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Head, Bessie

(South African, 1937–86)

In 1964, after training as a teacher and working in South Africa as a journalist, Head took a one-way exit permit to Botswana. All of Head's writing draws on her own traumatic life. The Cardinals (1993), a captivating novella published posthumously and thought to have been written around 1960–2, is an incestuous love story, between Mouse, an illegitimate coloured girl, and her white father. The story has stark parallels with the racist laws of South Africa which prohibited any contact between people of different colours (Head herself was of mixed race). Her most famous book, A Question of Power (1973), is a difficult but rewarding novel depicting the hallucinatory mental deterioration of a woman who is discriminated against because she is of mixed race. As well as writing novels, Head wrote many short stories. The Collector of Treasures (1977), Head's first collection, focuses on rural life in Botswana and particularly the status of women.

J. M. Coetzee, Buchi Emecheta, Nadine Gordimer, Boris Pasternak  EW

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionBooks & Authors: Award-Winning Fiction (Ha-Ke)