Head, Bessie

1937–1986
Botswanan writer

Bessie Head is the author of several novels and short stories about the political and social conditions of African society. She was the illegitimate daughter of a white South African woman and a black stable hand. Head spent most of her childhood in the home of a mixedrace foster family in SOUTH AFRICA. At age 13, however, she was taken from her foster mother and raised in a Christian orphanage.

She became a teacher, married, and worked for a time as a journalist. In 1964 she left her husband and moved to BOTSWANA. It was there that Head did most of her writing. Her works deal mainly with the experience of being a female in traditionally male-oriented African society. Some of her writing is also about being an outsider, reflecting her experience as a light-colored black child who was accepted by neither the white nor the black community. Her third novel, A Question of Power (1973), was nominated for the prestigious Booker Prize in Britain. Head’s other works include When Rain Clouds Gather (1968); Maru (1971); The Collector of Treasures and other Botswana Tales (1977); Serowe, Village of the Rainwind (1981); and A Bewitched Crossroad: An African Saga (1984). (See also Literature.)

Head, Bessie