Gaiutra Bahadur

Gaiutra Bahadur


gaiutra.bahadur [at]



Office Location

110 Warren St, Room 324

Gaiutra Bahadur is an associate professor in the Department of Arts, Culture and Media and the Department of English. She is an essayist, critic and journalist who writes about literature, history, memory, migration, and ethnicity. She is a contributor to The New York Times Book Review,  The Washington Post, The New Republic, The Nation, The New York Review of Books and Dissent. Her work has also appeared in The GuardianForeign Policy, Ms. MagazineLapham's Quarterly, The Boston ReviewThe Los Angeles Review of Books, The Virginia Quarterly Review and many other publications across the globe.

Her book Coolie Woman, a personal history of indenture, was shortlisted for the Orwell Prize, the British literary award for artful political writing, and was a nonfiction finalist for the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature. It won the Gordon K. and Sybil Lewis Prize for the best book about the Caribbean in any language from the Caribbean Studies Association in 2014. The Chronicle of Higher Education included the book in its round-up of the best scholarly books of the decade in 2020. Her creative nonfiction, short fiction, and essays have appeared in numerous anthologies, including Rebecca Solnit's literary atlas to New York City Nonstop Metropolis and the Feminist Press collection of Asian American creative writing Go Home! Her essay "Tales of the Sea," first published in the Australian literary magazine The Griffith Review and later reprinted in the anthology We Mark Your Memory, won the 2019 New Jersey State Council on the Arts Award for Prose. She also won the New Jersey State Council on the Arts Award for Prose in 2012, for "Into Dark Waters," a chapter of Coolie Woman.

She is also the recipient of a national award for creative prose from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund for American feminist writers and is the recipient of literary residencies at MacDowell and the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center in Italy. Her work as a scholar in the humanities has been recognized and supported with fellowships from the Hutchins Center for African & African American Research at Harvard, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at the New York Public Library, the Society of Authors in London and the Eccles Centre for American Studies at the British Library. Since starting at Rutgers, she has been a Bard at the Brooklyn Public Library literary fellow, an Andrew Mellon Foundation Archival Creators Fellow for the South Asian American Digital Archive (SAADA), and an Early Career Faculty Fellow at the Institute for the Study of Global Racial Justice at Rutgers.

She collaborated with poet and translator Rajiv Mohabir to recover the only known text by an indentured immigrant in the Anglophone Caribbean, a songbook by Lal Bihari Sharma first published as a pamphlet in India in 1915. Mohabir's English translation, I Even Regret Night: Holi Songs of Demerara, was published in 2019 with an afterword by Bahadur, who first encountered the text in the British Library while doing research for Coolie Woman.

Before winning a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard, the country's most prestigious mid-career fellowship for journalists, at 32, she was a newspaper staff writer. She covered immigration, courts and the war in Iraq for The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Texas legislature and state government for The Austin American Statesman. She started her career as a consumer advice columnist for The Jersey Journal in Jersey City, her hometown newspaper. The Nieman Fellowship was in reward for her decade's work for those daily newspapers, before embarking on a career as an author, literary critic and essayist.

She has served as a judge and nominator for numerous literary awards, including the PEN/Jean Stein Award for Literary Oral History and the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature, and has taught creative nonfiction at the University of Basel in Switzerland and Caribbean literature at City College of New York. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle, PEN America and the Asian American Writers Workshop.

Courses Taught

Afro-Asia in Literature (Spring 2023)

Migrant Nonfictions (Fall 2021)

Journalism, Ethics & the Law (Fall 2019 - Spring 2022)

Advanced Reporting: The Art of the Profile (Fall 2020, Spring 2021)

A History of Ethnic Media (Spring 2020)

Immigration Beat Reporting (Fall 2019)


2021-2022, Early Career Faculty Fellow, The Institute for the Study of Global Racial Justice, Rutgers University

2019-2020, Archival Creators Fellowship for the South Asian American Digital Archive (SAADA), The Andrew Mellon Foundation

2019-2020, Literary Fellowship, Bard at the Brooklyn Public Library

2019, New Jersey State Council on the Arts Award for Prose

2018, Literary Arts Residency, The Rockefeller Foundation's Bellagio Center in Italy

2018, Scholar-in-Residence, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library

2016-2017, Fellowship, Hutchins Center for African and African-American Research, Harvard University

2015, Literary Fellowship, The MacDowell Artists Colony

2015, Senior Visiting U.S. Fellow, The Eccles Centre for American Studies, The British Library

2015, Reporting Fellow, The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting 

2015, The Elizabeth Longford Award for Historical Biography, The Society of Authors in London

2015, Duke University Center for Documentary Studies Writing Prize shortlist for Coolie Woman

2014, The Orwell Prize shortlist for Coolie Woman

2014, The OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature nonfiction shortlist for Coolie Woman

2014, Gordon and Sybil Lewis Prize for best book about the Caribbean, The Caribbean Studies Association, for Coolie Woman

2012, Barbara Deming Memorial Fund Award for Prose

2010, Investigative Reporting Fellow, The Nation Institute

2007-2008, Fellowship, Nieman Foundation at Harvard University

2007, Davidoff Narrative Nonfiction Scholar, Wesleyan University

2004, four-time winner of South Asian Journalists Association Award for excellence, including its 10th anniversary award honoring three reporters nationwide for the most outstanding reporting on South Asian immigrants in North America in the preceding decade.


