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Author: Omprakash Valmiki
Translator(s): Arun Prabha Mukherjee
ISBN/UPC (if available): 8185604630
Translated into English for the first time from the original Hindi, Omprakash Valmiki’s autobiography talks of growing up in a village near Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh, in an untouchable caste, Chuhra, well before the defiant term Dalit was coined.
For the first time, Dalits are writing about their lives themselves. They have long been written about by others, by anthropologists, historians and novelists. Infighting against the gross and tremendous injustice that has been their heritage for centuries, Dalit writers give voice to their aspirations for achieving equality. . As he states bleakly, Dalit life is excruciatingly painful, charred by experiences…only he or she who has suffered this anguish knows its sting.
Joothan refers to the scraps left on plates that are then given to Dalits to eat. In some ways it is a symbol of the demeaning existence imposed on the Dalits. Valmiki’s story is one of terrible grief and oppression, of survival and achievement, of his emergence as a freer human being in a society that remains compassionless towards Dalits.
A searing memoir of the life of a sensitive and intelligent Dalit youth in independent India. It tells us how he overcame contempt, humiliation and violence to gain and education and join the slowly growing ranks of Dalit intellectuals in India…indispensable to those who would understand modern South Asia.
-Sumit Guha, Professor History, Brown University.