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Bama was born Faustina Mary Fatima Rani in 1958. Her ancestors were landless labourers in Puthupatti village in Tamil Nadu, India. To escape the stigma attached with being Dalit, her grandfather converted to Christianity. At 26, Bama had taken vows to enter the convent in her zeal to serve her people. Less than a decade later, she left the convent to seek an independent life. Struggling to find her feet, she was encouraged to write her memoirs by a friend. Published in 1992, Bama's Karukku was a major literary milestone; for the first time in the history of Tamil literature a Dalit woman was speaking in her own voice about the experience of being Dalit. Karukku won the Crossword Prize for the best translated text in 2000. Sangati, Bama's next novel (1994), deals with the strategies of resistance of Dalit women, and the English translation of Kisumbukkaran: A Collection of Short Stories (Women Unlimited, 2006) could aptly be termed 'subaltern literature' for the subversive manner in which it relates vignettes of the lives of Dalit men and women.
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