Bessie Head 1937–
South African novelist, short story writer, and nonfiction writer.
Head's fiction explores the domination of racism in the lives of southern African peoples. As a person of mixed race, she has suffered from discrimination both in her birthplace, South Africa, and in her adopted land, Botswana. Her novels rise above the bitterness common to much protest literature in that Head strives to understand not only the effects of prejudice but also the causes. She demonstrates, too, a mastery of economic, social, and political realities that adds interest and authenticity to her work.
Each of Head's novels reveals a progression in her examination of the evils of racism. In When Rain Clouds Gather, Head portrays a black South African male victimized by apartheid in his country of birth and then treated unequally as a refugee in Botswana. With her second novel, Maru, Head depicts the racism within black society and shows that love between man and woman is a way of breaking through prejudice systems. A Question of Power is her most introspective and complex work. The struggle within the protagonist's psyche for freedom from inferiority, hatred, and madness may be seen as symbolic of the struggle against intolerance within Africa.
(See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 29-32, rev. ed.)