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Athabasca University

Anita Rau Badami

Anita Rau Badami is a Canadian writer best known for her award-winning novel, The Hero's Walk (2001).

Badami moved to Canada in 1991 from India, where she was born in 1961. In India she attended  Catholic schools because they offered a high quality of education all over India and were suitable for her since her father was transferred frequently. She started writing stories as a young woman and published her first when she was only 18. At the University of Madras she earned a B.A. in English (1982) and then studied  Social Communications Media at Sophia College in Bombay. She worked as a freelance writer in India and published stories in magazines for children. After she moved to Canada with her husband she studied at the University of Calgary and earned an M.A. in creative writing (1995). Her MA writing project  became her first novel, Tamarind Mem (1996) which deals with relationships in Indian families and the cultural problems when family members go abroad. In the US edition the title was changed to Tamarind Woman.

Her second novel, The Hero's Walk (2001) begins with an ordinary man, Sripath and the sudden death of his estranged daughter in Vancouver. He and his family are conflicted about the death and the arrival of the orphaned granddaugher, Nandana, who comes to live with them in India. This experience is the catalyst for the transformation of Sripath in the rest of the story from an ordinary man into a committed individual.  A powerful novel,  The Hero's Walk,  won a number of awards: The Regional Commonwealth Writers Prize (2001),  Italy's Premio Berto and the Washington Post Best Book of 2001.  It was longlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Prize and shortlisted for the Kiriyama Prize. In 2016 it was runner-up for the CBC Canada Reads Competition.

Badami's third novel, Can You Hear the Nightbird Call? (2006), was inspired by events surrounding the Golden Temple Massacre (1984), the assassination of Indira Gandhi  and the Air India Bombing (1985).  The narrative traces the lives of three Indian women through 50 years of life in India and Canada. At the beginning of this book we see Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus all living in one village in  the Punjab in northern India. But then we also see the conflicts among ordinary people caused by the events mentioned above.

Her fourth novel, Tell it to the Trees (2011), is set in a small town in northern B.C. where the Dharma family live in disfunctional relationships. The father Vikram is an abusive tyrant who drives his wife, Helen to eventually try to escape him only to die in a car accident. Vikram goes back to India to find another wife, Varsha, whom he can control. The physical and emotional abuse result in the death of Anu, a house guest, whose body is found outside the house in a snow bank.  We realise that the children have been damaged beyond help.  The wealth of different characters in this narrative provide varying  perspective on this family drama and the dark secrets each of them hides.

Badami is the recipient of the Marian Engel Award for a woman writer in mid-career.
In 2014-15 she was writer-in-residence at Athabasca University, Edmonton. She lives in Vancouver.

Updated April 01 2016 by Student & Academic Services

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