosity towards others, clashing of cultures, and religion.[9] While shining a light on an often times under-acknowledged perspective of the Caribbean and Muslim history.[10]
  • The Last Ship (2015) is the story of a family who arrived in Guyana on The Admiral, the last ship to bring indentured Chinese workers. Through the main character, Clarice Chung, and her family, Shinebourne explores the issues of identity through the history of slavery/indenture in the Caribbean. Clarice's character puts a lot of emphasis on purity of Chinese ancestry. Shinebourne demonstrates the struggles involved with the integration of different cultures to better explain Guyanese-Chinese history.[11]

Short stories[edit]

  • The Godmother and Other Stories (2004) is a collection of stories divided into three parts covering four decades of Guyanese history in Guyana, the UK, and Canada.[2] The first section captures Guyana during a time of change, when transforming from a colony to an independent nation. Even after the transition, characters still face social and class discrimination. In the second section, characters have moved to other countries, but still can not escape old identities. However far away, the characters still find themselves being influenced by Guyana culture. Although the first two sections are struggles faced by natives of Guyana, section three focuses more on the positive outcomes that can be achieved when culture is embraced instead of neglected. This novel provides an insight to the concepts of time and space, as well as identity.[1]


  • National History and Arts Council Literary Competition:1974
  • Guyana Prize for Literature: "Best First Book of Fiction": 1987[3]


  • Timepiece (novel), Peepal Tree Press, 1986.
  • The Last English Plantation (novel), Peepal Tree Press, 1988.
  • Chinese Women (novel), Peepal Tree Press, 2010.
  • The Godmother and Other Stories (stories), Peepal Tree Press, 2004.


  1. ^ a b Anne-Marie Lee-Loy, "Janice Lowe Shinebourne’s The Godmother and Other Stories (Leeds: Peepal Tree Press, 2004)", Kaieteur News, 16 November 2008.
  2. ^ a b c Yamamoto, Shin. "Swaying In Time And Space: The Chinese Diaspora In The Caribbean And Its Literary Perspectives." Asian Ethnicity 9.3 (2008): 171-177. Academic Search Premier. Web. 11 March 2015.
  3. ^ a b c "Jan Lowe Shinebourne." Author information at Peepal Tree Press, 2015.
  4. ^ a b c Misrahi-Barak, Judith (2012). "Looking In, Looking Out: The Chinese-Caribbean Diaspora through Literature—Meiling Jin, Patricia Powell, Jan Lowe Shinebourne". Journal of Transnational American Studies 4 (1): 1–15. 
  5. ^ Paola Marchionni, "Shinebourne, Jan(ice) [Lo]", in Lorna Sage, ed., The Cambridge Guide to Women's Writing in English, Cambridge University Press, 1999.
  6. ^ a b "Timepiece". peepaltrees.com. Retrieved 1 April 2015. 
  7. ^ Goffe, Tao Leigh (November 2013). "The Emergence of Caribbean Chinese Diasporic Anglophone Literature". sx salon. Small Axe. Retrieved 1 April 2015. 
  8. ^ a b "Jan Lowe-Shinebourne". Guyana Information. Guyana News. Retrieved 1 April 2015. 
  9. ^ "Chinese Woman". Peepal Tree Press. Retrieved 1 April 2015. 
  10. ^ Sudhakar, Anantha (30 June 2011). "Muslim Interrupted". sx salon. Small Axe. Retrieved 1 April 2015. 
  11. ^ Birbalsingh, Frank. "A Review of Jan Lowe Shinebourne's 'The Last Ship'", Alumni Blog RSS. CHS-JCCSS Alumni Association. Retrieved 12 April 2015.
  • Gleerups "Other Englishes Literature", Lennart Peterson, 2005

External links[edit]