Photo by Taisia Gordon.


My mother’s English family lived in India for five generations. Rawson Hart Boddam, the first salaried Governor of Mumbai (1884-88), was my great-great-great-great-great grandfather. My family lived and worked in cities all over India, including Delhi, Kolkata, and Lucknow, until the English were finally forced to leave when India gained independence in 1947.


When I was fourteen, I transcribed my great-great-great aunt’s diary about being barricaded in a building in the city of Lucknow in 1857 during what came to be known as the “great mutiny” — the first key resistance by Indians against increasingly-aggressive English rule in India.


The events Ellen Huxham described in her diary stuck with me and I went on to study colonial, post-colonial, and contemporary India over several decades. My first novel, Amah & the Silk-Winged Pigeons, is the result of ten years of research into the lives of Indian and African women who lived in Lucknow during 1857 — women who today remain virtually unknown. The book is about these women who actually financed and led the “mutiny,” what became a crucial and significant fight against English dominance. The Envy of Paradise is the sequel to Amah & the Silk-Winged Pigeons.

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