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Vassanji, M. G.


Subject Imperial, Colonial, and Postcolonial History » Postcolonial History

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781444334982.2016.x


M. G. Vassanji is a transcontinental storyteller whose writings connect diasporic Indian traditions and fragments of cultural identity with the geographies and histories of East Africa and Canada. His oeuvre comprises seven novels, two story collections and two nonfictional books. Born in Kenya, Vassanji grew up in Tanzania. After studying in the United States he became a resident of Toronto in 1978. Vassanji, who trained as a nuclear physicist, is a central figure in promoting transcultural Canadian writing. Together with his wife, Nurjehan Aziz, he founded The Toronto South Asian Review (now The Toronto Review of Contemporary Writing Abroad) . Vassanji's writings are tales of multiple belongings. They deal with migration and the ways in which it affects identity in the global Indian diaspora, as well as issues of memory, ethnicity, and gender. The hyphenated origins of Vassanji's characters are matched by their cultural hybridity. His novels recruit many characters from a minority group called Shamsis, a fictionalization of the Ismaili Khoja community which originated in Gujarat and combines Islamic and Hindu traditions. In The Gunny Sack (1989), which won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, a young man inherits a bag full of mementos from which he pieces together the histories of several generations of Indians in East Africa. The novel is paradigmatic for Vassanji's oeuvre ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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