Gisèle Pineau was born in Paris in 1956, one of many children of a migrant family from Guadeloupe. She was formatively marked by her grandmother, who told her stories, fairy tales and myths from her homeland, and already as a child, in the face of intolerance and racism, she began to write in order to establish her identity. In 1970 her family moved back to the Antilles and initially lived on the island of Martinique, where Pineau discovered Creole culture, language and history. She also experienced domestic violence in those years to which she responded later in her literary work. After high school she went to France for several years, where she studied French Literature in Nanterre and worked as a psychiatric nurse. In 1981 she returned to Guadeloupe, where following several literary successes she worked again as a nurse at the Centre Hospitalier Psychiatrique de Saint-Claude in Capesterre-Belle-Eau.
Pineau first stepped into the literary realm with her award-winning short story »Paroles de terre en larmes« whose name was used in 1988 for the title of an anthology. In 1992 she published the children’s book »Un papillon dans la cité« (t: A butterfly in the suburbs), in which a girl from Guadeloupe moves with her mother to a high-rise estate in Paris, from whose dismal world she can retreat by visiting a friend’s grandmother. Pineau was awarded the Prix Carbet, the most important prize for French-speaking Literature from the Caribbean, for her novel »La grande drive des esprits« (1993; Eng. »The Drifting of Spirits«, 1999). The work focuses on the experiences of returning to the strange homeland of Guadeloupe and traces the discovery of one’s own personal history.
Since then Pineau has written nine more novels and children’s books, alongside essays and short stories, all equally committed to »Creoleness« – the self-confident expansion of French language and culture through Creole expression and world view – as well as to the depiction of marginalised and repressed figures. Along with the motifs of racism, poverty, destroyed families Pineau portrays the passions and hopes of women from the Antilles in particular. »I write against racism and let allow women to have their say, white and black, housewives and prostitutes, the beaten and the raped.« She reintroduces the character of her grandmother in »L’Exil selon Julia« (1996; Eng. »Exile according to Julia«, 2003), while in her novel »Fleur de barbarie« (2005; t: Flower of barbarity) she depicts the life of the Afro-American dancer Josephine Baker.
Pineau was both jury member and president of the Prix du Livre Insulaire. She was awarded, among other distinctions, the Prix du Livre of the French overseas radio RFO, the Prix Terre de France, the Prix Rotary and the Prix Amerigo Vespucci. The author has lived with her husband and two children in Paris since 2000.
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