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

ISBN: 0743270797
ISBN 13: 9780743270793
By: Narendra Jadhav

Check Price Now


Asia Biography Currently Reading Historical India Memoir Memoirs Non Fiction Nonfiction To Read

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

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.


Quickly gives a good but simplistic view of how 1/6 of a population can be kept oppressed by lack of education, and religion. The personal stories interesting and adds understanding to the reasons why so large a population has accepted and still accepts abuse.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.

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..


Great biography/autobiography about one family's story of growing up in India during the era of Ghandi and social reform. Great additional chapters at the end that detail the lives of the children now living in India and how far they came from being the lowest caste.


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.

Kristen Iworsky

The author writes simply, and there's no great description, etc. but the book works. I think it helps to have been in India and understand the country and her people. The addendum by his daughter was a joke.


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


Really interesting account of a family's overcoming their caste by education.


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.


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

Share your thoughts

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *