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Cathlyn Mariscotti

Egyptian Islamic scholar and prominent writer of Arabic literature, was born on 18 November 1913 into a conservative religious household in Dumyat (Damietta) in the Egyptian Delta. She was a descendent, on her mother’s side, of a shaykh of the Al-Azhar, the prestigious mosque and university in Cairo, and her father taught at Dumyat Religious Institute. Well acquainted with her family history, ʿAbd al- Rahman sought to continue this proud tradition. She began learning basic reading and writing skills before the age of five in a kuttab in her father s village This early instruction prepared her to read the Qurʾan ʿAbd al Rahman s later education became more difficult however as her father did not believe that girls should be educated outside the home because secular education did not provide proper instruction for them As a result ʿAbd al Rahman s mother would continually intervene to help her ...


Ellis Goldberg

Egyptian jurist, government official, and author of one of the most important and controversial books of the twentieth century on Islam and politics, Islam and the Foundations of Governance. This short book, published in 1925, caused a storm of protest, and ʿAbd al-Raziq was arraigned before a jury of Egyptian religious leaders (including the grandfather of the late-twentieth-century al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri) and officially stripped of his status as a religious scholar (ʿalim).

Abd al-Raziq was born in the Upper Egyptian province of Minya to a well-known and relatively well-off family. He studied at Al-Azhar University. Although he was too young to have known the prominent Egyptian ʿalim Muhammad Abduh (d. 1905), his work appears to have been influenced by Abduh’s break with prevailing orthodoxy. Abduh was the highest jurisconsult (mufti) in Egypt at the time of his death. In 1915 ʿAbd al Raziq became a ...


Khwezi Mkhize

South African-born poet, journalist, essayist, and novelist, was born on 19 March 1919, in Vrededorp, a slum in Johannesburg, though he later became an adopted citizen of Britain. His father was James Henry Abrahams Deras (or De Ras), an Ethiopian itinerant who settled in Johannesburg as a mine laborer. His mother, Angelina DuPlessis, was a Coloured woman whose first husband was a Cape Malay resident, with whom she had two children. His parents met and married in Vrededorp. Abrahams grew up as a Coloured, “a by-product of the early contact between black and white” (Abrahams, 1981 p 10 which made him aware of the social and political consequences of racial formation in South Africa His father died when he was still young Upon his father s death his family was thrown into poverty Abrahams later wrote that his mother went to work in the homes of white folk ...


was born on 28 July 1942 to Charles Albert and Rosa Batista on a batey (sugarcane worker community) in Guaymate, La Romana Province, Dominican Republic. Albert’s father was from St. Kitts and Nevis, while her mother was a Dominican from Santiago de los Caballeros who later moved to La Romana, where they met and married. Charles Albert was a member of the so-called cocolo community, a somewhat pejorative term for blacks from the English-speaking Caribbean who settled in the Dominican Republic.

Born, raised, and educated on a batey, where living conditions were often deplorable and educational opportunities were limited and often difficult to obtain, Albert overcame many challenges and completed her primary and secondary education. Upon the death of her father in 1958 she the eldest child had to work to help support her family while attending school Her first professional job was as an elementary school teacher ...


Alessandra Benedicty

was born on 22 April 1922 to a middle-class family in Gonaïves, Haiti. Although the date is not confirmed, nor has his death ever been officially recognized, general knowledge puts Alexis’s assassination at April 1961. Born twelve years before the end of the US military occupation of Haiti, Alexis would in a sense follow in the trade of his father: his father Stéphen Mesmin Alexis, himself a writer and man of politics, published the novel Le Nègre masqué (1933), and his family proudly traced its lineage to the Haitian revolutionary Jean-Jacques Dessalines. Alexis’s life oeuvre was grounded in political activism. Many scholars compare him to Jacques Roumain, fifteen years Alexis’s senior, also a Marxist, similarly an esteemed novelist, and who like Roumain died before the age of 40.

Today Alexis is known primarily for his novels and for his contribution to the conversation on magical and marvelous ...


