Oonya Kempadoo grew up in Guyana and has worked and lived in various Caribbean islands and currently resides in Grenada and Canada. A creative writer and novelist, she also works freelance as a researcher and consultant in the arts, private sector, with youth and international organizations, focusing on social development. She is a co-founder of the Grenada Community Library & Resource Center and a National juror for the Scholastic Arts & Writing Awards 2019-2020.
Oonya started writing in 1997 and her first novel Buxton Spice, is a story of a young girl’s growing sexual awareness and sexuality set in the multi-racial society of Guyana disintegrating under a corrupt government. Buxton Spice was auctioned in London between major publishers and was published by Phoenix House, Orion UK 1998, and by Dutton/Plume, USA 1999, Beacon Press USA 2004. Also published in Spanish (Tusquet Editores,1999 – El Arbol de los Sentidos), French (Grasset, 1999 – Les Secrets du Manguier), and in Italian, Dutch, Portuguese and Hebrew, serialised for radio by BBC Radio 4. Buxton Spice was long-listed for the Orange Prize and nominated for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.
Her second novel, Tide Running, set in Tobago, is a vernacular account of a young Tobagonian’s intimate, ultimately disastrous intersection with a wealthy interracial couple and the predicament of a young society looking to America for fantasies and heroes. It also raises unsettling questions about relationships, wealth and responsibility, racial, cultural and class differences. Tide Running was published by Picador, Macmillan UK, 2001, Farrar Straus & Giroux, USA, 2003, Beacon Press USA 2004 and won a Casa De Las Americas prize, 2002. It was also well received on both sides of the Atlantic and nominated for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. Oonya was named a “Great Talent for the 21st Century” by the Orange Prize judges.
All Decent Animals Oonya’s most recent novel, is published by Farrar Straus & Giroux, USA May 2013 and was listed #6 on Oprah Winfrey’s O Magazine Summer Reading list. This novel looks at personal aesthetic choices and at the island of Trinidad, developing but rich, aiming at ‘world class’ status amidst its poor, island cousins. It is about relationships examined around the death of an architect bridging ‘first world/third world’, and through the city of Port of Spain.
Kempadoo’s novels are used in several universities in the US, UK, Canada and the Caribbean and she has contributed to collections, anthologies and journals such as: Trinidad Noir, Akashic Books, 2008; Caribbean Dispatches – Beyond the Tourist Dream, Macmillan 2006; The Bomb, literary magazine.
Past projects include work with: UNAIDS, UNICEF, Agency for Reconstruction – Post-Hurricane Ivan Social Situation Analysis of Grenada.
Oonya Kempadoo is a UK, Guyanese, Grenadian citizen, has worked and lived in various Caribbean islands and currently resides in Grenada and Canada. Her first novel, Buxton Spice (1998), was long-listed for the Orange Prize and translated into six languages. Her second, Tide Running, won a Casa De Las Americas 2002 prize and Kempadoo was named a “Great Talent for the 21st Century” by Orange Prize judges. All Decent Animals, (Farrar Strauss & Giroux, USA 2013), was #6 on Oprah Winfrey’s Summer Reads. She is currently developing a speculative fiction, multimedia, eco-social project. Oonya was a US Fulbright Scholar for 2013-2014 and works as a consultant, a researcher and educator, focusing on social development and cross-disciplinary dialogue. She is co-founder of the Grenada Community Library and is the writing facilitator and editor of ‘Best in the World’ award-winning, The Grenada Chocolate Family (2016), the first children’s chocolate book, written by children of colour, from a cocoa-growing country.
VERY BRIEF BIO
Resident in Grenada and Canada, Oonya was brought up in Guyana, has lived in Europe and worked for most of her life in various Caribbean islands. She is a creative writer/novelist but also works as a consultant, a researcher and educator, focusing on social development and cross-disciplinary dialogue.
AWARDS, FELLOWSHIPS, RESIDENCIES
2018 – Writer in Residence, Creative Writing MFA Program, UWI St. Augustine, Trinidad.
2017 – ‘Best in the World’ Gourmand World Cookbook Awards in three categories for The Grenada Chocolate Family (writing workshop production, publisher and editor).
2015 – Professional Membership of PEN America www.pen.org
2014 – Oct-Nov: Santa Maddalena Foundation Writers Fellowship, Tuscany, Italy.
2014 – Honorary Degree of Associate in Arts from the Board of Regents for Connecticut
2013-2014 – Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence at Naugatuck Valley Community College, CT, USA.
2013 – The Guyana Cultural Association New York Inc. Award for outstanding contribution to Guyana`s culture and heritage.
2011 – International Writer’s Program fellowship, University of Iowa, USA.
2002 – Casa de Las Americas prize for second novel, Tide Running.