Jan Lowe Shinebourne was born in 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. 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 1970 she moved to London where she lived for almost 40 years, then moved to Sussex where she lives currently. She did postgraduate literary studies at the University of London. In addition to her work as an author, she has also worked in London as an editor for several journals, as a political and cultural activist and as a college and university lecturer. She has done reading tours in North America, Europe, the Caribbean and Asia, and was a Visiting Fellow at New York University.
She has published three novels including Timepiece (Peepal Tree Press, 1986) and The Last English Plantation (Peepal Tree Press, 1988) and most recently Chinese Women, a novel, (Peepal Tree Press, 2010) She has also written a collection of short stories, The Godmother and Other Stories (Peepal Tree Press, 2004).