Silvia Regina Lorenso Castro

was born in Santurce, Puerto Rico, on 11 September 1941. As a 9-year-old boy he migrated to the United States with his parents and two siblings during the great migration after World War II. At an early age, his mother, Maria del Socorro Algarin, and aunt, Carmen Ana Figueras, sparked his passion for literature and language. His father, Miguel Algarin, a mechanic who enjoyed listening to opera while working on cars, fueled his appreciation for music. Unlike many of his generation, he grew up with a strong parental presence. While living in the projects in Queens, New York, he was surrounded by cultural and social activities organized by his parents, relatives, and neighbors.

His family background significantly shaped his politics of racial identity Many Puerto Ricans who relocated to the mainland sensed that racial discrimination was more prominent in the United States than in their homeland However Algarin remarks ...


Jessica Falconi

Angolan essayist, poet, and militant anticolonialist, was born in Golungo Alto, Kwanza-Norte province, Angola. The son of José Cristino Pinto de Andrade, one of the founders of the African National League (Liga Nacional Africana), and Ana Rodrigues Coelho, he came to be known as a “Citizen of Africa.” At two years of age, he moved with his family to Luanda, where he completed his primary and secondary school studies. The proto-nationalist ideas of his father, the growing urbanization of Luanda, and the heterogeneous racial and social atmosphere of the Luanda Catholic seminary constituted the primary elements that marked the formation of his personality.

In 1948 he traveled to Lisbon, where he began a course in classics in the Department of Letters and frequented the Casa dos Estudantes do Império (House of Students of the Empire), an institution created in 1944 to support students from the colonies which quickly was ...


Juan Sebastian Rojas

was born in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, on 29 October 1970. She was raised in the Amelia neighborhood by her grandparents Saturnino Pizarro, a worker at the Puerto Rican Cement Company, and Petronila Cartagena, a housewife. Arroyo Pizarro has authored two novels (Los documentados, 2005; Caparazones, 2010), three collections of poems (Medialengua, 2010; Perseídas, 2011; Saeta: The Poems, 2011), and nine books of short stories, including Ojos de luna, 2007, a finalist for the Institute of Puerto Rican Literature National Award. La Macacoa: Vivirse la creación literaria (2010) was a guide to budding writers, in which Arroyo Pizarro offered advice and strategies for individuals attempting to break into the field.

In 2007Arroyo Pizarro was named one of the most promising young writers in Latin America by UNESCO the Hay Festival and the secretary ...


Nicole D. Price

author and coordinator of activities at the Centro Cultural Español de Malabo (Spanish Cultural Center of Malabo, Equatorial Guinea), was born 6 November 1966 in Equatorial Guinea to Manuel Avila and Luisa Laurel, the eldest of five children. Reared primarily by his maternal grandmother due to his parents’ separation, Avila Laurel spent his early childhood in Annabón (Equatorial Guinea), often having to share a bed with uncles and cousins due to the economic situation. His mother taught him how to read before he started school, and because of that he was considered very advanced for his age. He began his primary education in Annabón and in 1978, at the age of twelve, he moved to the capital, Malabo, with a great aunt to continue his education. Political instability of the country, especially the end of the bloody dictatorship of Francisco Nguema Macías in 1978 and the generally poor ...


Steven J. Niven

James Arthur Baldwin, essayist, novelist, and activist, was born in Harlem, New York, on 2 August 1924, to Emma Berdis Jones, a domestic. He never knew the identity of his biological father, but when James was three years old his mother married David Baldwin, a laborer and storefront preacher. James Baldwin’s early years were shaped by the powerful influence of his stepfather and by teachers and others at Frederick Douglass Junior High School, notably the poet Countee Cullen, who recognized and encouraged his precocious talents as a writer. Saved as a teenager, Baldwin preached at the Fireside Pentecostal Assembly, but was drawn increasingly to the world of books and writing, which provided respite from an increasingly difficult relationship with his harsh, unloving, and jealous stepfather, and with his growing realization that he was gay. In 1944 after abandoning the church and following the death of his stepfather ...


