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Untouchables: My Family's Triumphant Journey Out of the Caste System in Modern India
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Untouchables: My Family's Triumphant Journey Out of the Caste System in Modern India

3.78  ·  Rating Details ·  280 Ratings  ·  37 Reviews
Every sixth human being in the world today is an Indian, and every sixth Indian is an untouchable. For thousands of years the untouchables, or Dalits, the people at the bottom of the Hindu caste system, have been treated as subhuman. Their story has rarely been told. This remarkable book achieves something altogether unprecedented: it gives voice to India's voiceless.
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published September 27th 2005 by Scribner (first published 1993)
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Dec 04, 2014 Shankar rated it it was amazing
This is a true story of how one couple, Damu and Sonu Jadhav dedicated their lives to help their children break free of the shackles of India's caste system. And behind their commitment is the towering inspiration of Babasaheb Ambedkar whose call to educate Dalit children became the motto of their lives. This book goes up along with Mistry's A Fine Balance and Sainath's Everybody Loves a Good Drought in helping me better understand the condition of Dalits in India.
I want to record some of the
Oct 03, 2011 Noor rated it really liked it
The greatest thing about this biography is that it educated me on a deeper level on India's Untouchable caste. I had never heard of Babasaheb Ambedkar before, but I'm glad I got a chance to learn about this EXTRAORDINARY man who challenged both the cultural and religous system of India. Also, Untouchables unintentionally helped provide foundation for my dislike for Gandhi. Before I didn't like him mostly off of a gut feeling based upon his actions, but Jadhav's bio helped ground my intuition. Ga ...more
Aug 22, 2010 Nathan rated it it was ok
This surprised me by being a straight memoir rather than a sociological explanation of one family's experience. As it is, Jadhav tends to get bogged down in personal recollection, to the neglect of showing how those personal experiences typify life under the caste system as a whole. This is a decent book, though I don't know that anyone not already familiar with the concept of caste would find this the best place to start.

Judged as a memoir, this was just okay. Jadhav is honest, eloquent and no
Aug 24, 2011 Liz rated it it was ok
The personal memoir guise of this book is used largely as a framework for political history of the Dalit struggle for equality in Indian society between the 1920s and 1950s. The book added to my shallow understanding of Indian history; for example, independence and partition were not the defining moments of this book, and I learned that Gandhi was not universally beloved among the poor (who weren't Hindu nationalists either). The glimpses into village life in the 1920s were really interesting to ...more
Sitang Tanti-Atsawayothee
May 26, 2017 Sitang Tanti-Atsawayothee rated it it was amazing
Very good book.
Apr 09, 2013 Aloonee rated it liked it
The nonfiction biography, Untouchables, by Narendra Jadhav is an awe-inspiring story set around the 1900s in India. It is about the journey of an untouchable family breaking out of the oppressive caste system. Jadhav writes this true story based on his father’s diaries and many family stories, which talks about his parents’ struggle for equal rights and justice in the low times of India. For thousands of years, Dalits (untouchables) have been treated harshly and not only by the gore (British) bu ...more
Jan 29, 2011 Simran rated it really liked it
Shelves: india
It is a fact that 1 out of every 6th person on the face of the earth is an Indian. What is staggering and often unknown is the fact that 1 out of every 6th Indian, which ultimately translates to 165 million people is an untouchable or a Dalit, the lowest caste position in Hinduism. Over many, many years these people have been subjected to inhuman cruelties, subsequently having been made lower than animals.

Untouchables is a history of one such family of the Dalit caste and their journey to free
Sehar  Moughal
Sep 14, 2014 Sehar Moughal rated it it was amazing
A very inspiring account of a man's struggle to gain freedom, independence and dignity; to break free from the shackles of the Hindu caste-system. Thinking back, almost all my Hindu friends have brought up the caste-system to justify another Hindu's ill behavior, their misfortunes or ill-treatment by the government officials/general public. I never could understand any of it; the divide between the privileged and the untouchables, the underlying hatred and the ever-present shame. Suffice to say, ...more
Feb 26, 2012 itpdx rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
There seems to be disagreement on what this book is. My library has it classified as a biography. Maybe it is narrative nonfiction, a classification that I haven't been able to get my mind around. The book is about the author's parents. They were Dalit (Untouchables) Indians who grew up in small villages, moved to Mumbai, were involved in the political movement to bring equality to the Dalits. The father, Domu was only semi-literate. The mother, Sonu, never learned to read. The author has them t ...more
Jan 11, 2008 Bethany rated it really liked it
Untouchables is actually a revised version of a book published in 1993, which I have not read and can therefore make no comparison. However, the story of the Jahdavs’ journey out of the caste system in India is intriguing. The book itself is more of a collective memoir, with alternating pieces by Narendra Jahdav’s parents. This gives a very unique voice to their situations and shows several perspectives on the events that occur in their lives.

