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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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

Kavita

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

itpdx

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.

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.

Kate

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.

Glorious.Clio

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.

Sheetal

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

Melanie

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.

Weavre

Very nice. I suspect the original may have been a bit better written than the English translation, but I still enjoyed this quite a bit. It was interesting to get an "on-the-ground" perspective of the ideological conflict between Gandhi and Babasaheb, too; like most Westerners, I'd heard a lot about the former and very little about the latter, and feel that this book filled some important gaps in my knowledge. The real-life characters were interesting, and their human dramas compelling, so this wasn't like reading a history text at all.I'd especially recommend this to anyone who has already read The Toss of a Lemon, which tells the story of several generations of a Brahmin family living in an overlapping time period. The two together make for a better understanding of life in this time and place, and the comparison is intriguing.

Alison

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.

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..

Monika

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

Natalie

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.

Martha

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

Noor

The greatest thing about this biography is that it educated me on a deeper level on India's Untouchable caste. I had never heard of Babasaheb Ambedkar before, but I'm glad I got a chance to learn about this EXTRAORDINARY man who challenged both the cultural and religous system of India. Also, Untouchables unintentionally helped provide foundation for my dislike for Gandhi. Before I didn't like him mostly off of a gut feeling based upon his actions, but Jadhav's bio helped ground my intuition. Gandhi historically did not support the Dalit equality movement, and held a pitying and slightly condescending view of them. I have no respect for a man who refused to acknowledge an entire population essentially because of their existence. On the other hand, the Untouchable Ambedkar proved himself to be the true hero of India as he awoke the conscious of thousands of Dalits and endlessly strove to secure them equal rights.If you're hazy on the history of the Untouchables in India, definitely check this biography out. It'll open your eyes to the struggle thousands of Dalits underwent to free themselves from caste slavery, including the incredible personal journey of Jadhav's father.

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.

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