Marion Molteno was born in Bloemfontein, South Africa in 1944, and left South Africa in 1965 after being involved in student protests against the apartheid regime. She studied in Britain and then lived for eight years in Zambia, where her children were born. She and her family had to leave suddenly after another political crisis and have lived in Britain since 1976. She is married to the publisher Robert Molteno, has two grown-up daughters and is an active grandmother.
She began writing fiction in her late thirties, drawing inspiration from the cross-cultural range of her life experience. Her short story collection, A Language in Common (1987), reflects the experiences of the first generation of South Asian women in Britain. 'The Bracelets' a story on a similar theme, was a winner in the London short story competition (1995). Her first novel, A Shield of Coolest Air (1992), which won the 1993 David Thomas Award, was set among Somali refugees in London. If You Can Walk, You Can Dance (1998), which won the 1999 Commonwealth Writers Prize for the best book in the Africa region, is the story of a young woman's life on the run across frontiers and life-styles, and also an exploration of the power of music. Her latest novel, Somewhere More Simple (2007), is set on the Isles of Scilly and explores relationships among outsiders in a small community cut off from the mainland.
She has also written and lectured widely on issues of education and development. For sixteen years she was an adult education organizer with multi-ethnic communities in the London borough of Croydon, where she pioneered new approaches in language teaching, set up the South London Refugee Project, and campaigned for the teaching of minority languages in schools. She studied Urdu at the School of Oriental and African Studies and has for many years worked closely with the Urdu scholar, Ralph Russell, running courses for British adults who want to learn Urdu, writing an introduction to Urdu poetry and editing his autobiography.
From 1993 to 2007 she was a policy advisor to the international development charity Save the Children, where she supported staff who work with disadvantaged children in over 50 countries. The books which grew out of this experience have been translated into many languages and are used across the world.
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