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Writer, Educator

About Jocelyn Cullity


Jocelyn’s English family lived in India for five generations. Her first novel, Amah & the Silk-Winged Pigeons, was published by Inanna and won the 2018 Best Book Awards in Historical Fiction. The Envy of Paradise, also published by Inanna, was a finalist in Multicultural Fiction for the 2020 International Book Awards. Both novels offer essential counter histories set in 1856-1858 India.
Amah & the Silk-Winged Pigeons is translated into French by Les Éditions La Pleine Lune in Quebec, and is available in English in India and the Indian subcontinent by Rupa Publications, and in Tamil by Kalachuvadu Publications. Jocelyn's short stories and essays have been published in the United States, Canada, and India.
She teaches in the BFA in Creative Writing program at Truman State University, and lives in Columbia, Missouri with her family.

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 a counterhistory about these women who actually financed and led the “mutiny,” what became a crucial and significant fight against English dominance. The Envy of Paradise, also an important counterhistory, is the sequel to Amah & the Silk-Winged Pigeons.

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