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


Product Details

$16.00  $14.88
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publish Date
5.4 X 8.2 X 0.8 inches | 0.5 pounds

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About the Author

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.


A New York Times Editors' Choice

"Sujatha Gidla's Ants Among Elephants, which records the life of a Dalit family in the central Indian state of Andhra Pradesh and spans nearly a century, significantly enriches the new Dalit literature in English . . . Defiant in the face of endless cruelty and misery, and tender with its victims, she seems determined to render the truth of a historical experience in all its dimensions, complexity, and nuance. The result is a book that combines many different genres--memoir, history, ethnography, and literature--and is outstanding in the intensity and scale of its revelations . . . Gidla's book achieves the emotional power of V.S. Naipaul's great novel A House for Mr. Biswas." --Pankaj Mishra, The New York Review of Books

"Unsentimental, deeply poignant . . . Ants Among Elephants gives readers an unsettling and visceral understanding of how discrimination, segregation and stereotypes have endured . . . [Sujatha Gidla] writes with quiet, fierce conviction, zooming in to give us sharply drawn, Dickensian portraits of relatives, friends and acquaintances, and zooming out to give us snapshots of entire villages, towns and cities . . . In 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." --Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

"A remarkable family history . . . Ants Among Elephants may well be eye-opening not just for non-Indians--who will recoil in righteous horror from the intimate details of caste discrimination--but also for many Indians, for whom the lives of Untouchables take place out of sight . . . In this book of nonfiction one reads of real people fighting real cruelty with real courage and grace." --Tunku Varadarajan, The Wall Street Journal

"With her luminous command of fine details, Gidla manages a difficult and admirable task: she takes a tremendously personal memoir and renders it with such clarity that it tells the broader story of a place and an era." --James Norton, Christian Science Monitor

"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 of The 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

"In Ants 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 of Evening is the Whole Day