Growing up Untouchable in India: A Dalit Autobiography / Edition 1

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Overview

There is much in Vasant Moon's story of his vasti, his childhood neighborhood in India, that would probably be true of any ghetto anywhere in the world. There is hunger and deprivation, to be sure, but also a sense of community, an easy acceptance of petty crime and violence, the saving grace of sports and organized activities led by caring adults, the off-again on-again aid from relatives, the inexplicable cruelty and unexpected generosity, and escape through education. But there is much here that is peculiarly and vividly Indian as well. Primary among these is the factor of caste, a hierarchical system unrelated to race but based on ancient principles of hereditary pollution and purity, with Brahmans the purest and Untouchables the most polluted. Second is the presence of a hero so important he is described as a "wave," and surely no despised group has ever had a leader as meaningful as Dr. B. R. (Babasaheb) Ambedkar was and remains for India's awakened and ambitious Dalits. Third is nature, with Moon's compelling descriptions of Nagpur's heat and the vivid joy brought by the monsoon. Indeed, every tree, every fruit, every nook and cranny of the world in and around the vasti plays an important part in his story. Dalit literature, poetry, plays, and autobiographies have been one of the most important developments in the culture of India in the past thirty years, yet little has been translated for a Western audience. Vasant Moon's "Growing Up Untouchable", the first Dalit autobiography to be published in English, is a moving and eloquent testament to a uniquely Indian life as well as to the universal human spirit.

Author Biography: Vasant Moon is a retired civil servant andDalit activist. He is the editor of 17 volumes of Dr. Ambedkar's writings and speeches in English. Gail Omvedt is a freelance writer and frequent visiting professor of sociology. Eleanor Zelliot is Laird Bell Professor of History emerita at Carleton College.

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Editorial Reviews

Race and Class
A powerful personal and collective memory of caste oppression and struggle in India from the 1930s to the 1950s. . . . Both as a historical and as a literary document, there is much to consider in this thought provoking and intensely moving memoir.
— Shalini Ramachandran
Journal Of Asian Studies
Offer(s) an accessible glimpse of the life and times of one Dalit and the people he grew up with.
Times Literary Supplement (UK)
This book is a welcome first step towards increasing our understanding of a much-neglected aspect of Indian life.
Christopher Queen
This book puts living flesh on the bones of recent Indian social historiography.
Harvard University
Library Journal
Moon is a Dalit (formerly known as untouchable) activist and editor of the speeches and writings of the late Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, a Dalit and the architect of the Indian constitution. The emergence of Dalit literature is an important development in the Indian literary scene, and Omvedt's translation of Moon's autobiography makes this work accessible to the Western reader. Despite poverty and hunger, Moon's account of his boyhood in the Mahar "Vasti," or neighborhood, of Nagpur is idyllic. Moon portrays the solidarity among the Ambedkar loyalists of this urban slum as well as a vast array of characters who are athletic, feisty, and resourceful activists. Omvedt's translation is true to the original Marathi, but the use of a very limited English vocabulary makes her writing a stylistic curiosity. This reservation aside, the book is recommended for comparative literature and Indian collections in academic and large public libraries.--Ravi Shenoy, Naperville P.L., IL Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Christopher Queen
Vasant Moon's powerful memoir of youth in the slums of central India is by turns disturbing, entertaining, engrossing, and deeply inspiring. Moving beneath Moon's sharply etched tale of material deprivation, caste conflict, and neighborhood politics is the inexorable rise of Dalit (Untouchable) militancy and spirituality—illuminated by the towering figure of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, champion of the poor and leader of the Buddhist revival in India. This book puts living flesh on the bones of recent Indian social historiography.
Race & Class - Shalini Ramachandran
A powerful personal and collective memory of caste oppression and struggle in India from the 1930s to the 1950s. . . . Both as a historical and as a literary document, there is much to consider in this thought provoking and intensely moving memoir.
Los Angeles Times
There are few such autobiographies, especially in English, which makes Moon's memories of sleeping on village roads side by side with neighbors, of his mother waking at 4:30 a.m. to work in the mill and of the kindness of certain teachers particularly valuable.
Times Literary Supplement
This book is a welcome first step towards increasing our understanding of a much-neglected aspect of Indian life.
Journal of Asian Studies
Offer(s) an accessible glimpse of the life and times of one Dalit and the people he grew up with.
Pacific Reader
His [Moon's] autobiography, written in his native Marathi and translated into English, vividly describes life in an urban Indian slum and gives a glimpse of the internal politics that accompanied the independence movement.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780742508811
  • Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
  • Publication date: 12/28/2000
  • Series: Asian Voices Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 6.11 (w) x 9.05 (h) x 0.47 (d)

Meet the Author

Vasant Moon is a retired civil servant and Dalit activist. He is the editor of 17 volumes of Dr. Ambedkar’s writings and speeches in English. Gail Omvedt is a freelance writer and frequent visiting professor of sociology. Eleanor Zelliot is Laird Bell Professor of History emerita at Carleton College.

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1 The Neighborhood Chapter 2 Fearless Chapter 3 Callousness and Clouds Chapter 4 The Heat and Rain of Childhood Chapter 5 Dev Master's Curse Falls Chapter 6 Religious Hymns Chapter 7 Shooting Star Chapter 8 Chickpeas and Parched Rice Chapter 9 The Unconquered Chapter 10 Parade of Lions and Tigers Chapter 11 Foreshadowing Chapter 12 Holy Victory Chapter 13 Robust and Rollicking Chapter 14 Sports and Study Chapter 15 Pigeons and Politics Chapter 16 Climax Chapter 17 Wrath Chapter 18 Cultural Transformation Chapter 19 An Unspoiled Picture Chapter 20 The Welfare of the World Chapter 21 For What? For Books! Chapter 22 I Begin to Write Chapter 23 The End of Umar Khayam Chapter 24 Rising Moon Chapter 25 The Vows of Religion Chapter 26 Falling Star Chapter 27 Tying the Knot Chapter 28 The Spinning Top Chapter 29 Summing Up

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