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Arundhati Roy | Biography

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Arundhati Roy was born on November 24, 1961, in Shillong, India, not far from the northern border of Bangladesh. However, she grew up far from there, in a small village in the Indian state of Kerala on the southwest coast of India. This is the setting for The God of Small Things.

Roy's father was a Bengali Hindu, descended from the inhabitants of the region once named Bengal and now taken up by Bangladesh and West Bengal in India. Her mother was of Syrian descent. She divorced her husband and moved her daughter to the Syrian Christian community in Ayemenem, Kerala, where she opened a school. In addition to taking the unconventional action of divorcing her husband, Roy's mother sought certain rights for women. As Roy told an interviewer in 2007, she "had none of the conditioning that a normal, middle class Indian girl would have." She was also aware of the diversity and caste system that still characterizes India.

Roy left home at age 16 and studied architecture in New Delhi. However, she dreamed of being a writer and in the late 1980s and 1990s wrote film scripts. The God of Small Things was her first novel, and it was a huge success, both critically acclaimed and wildly popular. The year it was published, the book won the prestigious Man Booker Prize, the annual British award for a novel written in English.

However, Roy turned away from fiction writing as she became more politically active, choosing to exercise her voice and fame while writing nonfiction works aimed at disrupting policies she despises. She has written, for example, against the caste system, in favor of nuclear disarmament, and against the displacement of large numbers or people when huge dams are built.

It took Roy 20 years to publish a second novel, The Ministry of Upmost Happiness (2017). But as she has pointed out regarding her return to fiction, "Fiction is truth. I think fiction is the truest thing there ever was."

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