Phoolan Devi: The Real-Life "Bandit Queen": Background information when reading The Bandit Queens

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The Bandit Queens

A Novel

by Parini Shroff

The Bandit Queens by Parini Shroff X
The Bandit Queens by Parini Shroff
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  • Published:
    Jan 2023, 352 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Lisa Ahima
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About this Book

Phoolan Devi: The Real-Life "Bandit Queen"

This article relates to The Bandit Queens

A black-and-white illustration of Phoolan Devi, with long hair worn under a headband In Parini Shroff's The Bandit Queens, Phoolan Devi (pronounced POOH-lann DAY-vee) is a feminist symbol of strength, poise and honor to abused women, her portrait hung high in main character Geeta's home. Devi, known as India's "Bandit Queen," is the only real-world figure highlighted throughout the novel. So who exactly was she?

Devi was born on August 10, 1963 in a small rural village, Ghura Ka Purwa. She was Nishad, a sub-caste of the Mallah caste that has been socially and economically aligned with Dalits, those derogatorily known as "untouchables." Despite growing up in abject poverty and in a patriarchal society, Devi stood up for herself and was notoriously outspoken from a young age — she was not happy about the control men often assumed over her. Many of the details of her early life are unclear or disputed, but according to some accounts, after her paternal grandfather's death, a male cousin made executive decisions on how to curate the very little farmland left ...

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