Ana Rodríguez Navas

is widely reported to have been born in the far eastern town of Banes, Cuba, in 1918, although the researcher Ana Gloria González Ochoa argues convincingly that he was actually born in Havana in 1914. Baquero was initially raised in poverty by his Afro-Cuban mother, and subsequently brought up and educated by his father. He displayed early literary talent, publishing his first poems and articles while still a teenager. After earning degrees in agronomy and the natural sciences from the University of Havana, Baquero turned to writing in earnest, and during the 1950s he became one of Cuba’s most influential columnists, public intellectuals, and men of letters. He is today chiefly remembered for his poetry, much of it penned during his lengthy exile in Spain, and is placed among the most important Cuban poets of the twentieth century.

Initially affiliated with José Lezama Lima’s Orígenes group Baquero ...


Hédi Abdel-Jaouad

Tunisian poet, critic, and essayist, was born in Majel Bel Abbès, near Kassérine, Tunisia, where his father was employed with the railway system. His family originates from Gabes, in southeast Tunisia. Bekri’s mother died when he was ten years old, which affected both his personal and literary journeys. He attended the Lycée of Sfax, where he was active in various literary and artistic circles. At the age of eighteen he published his first poems, in the school’s literary journal. He then attended the University of Tunis, where he majored in French literature. During the turbulent years following May 1967, the university was a hotbed of political activism. Bekri was arrested for his political opinions in 1972 and was sentenced and jailed in 1975. Upon his release in 1976 he left for France and has since resided in Paris where he was granted political asylum Bekri completed a ...


Patrick Bellegarde-Smith

Dantès Bellegarde was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti in 1877. His family had long been at the center of Haitian politics. Bellegarde's mother was Marie Boisson and his father Jean-Louis Bellegarde. His maternal great-grandfather, Jacques Ignace Fresnel, was named judge by Jean-Jacques Dessalines, a leader of the Haitian Revolution, who became the first leader of the independent state in 1804 and soon proclaimed himself Emperor Jean-Jacques I. This same great-grandfather was later minister of justice under President Jean-Pierre Boyer, who ruled all of Haiti from 1820 to 1843. Bellegarde's paternal grandfather, Jean-Louis de Bellegarde, was a duke and marshal in Haiti's second empire during the rule of Faustin Soulouque, who declared himself emperor and ruled from 1847 to 1859. Bellegarde's aunt, Argentine Bellegarde (1842–1901), was a noted educator and an early feminist. Bellegarde married Cécile Savain (1875–1965 ...


Cilas Kemedjio

Mongo Beti (born Alexandre Biyidi-Awala) was born in 1932 in Akometan near Yaoundé, during the colonial period when Cameroon was ruled by France and Great Britain, under the trusteeship of the League of Nations and then the United Nations. Beti died on 7 October 2001, at the Douala General Hospital in Cameroon. He wrote his first novel (Ville cruelle, 1954) as Eza Boto, which, in the Beti language, literally means the “people from elsewhere, the strangers.” With his second novel, he adopted Mongo Beti, which translates as “the child of the Beti,” his ethnic group. Beti would have been a German citizen, but Western history decided differently, and he became a French subject. Unlike the preceding generation, which followed the paths of German schooling before leaving for Germany, Beti went to the French colonial school, continuing his studies in France after his baccalauréat.

Beti arrived in ...


Born Alexandre Biyidi-Awala in Mbalmayo, a town near Yaoundé, he adopted the pen name Eza Bota with his first work and thereafter used the pseudonym Mongo Beti. Educated in Catholic mission schools and then at a French lycée in Yaoundé, Cameroon, Beti went to France in 1951 to study literature at the University of Aix-en-Provence. He published his first novel, Ville cruelle, in 1954. This work introduces the major themes of his early writing: the social disorientation caused by colonialism, and the African’s revolt against traditional village life, especially its patriarchy.

With his second novel, Le pauvre Christ de Bomba (1956; The Poor Christ of Bomba, 1971 Beti established himself as an important Francophone French language writer The novel was banned in Cameroon however because it presumes a complicity between missionaries and the government in maintaining colonialism Written in the form of ...


