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Sample Autograph Signature: Mahasweta Devi

One of India's foremost activists and bestselling writer of novels, short stories and plays. Mahasweta Devi was born into a middle-class Bengali family in 1926 in the city of Dacca (now Dhaka) in East Bengal (now Bangladesh). Her father was a poet and a novelist and her mother was a social worker and a writer. Her family moved to West Bengal where Devi finished her elementary education at Medinipur Missionary Girls’ School in 1935. She attended middle school at the Santiniketan School, founded by Rabindranath Tagore which became Visva-Bharati University in 1921, from 1936 through 1938. After finishing high school at Beltala Girls’ School in Calcutta in 1942, she attended Asutosh College of Calcutta University (1943–1944), and then returned to Santiniketan to earn a B.A. (with high honors) from Visva-Bharati University in 1946. She then briefly taught at a girls' and did private tutoring before taking a job with Indian government in 1949. Although she never joined the party, she was accused of being a communist and lost her job the following year. Devi turned to writing light fiction forSachitra Bharat, a Bengali weekly, under the pen name Sumitra Devi. She published her first book, Jhansir Rani (The Queen of Jhansi) , a fictionalized biography written in Bengali in 1956. Her first novel, Nati, was written in 1957 and quickly followed by four more novels in next two years all chronicling the social realities of Indian lives. In 1963, she earned an M.A. in English Literature from Calcutta University and then she taught English at Bijoygarh Jyotish Roy College, a small private college that served poor students in a refugee area, until 1982. She took a 2-year leave of absence from the college in 1982 and joined Jugantar, a daily Bengali newspaper, as a reporter. In 1984, she retired from her job at the college to become a full-time writer and activist. She joined Bartaman, a Bengali daily, in 1986 and wrote a weekly column until 1991. Devi, who wrote primarily in her native language of Bengali, has published close to a 100 novels, 20 collections of short stories, 5 plays, and numerous essays and articles. She also has served as the editor of Bortika, a quarterly journal dedicated to the cause of oppressed communities within India, since 1980. Indicative of her prolificacy, her work in Bengali is being published in 40 volumes. Alongside her creative writing exposing the brutal oppression of tribal peoples and others among the most downtrodden in the Indian society, Devi is equally well known for her activism. Beginning in the 1970s, Devi intervened directly by bombarding the government with complaint letters; publishing a profusion of articles documenting abuses against tribal communities; and helping them lodge grievances, set aside tribal rivalries, and achieve their own development. She is the recipient of the 1995 Jnanpath, India's highest literary award, and a 1996 Magsaysay award, considered to be the Asian equivalent of the Nobel Prize.

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