Gaiutra Bahadur is a Guyanese-American writer, journalist and independent scholar. She is the author of Coolie Woman: The Odyssey of Indenture, a narrative history of indenture which was shortlisted in 2014 for the Orwell Prize, the British award for political writing that is artful. Currently a fellow at the W.E.B. Du Bois Research Institute at Harvard’s Hutchins Center, she is at work on a book about Janet Jagan, the first American woman to serve as a head of state.
Bahadur’s reporting and literary criticism have appeared in The New York Times Book Review, The Nation, The Virginia Quarterly Review, Ms., Lapham’s Quarterly, Dissent Magazine, Foreign Policy, and the Washington Post, among other publications. She was a daily newspaper staff writer for a decade, covering politics, immigration and the war in Iraq for the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Austin American-Statesman. For her work as a journalist, she was awarded a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard in 2007-2008.
Bahadur has received creative writing fellowships and grants from the MacDowell Colony, the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and the feminist arts organization the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund. Her essay “Of Islands and Other Mothers” appears in the 2016 anthology Nonstop Metropolis (University of California Press, eds. Rebecca Solnit and Joshua Jelly-Schapiro), a literary atlas to New York City. “The Stained Veil,” a short story commissioned by the Commonwealth Writers Foundation and her first work of fiction, is forthcoming in the anthology Go Home! (New York: Feminist Press, 2018).
Coolie Woman won the 2014 Gordon K. and Sybil Lewis Prize, awarded by scholars of the Caribbean to the best book about the Caribbean published in the previous three years. The book was also long-listed for the Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature in 2014 and was a finalist for Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies writing prize in 2015.
Bahadur studied literature at Yale and journalism at Columbia. Her work as an independent scholar has been supported by fellowships from the British Library’s Eccles Centre for American Studies, where she was a 2016 U.S. Visiting Fellow, and the Society of Authors, which granted her the 2015 Elizabeth Longford Award for Historical Biography. Her freelance reporting has been supported by grants from the Nation Institute and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.
She was almost seven when her family emigrated to the United States. Bahadur writes often about literature, gender, politics and migration. Her nonfiction book for middle-school children – Family Ties, published by Scholastic in 2012 as part of its On the Record series by journalists – explores how President Obama and Amy Tan each negotiated relationships with difficult parents and difficult homelands through the process of writing about them.