Untouchables: My Family’s Triumphant Journey Out of the Caste System in Modern India

ISBN: 0743270797
ISBN 13: 9780743270793
By: Narendra Jadhav

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About this book

Every sixth human being in the world today is an Indian, and every sixth Indian is an untouchable. For thousands of years the untouchables, or Dalits, the people at the bottom of the Hindu caste system, have been treated as subhuman. Their story has rarely been told. This remarkable book achieves something altogether unprecedented: it gives voice to India's voiceless. In Untouchables, Narendra Jadhav tells the awe-inspiring story of his family's struggle for equality and justice in India. While most Dalits had accepted their lowly position as fate, Jadhav's father rebelled against the oppressive caste system and fought against all odds to forge for his children a destiny that was never ordained. Based on his father's diaries and family stories, Jadhav has written the triumphant story of his parents -- their great love, unwavering courage, and eventual victory in the struggle to free themselves and their children from the caste system. Jadhav vividly brings his parents' world to light and unflinchingly documents the life of untouchables -- the hunger, the cruel humiliations, the perpetual fear and brutal abuse. Compelling and deeply compassionate, Untouchables is a son's tribute to his parents, an illuminating chronicle of one of the most important moments in Indian history, and an eye-opening work of nonfiction that gives readers access and insight into the lives of India's 165 million Dalits, whose struggle for equality continues even today.

Reader's Thoughts


Interesting story and you learn a great deal about the caste system in India. It is discouraging that every culture seems to need to create cultural systems where some people are looked down upon.


What I learned from this book... all about the life in the lowest Indian caste. It's a compelling family story about rising from the life society dictates into a life of your own creation. Without education... this family never would have made it out.


There seems to be disagreement on what this book is. My library has it classified as a biography. Maybe it is narrative nonfiction, a classification that I haven't been able to get my mind around. The book is about the author's parents. They were Dalit (Untouchables) Indians who grew up in small villages, moved to Mumbai, were involved in the political movement to bring equality to the Dalits. The father, Domu was only semi-literate. The mother, Sonu, never learned to read. The author has them take turns telling their story. It is a glimpse into rural India in the early 20th century and the migration into the large cities. We see them struggle with jobs, living conditions and discrimination. We have the perspective of an under-class Indian family as the country attains its independence from the British and sets up its government. We see the father's determination to see that his children get educated. And we see the children thrive.It almost reads like a novel and I learned a lot about India and the Dalits.


Interesting read. Talks about the issues across 3-4 generations in a memoir style.


This is an incredible story. The obstacles his family had to surmount were staggering. He did a lovely job of writing about his parents.


i'm amazed. brilliant editor. story of family unfolds through chapters--perspective changes back and forth from husband to wife. gandhi v. ambedkar. hinduism v. buddhism. feels like i'm right there. nagging mothers. bhakris day in day out. overthrowing tradition--some traditions. marriage age 10. how to galvanize and organize a population that is poor and overworked and bound to the religion and social order that maintains they are irrevocably LOW? this is one family's story.


The writing in this book is at times uneven (its a translation) in the beginning but it soon hits its stride going back and forth between chapters from husband Damu and wife Sonu. It was very enlightening about the life of Dalits in India historically.


It was absolutely extraordinary to learn about a completely different culture and about the outrageous conditions that have happened and still are. The first step to stopping poverty is to spread awareness of it, and this book does an exceptional job at voicing the problems. "Untouchables" was a very inspiring novel about standing up for what you believe in and not backing down no matter how inferior you seem.Absolutely life changing.


This book was so well written, I kept forgetting this was a true story.

Elena Mooney Graham

This was fine. I wouldn't kill a bear to buy this book, but I might pull it off the buck table at Borders and give it a spin.


very good insight into the culture and rules of the caste system in India. very enlightening.


Tear-jerking... my first non-fiction exposure to cultures outside the U.S. My aunt had me read it.

Khandoba Salunkhe

This book is an interesting biography, especially due to the sense of humour of author.. But at some points author sounds exaggerating, and the book is not as deep into caste system as it should've been.. Still, worth reading once..


a very moving book about the power of courage and conviction to overcome the most unimaginable deprivation and humiliation


This was a good story but, sadly, I am not proficient enough in Indian history or vocabulary to fully appreciate it, I think. :( I got too lost in the foreign words, which came about 2-3 every sentence. It was too tiring for me to pick through. :( I wanted to like it, though. :(

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