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Dalit student Rohith Vemula’s tragic suicide in January 2016 started many charged conversations around caste-based discrimination in universities in India. For Yashica Dutt, a journalist living in New York, this was the moment to stop living a lie, and admit to something that she had hidden from friends and colleagues for over a decade—that she was Dalit. In Coming Out as D Dalit student Rohith Vemula’s tragic suicide in January 2016 started many charged conversations around caste-based discrimination in universities in India. For Yashica Dutt, a journalist living in New York, this was the moment to stop living a lie, and admit to something that she had hidden from friends and colleagues for over a decade—that she was Dalit. In Coming Out as Dalit, Dutt recounts the exhausting burden of living with the secret and how she was terrified of being found out. She talks about the tremendous feeling of empowerment she experienced when she finally stood up for herself and her community and shrugged off the fake upper-caste identity she’d had to construct for herself. As she began to understand the inequities of the caste system, she also had to deal with the crushing guilt of denying her history and the struggles of her grandparents and the many Dalit reformers who fought for equal rights. In this personal memoir that is also a narrative of the Dalits, she writes about the journey of coming to terms with her identity and takes us through the history of the Dalit movement; the consequences of her community’s lack of access to education and culture; the need for reservation; the paucity of Dalit voices in mainstream media; Dalit women’s movements and their ongoing contributions; and attempts to answer crucial questions about caste and privilege. Woven from personal narratives from her own life as well as that of other Dalits, this book forces us to confront the injustices of caste and also serves as a call to action. Winner of the Sahitya Akademi Yuva Puraskar Award 2020.


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Dalit student Rohith Vemula’s tragic suicide in January 2016 started many charged conversations around caste-based discrimination in universities in India. For Yashica Dutt, a journalist living in New York, this was the moment to stop living a lie, and admit to something that she had hidden from friends and colleagues for over a decade—that she was Dalit. In Coming Out as D Dalit student Rohith Vemula’s tragic suicide in January 2016 started many charged conversations around caste-based discrimination in universities in India. For Yashica Dutt, a journalist living in New York, this was the moment to stop living a lie, and admit to something that she had hidden from friends and colleagues for over a decade—that she was Dalit. In Coming Out as Dalit, Dutt recounts the exhausting burden of living with the secret and how she was terrified of being found out. She talks about the tremendous feeling of empowerment she experienced when she finally stood up for herself and her community and shrugged off the fake upper-caste identity she’d had to construct for herself. As she began to understand the inequities of the caste system, she also had to deal with the crushing guilt of denying her history and the struggles of her grandparents and the many Dalit reformers who fought for equal rights. In this personal memoir that is also a narrative of the Dalits, she writes about the journey of coming to terms with her identity and takes us through the history of the Dalit movement; the consequences of her community’s lack of access to education and culture; the need for reservation; the paucity of Dalit voices in mainstream media; Dalit women’s movements and their ongoing contributions; and attempts to answer crucial questions about caste and privilege. Woven from personal narratives from her own life as well as that of other Dalits, this book forces us to confront the injustices of caste and also serves as a call to action. Winner of the Sahitya Akademi Yuva Puraskar Award 2020.

30 review for Coming Out as Dalit: A Memoir

  1. 4 out of 5

    Shyamala Rajasekar

    The boldness of the title prompted me to pick this book. 70 years of Independence and yet Dalit and its synonyms are cuss words in Hindi vocabulary. (Bhangi being the most prominent one) This book talks about how finely caste exists among us that it often goes unnoticed. The depressing Caste based matrimonial sites and their horrifying TV ads are glaring examples of how normalised caste is in 21st century. This book will make anyone compassionate enough tear up with its details of manual scavengi The boldness of the title prompted me to pick this book. 70 years of Independence and yet Dalit and its synonyms are cuss words in Hindi vocabulary. (Bhangi being the most prominent one) This book talks about how finely caste exists among us that it often goes unnoticed. The depressing Caste based matrimonial sites and their horrifying TV ads are glaring examples of how normalised caste is in 21st century. This book will make anyone compassionate enough tear up with its details of manual scavenging, dalit student suicides and dalit women rapes. The book talks about the mental stress that Dalits go through to hide their caste. It also talks about the abysmal representation of Dalits in academics, media and law- all of which are necessary to bring to light discrimination. Lack of Dalits in these fields eventually leads to single view narrative by just the upper castes for whom Dalits are either poor or non-deserving reservation quota inconveniences. This book is not just for the Dalits but for anyone who has had any encounter with caste. (Basically everyone) And if you just shrugged your shoulders believing you are above caste- this book is definitely for you. Being casteless is a privilege and it's high time upper caste urban educated folks acknowledged and accepted the same. As Dutt says, acknowledgement and acceptance will eventually lay path for challenging the status quo.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Radhika Roy

