Gaiutra Bahadur’s “Coolie Woman” Longlisted for the Orwell Prize

Repeating Islands

cooliewomantheodysseyofindentureGaiutra Bahadur’s Coolie Woman: The Odyssey of Indenture has been longlisted for the Orwell Prize.

Description: In 1903 a Brahmin woman sailed from India to Guyana as a ‘coolie’, the name the British gave to the million indentured labourers they recruited for sugar plantations worldwide after slavery ended. The woman, who claimed no husband, was pregnant and travelling alone. A century later, her great-granddaughter embarks on a journey into the past, hoping to solve a mystery: what made her leave her country? And had she also left behind a man?

Gaiutra Bahadur, a journalist, pursues traces of her great-grandmother over three continents. She also excavates the repressed history of some quarter of a million female coolies. Disparaged as fallen, many were runaways, widows or outcasts, and many migrated alone. Coolie Woman chronicles their epic passage from Calcutta to the Caribbean, from departures akin either to kidnap or escape…

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