By Zinnia Sengupta:
The August prompt for our #2021DiversityReadingChallenge is to read a non-fiction book that deals with themes of identity, diversity and prejudice. Since this is a prompt that delves into the essence of the human condition, you could take it far beyond this reading challenge and take it as a prompt for your lifelong reading experience. Here is a list of 10 brilliant books across the intersections of various identities, to simply get you started on this journey of epiphanies and unlearning.
- Beef, Brahmins and Broken Men
Author: B.R. Ambedkar
First published in 1948, The Untouchables: Who Were They and Why They Became Untouchables?, in Ambedkar’s words is ‘a work of art even more than of history’. This extensively annotated selection, Beef, Brahmins and Broken Men, furthers his sleuthish search. Every source is examined, every thought unpacked, every knot untied. In a bracing introduction, Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd argues how the right to eat beef is the right to equality, it is the right to life.
2. Fallen, Standing: My Life as a Schizophrenist
Author: Reshma Valliappan
In this bold autobiography, artist-activist Reshma Valliappan tells her story, unabashed and honest. This book is the first of its kind on schizophrenia, shedding light on the issues of stigma, human rights, legal rights and what it means to live without medications.
3. Sister, Outsider: Essays and Speeches
Author: Audre Lorde
Publisher: Crossing Press
In this charged collection of fifteen essays and speeches, black lesbian poet and feminist writer Lorde takes on sexism, racism, ageism, homophobia, and class, and propounds social difference as a vehicle for action and change. Her prose is incisive, unflinching, and lyrical, reflecting struggle but ultimately offering messages of hope. These landmark writings are, in Lorde’s own words, a call to “never close our eyes to the terror, to the chaos which is Black which is creative which is female which is dark which is rejected which is messy which is . . . ”
4. I am Vidya: A Transgender’s Journey
Author: Living Smile Vidya
Publisher: Rupa Publications
Vidya has lived through all the indignities forced upon a tirunangai, a transgender, by a society which divides and defines itself as men and women in terms of biology alone from being spurned by her family, to begging on the streets as a social outcast, from donning a woman’s clothes, to undergoing excruciating surgery to lose her ‘manhood’, from suffering emotional and physical harassment, to arriving at her true identity. A compelling narrative about a woman trapped within a man’s body, this is a story of extraordinary courage and perseverance.
5. Being Mizo: Identity And Belonging In Northeast India
Author: Joy Pachuau
The monograph examines issues of ethnicity and identity with specific reference to a particular ethnic group from India’s Northeast, namely the Mizos. In doing so it investigates not only how the idea of the ‘other’ informs identity making, but also investigates, historically, how social patterns and practice contribute to the making of Mizo identity.
6. Ace and Proud: An Asexual Anthology
Editor: A.K. Andrews
Publisher: Createspace Independent Pub
This is an anthology of 17 true stories by real people about asexuality — the invisible orientation that everyone’s heard of, but few actually talk about or understand. The book brings a selection of personal experiences, insights, and anecdotes from asexual writers around the world.
7. Spotted Goddesses: Dalit Women’s Agency-Narratives on Caste and Gender Violence
Author: Roja Singh
Spotted Goddesses is an ethnography of caste, gender and Dalit women’s leadership. Situated in transitional feminist discourses, this book is rooted in interactions and lived experiences of Dalit women in Tamil Nadu. Singh’s perspective as a Dalit woman provides an intersectional social analysis of power structures that sustain caste dominance in South India today. The core of this interdisciplinary work is Dalit women’s songs, oral and written testimonial narratives, including Singh’s personal story.
8. Skin Stories: Essays on Disability, Sexuality and Gender
Editor: Shreya Ila Anasuya
Skin Stories is the first and only digital publication in India dedicated to publishing fresh, urgent perspectives on disability, sexuality and gender. This anthology of essays emphasizes on great storytelling to bust myths about and promote important conversations around disability in South Asia.
9. Born a Muslim: Some Truths about Islam in India
Author: Ghazala Wahab
Publisher: Aleph Book Company
Who are the Indian Muslims? Are they a monolithic community practising a faith alien to India? Or are they a diverse people, geographically rooted in the cultural ethos of the land? Is there an ‘Indian Islam’, a religion that grew out of Arabia but was nurtured in India and influenced by local traditions and customs? Has the power of Islam declined over the centuries because the faithful have forgotten the spirit of the religion, and are sticking to dogma and rigid rules instead? Born a Muslim: Some Truths about Islam in India attempts to answer these questions by taking a hard look at how the world’s second largest religion is practised in the country.
10. Singing/Thinking Anti-Caste: Essays on Anti-Caste Music and Text
Author: Yogesh Maitreya
Publisher: Panther’s Paw Publication
Yogesh Maitreya is the founder of India’s first anti-caste publishing house, Panther’s Paw Publication. An anti-caste poet, translator, writer and cultural critic, in this anthology, Maitreya tackles the prevailing dominance of oppressor caste narratives and appropriation within music and literature, and talks about the importance of visibility and representation when it comes to anti-caste voices telling their own stories.
Let us know your suggestions and thoughts! Thank you for joining us on this journey of diversifying our bookshelves and minds!
Note: All images have been sourced from their respective publishing portals/digital marketplaces.