Abiola F. Irele

Jean-Godefroy Bidima’s primary training is in philosophy, but his published work extends over a wide range that includes not only the related field of cultural anthropology, but also literature and art history. His first published work, titled Théorie critique et modernité africaine (1993 based on his doctoral thesis at the Sorbonne draws on theoretical concepts and methodological approaches from these various disciplines in a sustained reflection on the implications of the African encounter with Europe and the process of transition in African society set in motion by this encounter in the specific historical and cultural contexts in which it occurred The reference to critical theory associated with the Frankfurt school may suggest a simple application of the models and ideas of this school In fact Bidima reaches back to a tradition of German sociology including notably the work of Karl Marx and Max Weber on which the ...


Leslie Sanders

was born 7 January 1953 in Guayaguayare, Trinidad and Tobago. Information on her parents is unavailable. She attended Naparima Girls’ High School in San Fernando, graduating in 1970. The same year, she immigrated to Canada for further schooling, graduating from the University of Toronto with a B.A. in 1975, and from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education with an M.A. in 1976. She lives in Toronto and, since 2004, has been a research professor in the Department of English and Theatre Studies, University of Guelph. Brand is the author of ten books of poetry; four novels; a collection of short stories; four substantial works of nonfiction, including the resonant and influential meditation on being in diaspora, A Map to the Door of No Return: Notes to Belonging (2001 other uncollected essays and four documentary films She has won many awards for her work ...


Balthazar Becker

was born Lawson Edward Brathwaite in Bridgetown, Barbados, to Beryl Brathwaite (née Gill) and Hilton Edward Brathwaite, a warehouse clerk, on 11 May 1930. He was born the same year as the St. Lucian poet Derek Walcott, to whom he has consistently been compared. Growing up in a middle-class environment, Brathwaite published his first poems in a school journal he cofounded while he studied, from 1945 to 1949, at the renowned Harrison College in Bridgetown.

An excellent student, Brathwaite earned himself the competitive Barbados Island Scholarship to enroll at Cambridge University’s Pembroke College in 1950, where he studied English and history, receiving a B.A. in history in 1953 and a diploma in education in 1954. During this time, Brathwaite began publishing poetry, short stories, and criticism in Bim a West Indian literary journal edited by Frank Collymore and based in Barbados to which he continued ...


Rodney Saint-Eloi

was born into a bourgeois family in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on 5 December 1902. His father, the businessman and public official Rafaël Brouard, and his mother, Cléomie Gaëtjens, had four children. The young Carl spent his childhood in the Port-au-Prince neighborhood of Bizoton, and from an early age he fostered a particular passion for literature from the Middle Ages. When the US Marines disembarked to occupy Haiti (1915–1934), the aspiring writer was bruised: “28 July 1915. The Americans have trespassed on our soil. Melancholy has dilated our vision,” he wrote. This was an inquisitive young man who discovered with enthusiasm the nationalist ideas of Haitian intellectuals like Jean Price-Mars, which emerged in response to the occupation.

An alcoholic Carl Brouard led a bohemian existence in the Port au Prince of the early 1920s which contributed to a tense relationship with his father Around that time his ...


Roanne Edwards

Lydia Cabrera, along with Fernando Ortiz, is widely considered one of the two most important twentieth century researchers and writers on Afro-Cuban culture. She wrote more than a dozen volumes of investigative work on the subject, including her pioneering El monte (1954), subtitled “Notes on the Religion, the Magic, the Superstitions and the Folklore of Creole Negroes and the Cuban People,” and Reglas de congo (1980), a book on Bantu (known as congo in Cuba) rituals. According to Ana María Simo, author of Lydia Cabrera: An Intimate Portrait, Cabrera's “is the most important and complete body of work on Afro-Cuban religions” of its time. Cabrera also wrote four volumes of short stories inspired by Afro-Cuban legends and beliefs. Her fiction is rich in metaphor and symbolism and has been compared stylistically with the writings of Spanish poet and playwright Federico García Lorca ...