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

Category: Book
By (author): Gidla, Sujatha
Subject:  BIOGRAPHY & AUTOBIOGRAPHY / Cultural Heritage
  HISTORY / Asia / India & South Asia
Audience: general/trade
Publisher: Farrar Straus & Giroux
Published: July 2017
Format: Book-hardcover
Pages: 320
Size: 9.26in x 6.39in x 1.07in
Our Price:
$ 39.00
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Additional Notes

From The Publisher*

"An essential contribution to contemporary Indian literature." -Publishers Weekly

The stunning true story of an untouchable family who become teachers, and one, a poet and revolutionary

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 aworld 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 transformation from student and labor organizer to famous poet 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.

Review Quote*

"The sheer immensity of India-its history, geography, politics and peoples-would be hard to condense under any circumstances . . . [but Gidla] brilliantly narrows the scope by explaining the tumultuous events of 20th-century India through her own family's strife-ridden lives." -Priscilla Kipp,BookPage

"[A] brilliant debut . . . Gidla is a smart and deeply sympathetic narrator who tells the lesser known history of India's modern communist movement. The book never flags, whether covering Satyam's political awakening as a young and poor bohemian or Manjula's rocky marriage to a mercurial and violent man. Gidla writes about the heavy topics of poverty, caste and gender inequality, and political corruption with grace and wit. Gidla's work is an essential contribution to contemporary Indian literature." -Publishers Weekly(starred review)

"An astonishing account, fired by compassion and lit up with a fierce sense of justice, filled with unforgettable characters raging against the violence and oppression that lurks under the surface glitter of modern India."
-Siddhartha Deb, author ofThe Beautiful and the Damned

"Ants Among Elephants is a fascinating and moving portrayal of one family's struggle to live." -Lee E. Cart,Shelf Awareness

"InAnts Among Elephants, Sujatha Gidla gives us a family history that deeply humanizes key figures in India's Naxalite movement while also revealing an India that few outsiders will have encountered. Gidla's uncommon position and background equip her to approach her subject not with mere curiosity, or, worse yet, pity and condescension, but to tell the stories of some of India's most disenfranchised people from their own perspectives and in their own voices. This is an impressive and important book that should be read by anyone with an interest in modern India." -Preeta Samarasan, author ofEvening is the Whole Day

Biographical NoteSujatha Gidla was born an untouchable in Andhra Pradesh, India. She studied physics at the Regional Engineering College, Warangal. Her writing has appeared inThe Oxford India Anthology of Telugu Dalit Writing. She lives in New York and works as a conductor on the subway.