Ants Among Elephants: An Untouchable Family and the Making of Modern India by Sujatha Gidla

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Like one in six people in India, Sujatha Gidla was born an untouchable. While most untouchables are illiterate, her family was educated by Canadian missionaries in the 1930s, making it possible for Gidla to attend elite schools and move to America at the age of twenty-six. It was only then that she saw how extraordinary—and yet how typical—her family history truly was. Her mother, Manjula, and uncles Satyam and Carey were born in the last days of British colonial rule. They grew up in a world marked by poverty and injustice, but also full of possibility. In the slums where they lived, everyone had a political side, and rallies, agitations, and arrests were commonplace. The Independence movement promised freedom. Yet for untouchables and other poor and working people, little changed. Satyam, the eldest, switched allegiance to the Communist Party. Gidla recounts his incredible life—how he became a famous poet, student, labor organizer, and founder of a left-wing guerrilla movement. And Gidla charts her mother’s battles with caste and women’s oppression. Page by page, Gidla takes us into a complicated, close-knit family as they desperately strive for a decent life and a more just society.

A moving portrait of love, hardship, and struggle, Ants Among Elephants is also that rare thing: a personal history of modern India told from the bottom up.

Title : Ants Among Elephants: An Untouchable Family and the Making of Modern India
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 0865478112
Edition Language : English
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 400 pages


Hadrian rated it ★★★★☆

December 26, 2017

Memoir and history of a Dalit (untouchable) family in the state of Andhra Pradesh in central India. Gidla's writing style is direct and informed. She frames the customs of the caste system first in the context of the British colonial period, and then through independence and its continuation as a...

Pond rated it ★★★★☆

August 08, 2017

**SPOILER ALERT** This is a stunning biography of an untouchable family involved in the Naxalite insurgency in 1940-70's India. The author's uncle was a leader in this revolutionary movement and the author herself, now working as a subway conductor in New York City, was a student agitator in her y...

Subashini rated it ★★★★☆

September 30, 2017

I wavered between 3 and 4 stars, so went with 3.5 stars rounded up. But what the hell do stars matter, in the end. I would recommend this book to anyone, and especially so if you want to learn about the ingrained brutality and injustice of the caste system in India. It's also a great look at radi...

Adarsh rated it ★★★★☆

September 02, 2017

A better formatted of this review is available at "Your life is your caste, your caste is your life." Sujatha Gidla was born a Dalit-Christian - an untouchable. She had to move to a different country, the USA, to realize the unfairness of her life in India....

Arthi rated it ★★★★☆

September 02, 2017

This book is a difficult read for a practicing Hindu. I felt guilty all through its 300 odd pages. But the story is not about that guilt. It's far far more important. What it means to be an untouchable in India. Sujata Gidla writes factual prose. The emotions are there, layered throughout. The pa...

Ashish rated it ★★★★☆

December 20, 2017

This book was widely featured in a number of articles about upcoming Indian authors and books that one should read. The premise and the description made me curious and the rave reviews that it has received in India and abroad convinced me to give it a go. In this book, the author compiles and pres...

kathyrn rated it ★★★★☆

July 19, 2017

thanks to Farrar, Straus and Giroux and netgalley for an ARC. I've just started reading this and honestly thought the caste system in India didn't exist anymore. This memoir is captivating and engaging. A moving portrait of love, hardship, and struggle, Ants Among Elephants is also that rare thing:...

Oeendrila rated it ★★★★☆

February 20, 2018

Proof that you can tell a story honestly and forcefully by writing it in simple language sans artifice. And it is no surprise that she could tell it so powerfully for it is her lived reality and the truth of the subcontinent.

Asha rated it ★★☆☆☆

August 20, 2017

Perhaps I had the wrong impression of what this book was about, I had thought it was about how an untouchable family rose above odds and stigma to 'rise like elephants' and achieve success in life despite obstacles; but found instead a very boring political book about family joining in, and rise...

Nithya rated it ★★★★☆

January 27, 2018

I belong to the privileged caste in India and grew up without a clue of the lives led by the underprivileged. Caste is one of those things that I struggle to explain to my non Indian friends, mostly because it is not one of those things I had given deep thought to growing up. It was just accepted...

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