B.A., with honors in English Literature, Yale University

M.S. in Journalism, Columbia University



Coolie Woman: The Odyssey of Indenture (University of Chicago Press, 2013). Co-published in London by C. Hurst & Co, Hachette in India, and Jacana Press in South Africa.

Family Ties (Scholastic, 2012). Paired biography of Amy Tan and Barack Obama for middle school students.


"How Reading Helps Us Build Empathy and Resist Tyranny," The Washington Post, April 29, 2022

"The Prakash Churaman Story: Fighting for his Freedom," The Margins [Asian American Writers Workshop], March 18, 2022


The Prakash Churaman Story: Raised by the System


The Margins 

[Asian American Writers Workshop], March 17, 2022

"Perpetual Sorrow," The New York Times Book Review, Sept. 26, 2021

"At Macondo Pharmacy: Telling the Story of Undocumented America," The Nation, June 14/21, 2021

"The Grammar of Oppression," The New Republic, December 2020

"A Stirring Family Saga Tells a Taboo History of Vietnam," The New York Times Book Review, May 24, 2020

"In 1953, Britain openly removed an elected government, with tragic consequences," The Guardian, October 30, 2020

"Coming Home," The Nation, February 11, 2020

The United States’ Debt to Immigrants,” The New Republic, June 25, 2019 

Missing Children,” The New York Times Book Review, March 10, 2019 

The Jonestown We Don’t Know,” The New York Review of Books, December 21, 2018 

The Soul as a Picture Gallery,” in The New York Review of Books, September 22, 2018 

Songs of Themselves,” in Prospect Magazine (UK), July 2018 

Mother Lode,” in The New York Times Book Review, May 13, 2018 

Masters and Servants,” in The Boston Review, May 8, 2018 

 “Instruments of Memory,” The New York Times Book Review, May 28, 2017 

A Good Story, If I Can Remember It,” Lapham’s Quarterly, August 16, 2016 

Paperback Writer,” The Guardian (UK), June 15, 2016 

Wine Dark Sea,” The Virginia Quarterly Review, April 18, 2016 

CIA Meddling, Race Riots and a Phantom Death Squad,” Foreign Policy, July 31, 2015 

Book reviews for The New York Times (2008-current)

Essays and reporting for The Nation (2008-current)

Essays for Dissent Magazine (2015-current)

Essays for The New York Review of Books (2018-current)


“An Oral History Interview with ‘Sherry Singh.’” In Our Stories: An Introduction to South Asian America (South Asian American Digital Archive, 2021)

“The Magician’s Box," translated into Hindi by Neha Jain. In Displacement, Memory, Cultural Citizenship: Narrative and Theoretical Texts (New Delhi: Vani Prakashan, 2022) 

“Writing Unknowable History.” In Craft and Conscience: How to Write About Social Issues (Boston: Beacon Press, 2022) 

"Dougla Politics," reported essay in Insurgent Feminisms (Forthcoming from Mantle Press, 2021)

"Tales of the Sea," lyric essay in New Jersey's Lit (Forthcoming from Rutgers University Press, 2021) and in We Mark Your Memory (University of London Press, 2018)

"The Rose Hall Uprising," narrative nonfiction in Re-imagining the Guyanas (Presses Universitaire de la Mediterranee, Montpelier, France, 2019)

"The Stained Veil," short fiction in Go Home! (Feminist Press, 2018)

"Of Islands and Other Mothers," reported essay in Nonstop Metropolis (University of California Press, 2016)

"Ogling the Statue of Liberty," memoir essay in Living on the Edge of the World (Touchstone/Simon & Schuster, 2007)


"A House Filled with Women," afterword to Fault Lines by Meena Alexander (Feminist Press, 2020)

"Rescued from the Footnotes of History," afterword to I Even Regret Night: Holi Songs of Demerara by Rajiv Mohabir (Kaya Press, 2019)


"No Homeland Here," Tides (the magazine of the South Asian American Digital Archive), October 9, 2020

"Notes toward a Prehistory," Tides (the magazine of the South Asian American Digital Archive), July 16, 2020

"The Storytellers in the Mandir," Tides (the magazine of the South Asian American Digital Archive), April 6, 2020

"The Things We Carried," Tides (the magazine of the South Asian American Digital Archive), January 22, 2020

Online Exhibition Guide, The Things We Carried, SAADA, Fall 2020

Associated Programs

Gaiutra is an affiliate faculty member with the Department of English, the Rutgers Advanced Institute for Critical Caribbean Studies at Rutgers-New Brunswick, the Center for Security, Race and Rights at Rutgers Law School, the Department of African American and African Studies, and the Department of American Studies.