R Raj Rao obtained his PhD in English from the University of Bombay in 1986, and received the Nehru Centenary British Fellowship for postdoctoral research at the Centre for Caribbean Studies, University of Warwick, UK, in 1990.
In 1996, Rao was invited to the International Writing Program, University of Iowa, USA, one of the world’s finest writing programs.
Rao has written four collections of poetry, Slide Show, BomGay, For Hire and The Canada Album, the last made up entirely of haiku, which remains one of his favourite verse forms. BomGay has served as the basis of the late Riyad Wadia’s much-acclaimed short experimental film, BomGay, with Bollywood star Rahul Bose in the lead. Rao’s poems also appear in The Harper Collins Book of English Poetry and in the anthology Dance of the Peacock.
Rao’s fiction includes a collection of short stories, One Day I Locked My Flat in Soul City, also translated into Italian; as well as three novels, The Boyfriend, Hostel Room 131 and Lady Lolita’s Lover. The Boyfriend has been translated into Italian and French, and has been optioned for a motion picture to be directed by Ashim Ahluwalia. Rao’s fiction has appeared in the anthologies, Yaraana: Gay Writing from India; Out: Stories from the New Queer India; and in the crime fiction series, Mumbai Noir.
Rao has written a collection of plays, The Wisest Fool on Earth and Other Plays. The title play has been visually enacted in New York City and performed in English and Hindi in Bombay, Pune and Hyderabad.
Rao’s nonfiction includes two major books, Nissim Ezekiel: The Authorized Biography (recently out in a new paperback edition) and Whistling in the Dark: Twenty one Queer Interviews, co-edited with Dibyajyoti Sarma. It also includes hundreds of uncollected scholarly articles, book reviews, newspaper and magazine features, interviews, travelogues and weekly and fortnightly columns. His forthcoming nonfiction book, due out in August 2017, is titled Criminal Love? Queer Theory, Culture and Politics in India.
As a co-translator from Marathi, Rao’s work appears in Poisoned Bread: Translations from Modern Marathi Dalit Literature; in a collection of essays by the noted Marathi writer Vilas Sarang; and in the US-based online journal Words Without Borders. His co-translation of the book Me Hijra Me Laxmi was published by Oxford University Press in 2015.
Rao has given readings from his work in London, New York, Paris, Berlin, Tokyo, Barcelona, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Montreal and Toronto, among other world cities, and has been a visiting professor at Dresden University, Germany, Tubingen University, Germany and Concordia University, Canada.
Rao’s work as a poet and writer has been discussed in various scholarly books. These include: Forbidden Sex/Forbidden Text: New India’s Gay Poets (Routledge); The Phobic and the Erotic: The Politics of Sexuality in Contemporary India (Seagull Books); Modern Indian Poetry in English (Oxford University Press); Indian English Literature 1980-2000 (Pencraft International); and most recently in the British book Same Sex Desire in India: Representations in Literature and Film (Palgrave-Macmillan).
Rao is retired Professor and Head of the Department of English at the S. P. Pune University, India, where he taught Creative Writing and Queer Studies for over a decade, and Indian Writing in English for nearly 30 years.
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