    At the outset, I admit that I feel ashamed for having been so divorced from reality when it came to caste-based atrocities. While many, including me, claim to abhor the connotations of caste, it becomes difficult for one to express what it is about caste that makes it necessary to annihilate it - we neither have the language, rarely the knowledge, and never the lived experience. Without the language and the knowledge, it becomes impossible to engage with someone who feels differently about caste At the outset, I admit that I feel ashamed for having been so divorced from reality when it came to caste-based atrocities. While many, including me, claim to abhor the connotations of caste, it becomes difficult for one to express what it is about caste that makes it necessary to annihilate it - we neither have the language, rarely the knowledge, and never the lived experience. Without the language and the knowledge, it becomes impossible to engage with someone who feels differently about casteism. 
 For that reason, Yashica Dutt’s memoir becomes an excellent tool to arm yourself with because it’s eye-opening and so well articulated. “Coming Out As Dalit” is Dutt’s personal story as to how she, as a middle-class Dalit belonging to a family with two generations of government servants, navigates herself while aspiring for a life that has been ingrained in her to only belong to the UC. It’s a moving account that brings to light how casteism is mired even in the most progressive and urban spaces, such as universities, corporate houses, media offices, and how Indian society is anything but post-caste. 
Dutt’s journey into discovering herself and, accepting the myriad ways in which her identity and her caste are intertwined, is remarkable. Because as she starts learning about Dalits and, the insidious as well as explicit discrimination that Dalits are subjected to in all spheres of their lives, she nudges the reader to perceive the world from the prism of discrimination.
 This jolts you into coming to terms with the injustices that have been meted out to Dalits since time immemorial on the basis of arbitrary notions of what constitutes an “upper caste” and who belongs to a “lower caste”, and that still continues to this day. There is absolutely no rational explanation behind the division of society into four varnas, except for maintenance of the status quo by the ones who benefit from this segregation. 

 Dutt provides her readers with not just her personal story, but also acquaints us with the history of caste-based discrimination and the Dalit movement. Therefore, for anyone seeking initiation into learning more about casteism and how terribly it afflicts a Dalit, and how opportunities that are made available to upper-castes are, in one way or another, an outcome of their privilege, this memoir would be the best place to start. Right from the activism of Phule and Savitribai, to the concerted efforts of Dr. BR Ambedkar, and down to Rohith Vemula’s activism and subsequent suicide, Dutt attempts to tell her readers that casteism is an evil which needs to be eradicated, and for that, it must at first be acknowledged as an evil. 

Even if you fail to read the book in its entirety, I would HIGHLY RECOMMEND reading the chapter on reservations. Dutt has made the most succinct arguments for reservation, backed with facts, data and research; it is impeccable and easy to access. For the longest time, I unfortunately too believed that reservations should have been made on the lines of an individual’s economic status. Over a period, that thought process of mine changed as I was made aware of the entrenched social injustice that needed reparations, but I never had the knowledge to support my belief and express it without faltering or questioning myself. For that reason, this chapter stood out from the rest of the memoir because it was loaded with information that one can successfully disseminate to make others realise how unaware and ignorant we are and have been. 

