Bessie Head Thunder Behind her Ears

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by Gillian Stead Eilersen

This biography details the life of Bessie Head – a life which echoes so many of the aspects of the distressing history of South Africa in the last half century. She was born in an asylum to a mother who was considered mad because her father was black. Despite the disadvantages of being both a person of mixed race and a woman, she made her way in South Africa as a journalist. Her exile in rural Botswana was in marked contrast to the intensely urban backgrounds of most other South African writers. Her fierce determination to take root was reflected in her first novel Where Rain Clouds Gather. But she was kept a refugee for 15 years before she was granted citizenship of Botswana. Her most frightening novel, A Question of Power vividly captures the shifting dislocations of schizophrenia.