In the United States, we tend to think that the battl
Very nice. I suspect the original may have been a bit better written than the English translation, but I still enjoyed this quite a bit. It was interesting to get an "on-the-ground" perspective of the ideological conflict between Gandhi and Babasaheb, too; like most Westerners, I'd heard a lot about the former and very little about the latter, and feel that this book filled some important gaps in my knowledge. The real-life characters were interesting, and their human dramas compelling, so this ...more
Jun 25, 2012 Lauren rated it liked it
I feel the title is a little misleading as this book is more of a memoir of his mother and father who also happened to be social activists. Much more focus on everyday family life than anticipated. Enjoyable, but I'd like to have an indepth biography that provided more context. Also, a fair warning that there's a first person narrative about the consummation of his mother's child marriage which I was somewhat unprepared for.
i'm amazed. brilliant editor. story of family unfolds through chapters--perspective changes back and forth from husband to wife. gandhi v. ambedkar. hinduism v. buddhism. feels like i'm right there. nagging mothers. bhakris day in day out. overthrowing tradition--some traditions. marriage age 10. how to galvanize and organize a population that is poor and overworked and bound to the religion and social order that maintains they are irrevocably LOW? this is one family's story.
Michaela Nee
Sep 09, 2014 Michaela Nee rated it liked it
I loved how Jadhav brought the reader right into the daily lives of those in the untouchables caste, but I had a really hard time staying with this book. I appreciated the perspectives and light that was given to the struggles of the lower caste people in India, and it was very well described, but it was hard to stay interested when so much of it was just recounting various childhood memories.
Mar 01, 2011 Chris rated it really liked it
This book describes a family who seeks to overcome the unspeakable horrors of being an untouchable in India in the early 1900's and providing an education for their children, who have become scholars and successful professionals. I found the book fascinating and would highly recommend it. It seems sad that societies so often choose to discriminate between one group or another.
Aug 12, 2008 Emily rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book was not what I expected from the description. I felt that it was more a description of rising from an impoverished life in India and the limitations that that imposed rather than the ongoing struggles of a family against their caste. The challenges of the parents were caste-related but it was less clear to me how caste affected the lives of the children.
Oct 17, 2011 Agatha rated it liked it
This was a good story but, sadly, I am not proficient enough in Indian history or vocabulary to fully appreciate it, I think. :( I got too lost in the foreign words, which came about 2-3 every sentence. It was too tiring for me to pick through. :(

I wanted to like it, though. :(
Jul 13, 2014 Margaret rated it really liked it
Quickly gives a good but simplistic view of how 1/6 of a population can be kept oppressed by lack of education, and religion. The personal stories interesting and adds understanding to the reasons why so large a population has accepted and still accepts abuse.
Khandoba Salunkhe
This book is an interesting biography, especially due to the sense of humour of author.. But at some points author sounds exaggerating, and the book is not as deep into caste system as it should've been.. Still, worth reading once..
Jul 18, 2007 Alison rated it liked it
Shelves: intl
The writing in this book is at times uneven (its a translation) in the beginning but it soon hits its stride going back and forth between chapters from husband Damu and wife Sonu. It was very enlightening about the life of Dalits in India historically.
Eric Kim
Aug 02, 2014 Eric Kim rated it it was amazing
I moved a lot. Happiness is from the rich as well as the poor. The poor have also their dreams and hapiness.

The family was from the lowest level in India with a cast system, They were untouchables. There was an untuchable movents and it helped them to get education.
Feb 20, 2011 Melanie rated it really liked it
Great biography/autobiography about one family's story of growing up in India during the era of Ghandi and social reform. Great additional chapters at the end that detail the lives of the children now living in India and how far they came from being the lowest caste.
Apr 06, 2016 Dinakar rated it really liked it
Wonderful read! Apart from the details about Ambedkar, his teachings and the struggle, the portrayals of Somu and Damu are very endearing and I found myself missing them once I finished the book. Very good book, highly recommended.
Aug 28, 2010 Kate rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What I learned from this book... all about the life in the lowest Indian caste. It's a compelling family story about rising from the life society dictates into a life of your own creation. Without education... this family never would have made it out.
Kristen Iworsky
Apr 14, 2007 Kristen Iworsky rated it liked it
The author writes simply, and there's no great description, etc. but the book works. I think it helps to have been in India and understand the country and her people. The addendum by his daughter was a joke.
Elena Mooney Graham
Aug 03, 2007 Elena Mooney Graham rated it liked it
This was fine. I wouldn't kill a bear to buy this book, but I might pull it off the buck table at Borders and give it a spin.
Oct 29, 2007 Dana rated it it was amazing
This book was so well written, I kept forgetting this was a true story.
Jan 15, 2009 Monika rated it it was amazing
very good insight into the culture and rules of the caste system in India. very enlightening.
Apr 05, 2009 Kavita rated it really liked it
a very moving book about the power of courage and conviction to overcome the most unimaginable deprivation and humiliation
Nov 30, 2011 Linden rated it really liked it
True story of one Dalit family who rises beyond its birth status. Very interesting account of how Dalits were treated. Nonfiction.
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Narendra Jadhav is a noted Indian bureaucrat, economist, social scientist, writer and educationist. He is a member of Planning Commission of India. As well as a member of National Advisory Council (NAC), since 31 May 2010 Prior to this, he had worked with International Monetary Fund (IMF) and headed economic research at Reserve Bank of India (RBI).

A writer with 100 research papers, 14 books on eco
More about Narendra Jadhav (डॉ. नरेंद्र जाधव )...

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