Bessie Head (2599 words)

Hershini Bhana (University at Buffalo, SUNY)
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Bessie Head's life demonstrates the inextricability of one's personal life from political structures, especially in a South Africa fueled by the control of racialized bodies. Born Bessie Amelia Emery in 1937 to a white mother and black father, Bessie inherited her mother's full name at her mother's insistence. In later years she wrote of this as the only honor South African officials ever allowed her. Bessie was born during one of her mother's hospital stays at the Fort Napier Mental Institution in Pietermaritzburg. After the death of her son and a subsequent divorce, Bessie's mother began a life of successive hospitalizations for “dementia praecox”, today known as schizophrenia.

Sexual relations between those legally c…

Citation: Bhana, Hershini. "Bessie Head". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 28 October 2000 [, accessed 14 June 2021.]

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