Ants Among Elephants
The stunning true story of an untouchable family who become teachers, and one, a poet and revolutionaryLike 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 life—how he became a famous poet, student, labor organizer, 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.

Ants Among Elephants Details

TitleAnts Among Elephants
Author
FormatHardcover
ReleaseJul 18th, 2017
PublisherFarrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN0865478112
ISBN-139780865478114
Number of pages400 pages
Rating
GenreAutobiography, Memoir, Nonfiction, Cultural, India, Biography, History

Ants Among Elephants Review

  • kathyrn
    July 19, 2017
    thanks to Farrar, Straus and Giroux and netgalley for an ARC.I've just started reading this and honestly thought the caste system in India didn't exist anymore.This memoir is captivating and engaging.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. "The sheer immensity of India―its history, geography, politics and peoples―would be hard to condense under any circumstances . . . [but Gidla] thanks to Farrar, Straus and Giroux and netgalley for an ARC.I've just started reading this and honestly thought the caste system in India didn't exist anymore.This memoir is captivating and engaging.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. "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
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  • Robert Monk
    July 31, 2017
    Glad I read this one, because it showed me a lot about a world that I knew only a bit about. I had friends from India, and they'd talk a wee bit about the lingering effects of caste prejudice if prompted, but mostly they steered very clear of the subject (for understandable reasons). This book dived right into it, putting this particular reader in the thick of complicated modern India. I often found myself burning with indignation, both for terrible caste prejudice and for equally terrible gende Glad I read this one, because it showed me a lot about a world that I knew only a bit about. I had friends from India, and they'd talk a wee bit about the lingering effects of caste prejudice if prompted, but mostly they steered very clear of the subject (for understandable reasons). This book dived right into it, putting this particular reader in the thick of complicated modern India. I often found myself burning with indignation, both for terrible caste prejudice and for equally terrible gender inequality. It's mostly the history of the author's uncle, himself a very complicated fellow. He was a fighter for the rights of the poor, a poet and dramatist, a deep thinker, a caring man, a selfish prick and a rotten husband. And quite fascinating. The author's mother was also interesting, an extremely bright woman who managed to get educated and become a college teacher despite enormous challenges (female, untouchable, Christian in a mostly Hindu country...).All of this said, there are a few problems. To begin with, we never really get deeply inside the heads of any of the people here. They come off more as sketches -- interesting sketches, but sketches -- than fully realized drawings. At some point, the sheer number of names (some of which are quite similar to others') can be overwhelming, and one can lose track. A list would have been helpful. Similarly, a glossary of terms would have been of use, as I found myself sometimes forgetting what the various Telugu words meant. In the end, as I said, I'm glad I read this. It isn't necessarily going to be an indelible part of my makeup, but it was interesting.
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  • Mollie
    July 27, 2017
    This book opens the reader's eyes to a way of life that is hard to see. Generations of suffering were depicted on these pages. Family members braving circumstances no one should be subjected to. I believe this is an important read. It contains essential information for anyone who does not want to turn a blind eye to discrimination happening in this world. To poverty and abuse.Having said that, I wish the book had been written differently. It begdan with the author talking about how difficult it This book opens the reader's eyes to a way of life that is hard to see. Generations of suffering were depicted on these pages. Family members braving circumstances no one should be subjected to. I believe this is an important read. It contains essential information for anyone who does not want to turn a blind eye to discrimination happening in this world. To poverty and abuse.Having said that, I wish the book had been written differently. It begdan with the author talking about how difficult it has been to gather the stories about her family. And it ends with her own story. But in between that, it read as if she were writing a term paper. Impersonal. I wish she could have interspersed her own story with that of her family members. I wish she would have told the reader how she came to be a conductor on the subway in New York. I found it confusing to hear her refer to her own mother by her mother's first name. To her own childhood self referred to in third person. For me the impersonal nature of most of the narrative was disconcerting. After all, the characters depicted are her own family members and their friends and associates.
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  • gnarlyhiker
    July 27, 2017
    Regardless of education or job success in India, the lower caste is referred to as untouchables. And surprisingly there is a hierarchy within the caste of untouchables. A real eyeopener. good luck**ARC/publisher/NetGalley
  • Diane
    July 23, 2017
    From the Christian Science Monitor "This memoir by an Indian author about her mother (an "untouchable" who struggled to raise children in conditions of sever poverty) and her uncle (an activist who dedicated his life to class struggle) includes many thrilling and heartbreaking moments. These stories offer insight into the heart of modern India as well as the nature of prejudice."
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