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

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Students of civil rights activism and South Asian societies will find much of value in Gidla’s far-ranging narrative, dense with detail and anecdote.
-Kirkus

Synopsis

"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 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 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.

 

About Sujatha Gidla

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Sujatha Gidla was born an untouchable in Andhra Pradesh, India. She studied physics at the Regional Engineering College, Warangal. Her writing has appeared in The Oxford India Anthology of Telugu Dalit Writing. She lives in New York and works as a conductor on the subway.
 
Published July 18, 2017 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 321 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Political & Social Sciences, Travel. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for Ants Among Elephants
All: 6 | Positive: 6 | Negative: 0

Kirkus

Good
on May 02 2017

Students of civil rights activism and South Asian societies will find much of value in Gidla’s far-ranging narrative, dense with detail and anecdote.

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Star Tribune

Above average
Reviewed by Peter Lewis on Jul 14 2017

At times, Gidla works in broad strokes; the stages upon which the chapters play out are fully set. Each chapter resembles a step in the making of the Indian bread puri: an assembly of the basic ingredients, kneading them together to create the general picture, pulling pieces from the dough and rounding them into distinct characters...

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Washington Times

Above average
Reviewed by Aram Bakshian Jr. on Aug 21 2017

One hopes that she has found a good life in America, and that this promising first book will not be her last.

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NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Michiko Kakutani on Jul 17 2017

n these pages, she has told those family stories and, in doing so, the story of how ancient prejudices persist in contemporary India, and how those prejudices are being challenged by the disenfranchised.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Amit Chaudhuri on Aug 02 2018

Gidla’s beautiful book, parts of which are as deeply absorbing as anything I’ve read, comes to this question of self-consciousness and how we think of and express ourselves from different directions.

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The Economist

Above average
on Jul 27 2017

Ms Gidla at times devotes pages to domestic squabbles, but she is also capable of hauntingly evocative images.

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