Also, another thing which stood out is the relationship between Dutt and her mother, and how Dutt’s mother went to the ends of the earth to ensure that Dutt never had to compromise on her education. Despite the unsupportive patriarchal household that she resided in, along with the meager resources at her disposal, Dutt’s mother refused to give up on her daughter. Which is why I’m slightly surprised to see that Dutt has not written about her mother in her acknowledgment. 
Either way, 11/10 would recommend this !
 PS: Would also recommend watching Kakkoos - a documentary on manual scavengers. It’s available on YouTube, and it is potent enough to move you to tears.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Roshan Singh

    "Coming out as Dalit" was published just a few months back. The title and this bold cover caught my attention when I first saw it but I bought it only last week. Before reading this book, I was introduced to Dalit issues, thanks to Mulk Raj Anand's seminal work "Untouchable" which I had read for my paper on Indian Writings in English. The book was published in 1935. That's twelve years before independence. Although the story was potent enough to shake me to the core, I read it as "history". Such "Coming out as Dalit" was published just a few months back. The title and this bold cover caught my attention when I first saw it but I bought it only last week. Before reading this book, I was introduced to Dalit issues, thanks to Mulk Raj Anand's seminal work "Untouchable" which I had read for my paper on Indian Writings in English. The book was published in 1935. That's twelve years before independence. Although the story was potent enough to shake me to the core, I read it as "history". Such oppression based on caste didn't exist anymore, right? Wrong. When I was researching for my presentation on the same book, I came across this documentary on YouTube called "Kakkoos". That jolted me back to reality. Let alone caste, even untouchability wasn't dead. More recently ScoopWhoop released a short documentary about the manual scavengers of Mumbai titled "What I Learnt From Climbing Into Human Waste". Realising how deeply caste system is still rooted made me want to read more about it. I picked this book thinking it'll be a personal story of a Dalit, who'd have faced discrimination and oppression. It sure is a personal story but it is so much more than that. Yashika Dutt uncovers the deep rooted castism that Dalits still face everyday. One might assume that the problem exists only in rural areas but the discrimination is as big a problem in urban spaces as well. The suicide of Rohit Vemula from Hyderabad Central University is one among the many cases of abuse and discrimination that students face in the most progressive of Universities. Be it the office of multinational companies, or the rice fields in rural India, Dalits are prone to discrimination everywhere. This book has helped me a lot to understand how the caste system works in contemporary times and how a narrative is created to prove that it doesn't exist anymore. Being just a little more aware will show anyone how heavily we're surrounded by castism. Dr. Payal Tadvi's suicide is the most recent example. This evil needs to go, and the first step is to acknowledge it. "Coming out as Dalit" is a powerful step in that direction. I'll be recommending it to everyone I know for quite sometime.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Chitra Ahanthem

    I cannot recommend Yashica Dutt's Coming Out As Dalit: a memoir enough – part memoir, part opinion writing and part an academic discourse on the systematic failure of the country in addressing the plight of Dalits, it is a searing work that needs to be read and engaged with. This is a gut wrenching and honest portrayal of the entrenched discrimination that Dalits continue to face till date. Yashica not only lays her own journey bare: how her family took on another surname, how her parents and bef I cannot recommend Yashica Dutt's Coming Out As Dalit: a memoir enough – part memoir, part opinion writing and part an academic discourse on the systematic failure of the country in addressing the plight of Dalits, it is a searing work that needs to be read and engaged with. This is a gut wrenching and honest portrayal of the entrenched discrimination that Dalits continue to face till date. Yashica not only lays her own journey bare: how her family took on another surname, how her parents and before them, her grand parents try to pass off as Upper Caste; how a better education (read English medium) is considered a means to more acceptability but also, points out historical and factual reminders of how Dalits have been treated over the years. This is filled with well-articulated thoughts and anecdotes and questions that will leave the reader gasping rage, anger and sadness. Yashica’s writing is deeply personal when she lays bare how her family hides their Dalit identity; how in her family, her mother bears the burnt of patriarchal family systems and making the point that Dalit women are subjugated within the community itself. It is deeply political in the way the discussion on reservation is addressed and how Ambedkar’s path as a social leader and reformer is blindsided by that of Mahatma Gandhi. One can only nod in admiration when Yashica calls out the ‘liberal’ English speaking upper middle class who in theory stand for ‘equality’ but remain quiet when it comes to Dalit atrocities.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Mridula Gupta

