Jan Lowe Shinebourne was born in Berbice, Guyana, and educated at Berbice High School and the University of Guyana. She comes from the same area of Guyana as her near contemporaries, Cyril Dabydeen and Arnold Itwaru. After school she was a reporter in the city, Georgetown, and contributed to the literary magazine, ‘Expression’. She began writing in the mid 1960s and in 1974 she was a prize-winner in the National History and Arts Council Literary Competition.
In 1987, she was also awarded with the Guyana Prize for Literature, in the Best First Book of Fiction category. Shinebourne was the first woman to have won the prize. In an interview with the Guyana Chronicle, Shinebourne commented, “what I was honoured by was the fact that I have won the prize and [been] recognized by my own country. That was the greatest honour”.
In 1970 she moved to London where she lived for almost 40 years, then moved to Sussex where she lives currently. After moving to London, she developed a friendship with writer and publisher, John La Rose, which brought her into contact with a wide range of writers. On moving to the UK, Shinebourne commented, “I found there [London] a very thriving culture, and I would meet the writers coming while I [was] browsing.”
She did postgraduate literary studies at the University of London. In addition to her work as an author, she has also worked in London as an editor for several journals, as a political and cultural activist and as a college and university lecturer. She has done reading tours in North America, Europe, the Caribbean and Asia, and was a Visiting Fellow at New York University.
After writing her first novel, Timepiece, Shinebourne sent extracts to Trinidad and Tobago Review, where they were later picked up by Jeremy Poynting, who was on the cusp of establishing Peepal Tree Press.
Her novels are set in Guyana and short stories in the UK. They have become renowned for both their literary value and political engagement, as praised by Anne Jordan and Chris Searle.
She has published four novels with Peepal Tree Press including her latest work, The Last Ship (2015), Timepiece (1986), The Last English Plantation (1988), Chinese Women,(2010) and a collection of short stories, The Godmother and Other Stories.
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