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Temsula Ao was born in October 1945 at Jorhat, Assam. She matriculated from Ridgeway Girls' High School, Golaghat, Assam. She received her B.A with Distinction from Fazl Ali College, Mokokchung, Nagaland. She received her M.A in English from Gauhati University, Assam. From Central Institute of English and Foreign Languages (presently English and Foreign Languages University,) Hyderabad she received her Post Graduate Diploma in the Teaching of English and PhD from NEHU. From 1992–97 she served as Director, North East Zone Cultural Centre, Dimapur on Deputation from NEHU, and was Fulbright Fellow to University of Minnesota 1985–86.
She received the honorary Padma Shri Award in 2007. She is the recipient of the Governor's Gold Medal 2009 from the government of Meghalaya. She is widely respected as one of the major literary voices in English to emerge from Northeast India along with Mitra Phukan and Mamang Dai.
She has published five poetic works.
- Songs that Tell (1988),
- Songs that Try to Say (1992),
- Songs of Many Moods (1995),
- Songs from Here and There (2003),
- Songs From The Other Life (2007).
Her first two poetry collections were published from Writers Workshop, Kolkata. The third poetry collection was published by Kohima Sahitya Sabha and the fourth was published by North Eastern Hill University and the last one was by Grasswork Books, Pune.
When she was in the University of Minnesota as a Fulbright fellow, she came in contact with the Native Americans. She learned about their culture, heritage and especially their oral tradition. This exposure inspired her to record the oral tradition of her own community, Ao Naga. After returning from the University of Minnesota, she worked on the oral tradition for about twelve years. She collected the myths, folktales, folklore, rituals, law, custom, belief system. This ethnographic work was published in 1999 as the Ao-Naga oral tradition from Bhasha Publications, Baroda. This book is the most authentic document about the Ao-Naga community.
The former short story collection consists of ten short stories and deals with insurgency in Nagaland fired by right to self-determination of the Naga people.
The later consists of eight short stories which have mythical as well as modern overtones. The stories are sensitive, evocative and also powerful.
She published a book of literary criticism Henry James' Quest for an Ideal Heroine. It was published in 1989 from Writers Workshop.
- Laburnum for My Head (Penguin, 2009)
- These Hills Called Home: Stories From A War Zone(Zubaan/Penguin)
- Ao-Naga Oral Tradition (2000)
- These Hills Called Home: Stories From A War Zone (review)
- These hills Called Home: Stories from a War Zone (New Edition on ZubaanBooks.com)
- Poignant stories from a war zone
- Mirroring life in the conflict zone
- Weaving a literary fabric : Prof. Temsula Ao, Cover Story in Melange