Place of birth
Place of residence
United Kingdom
National identity
United Kingdom

Jan Lowe Shinebourne

Short biography
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”.

Jan Lowe Shinebourne was born Janice Lowe on 23 June, 1947 at Rose Hall sugar estate, in Canje, Berbice, in what was then British Guiana. The country was under colonial rule, and she lived through the dramatic events that moved the country when it became independent and changed its name to Guyana. Jan describes her first three novels and most of her writing as being deeply influenced by this period and the rapid and dramatic changes she experienced.

Jan was the second child of her parents, Charles and Marion Lowe. She spent her early childhood and youth at Rose Hall, but at the age of 19 moved to the capital Georgetown, where she worked as a reporter on the Guyana Graphic and joined the Expression group of young writers and artists, which included Brian Chan, John Agard, Mark Mcwatt, John Rickford and Victor Davson. She also began studies for a B.A. in English at the University of Guyana, but did not complete it.

In 1970, Jan married John Shinebourne and moved with him to London, where she completed her Bachelor of Arts degree. She also did a Postgraduate Certificate of Education, which qualified her to teach English in Further Education. Jan then taught in several London colleges, before she became a civil rights activist campaigning against racism and fascism, and studied for an M.A. in English at the University of London. During this time, she wrote book reviews for several journals including Race Today. She was also an associate editor for Southall Review and Everywoman.

In 1987, she became the first woman to receive the Guyana Prize for Literature when her first novel, Timepiece, won the award for a first novel.

In 1994, Jan was a visiting fellow at New York University. She raised her two children in Ealing, West London, then in 2006, she moved to West Sussex, where she currently resides.