    Many of us have the privilege (and the audacity) to say that tragedies associated with Dalit lives are just news to us. We read about them during our morning tea or a passing glance to a news update on our phones. No matter what we say, the lack of knowledge among masses and representation in the society is disturbing and while we use hashtags such as ‘all lives matter’, we might as well come back to our home ground and survey and understand the scenario here. Yashica Dutt’s memoir, ‘Coming Ou Many of us have the privilege (and the audacity) to say that tragedies associated with Dalit lives are just news to us. We read about them during our morning tea or a passing glance to a news update on our phones. No matter what we say, the lack of knowledge among masses and representation in the society is disturbing and while we use hashtags such as ‘all lives matter’, we might as well come back to our home ground and survey and understand the scenario here. Yashica Dutt’s memoir, ‘Coming Out as Dalit’ is a singular voice, controlling the narrative and yet, sharing it with thousands of Dalits whose voices are unheard and their sufferings, unnoticed . Yashica was raised to fit into the Upper Caste. Her parents changed their surname to a non-Dalit one just so they weren’t subjected to the taunts. But her Dalit-ness never really left her. When the awakening happened, it was a new kind of power, one that was determined to change the world for better, one step at a time. ‘Coming Out as Dalit’ takes us through the history of Dalit movement, Ambedkar’s teachings, and anecdotes that are gut-wrenching, both to read and process. Dutt has undergone immense mental trauma in order to hide her true identity and she goes on to say that it’s not just her but thousands of people who have to go through the same, throughout their life. Women of the Dalit community are looked down upon, often abused- a thing the Upper Caste feels entitled to. The police brutality as well as that of the society is considered too small an issue to pay heed to. The memoir starts with Rohit Vemula’s suicide, an event that garnered enough media attention to make us aware of the caste discrimination that has penetrated into the very fabric of the society. She moves on to other stories, some heard while others, unheard of. Yashica Dutt uses her memoir and her words to amplify these voices and highlights how a singular narrative will never bring about the required change. More stories need to come out, about years of oppression, and that adequate platform be provided for these stories to reach each and every member of the society. Dutt demands change and has equipped herself with tales and facts, ones that cannot be ignored anymore.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Maddy

    Bullshit. Utter waste of time and money. Full of unnecessary rants. Avoid.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Krutika Puranik

    // Coming Out as Dalit by @yashicadutt Casteism has been our Country's biggest downfall. No matter how progressive and developed one may find our nation to be, it will never be able to reach its full potential unless this ugly weed is pulled out. From a very young age I was made aware that being a Brahmin is something to be proud of. It's astounding how someone we just met is more curious in knowing about our caste than our qualifications. While Brahmins are constantly praised for their smartnes // Coming Out as Dalit by @yashicadutt Casteism has been our Country's biggest downfall. No matter how progressive and developed one may find our nation to be, it will never be able to reach its full potential unless this ugly weed is pulled out. From a very young age I was made aware that being a Brahmin is something to be proud of. It's astounding how someone we just met is more curious in knowing about our caste than our qualifications. While Brahmins are constantly praised for their smartness and purity, everyone else is blatantly looked down upon. It took me many years to understand history that isn't associated with my own caste. Dalit history has somehow always been ignored much like the Dalits themselves. The only time the others pay them any heed is when they are either killed or when it comes to protesting against reservations. Both of which being very unfortunate events. It is here that Dutt's book plays a pivotal role in not only educating the readers about what it is like to be a Dalit even in the 21st century but also in mapping a detailed history of their pain and injustice. Coming Out as Dalit is a learning process, one that shows how both the past and present generations have been unkind to the Dalits. One in which we learn about Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar's significant contribution in not only framing our constitution but also in fighting for the rights of Dalits. We learn of how Dalit women are used as a means to teach the community of their place in the society, of students being shunned at the Universities for claiming reservation, of how the colour of their blood has tainted the hands of many students and authorities. Amidst all this, we also get to hear Dutt's struggle through poverty and about her exhausting turmoil from donning an identity of being an upper caste person so as to not be distinguished and harrassed by others. The insurmountable harm that the upper caste people have been inflicting on them becomes abundantly clear. There's not a single topic she doesn't cover, each chapter equally important as the previous one. There comes a time when a certain book knocks your breath away. This book is the one for me. Read it.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Laya

    Hoping to see more memoirs from urban dalit authors. Since the last few decades, the mainstream narrative has designated caste as pre-modern or primarily rural, and can be wiped away with modernization. Accounts like these on how caste follows you despite class mobility are much needed to break the convinient myth.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Priyanka

    In college, I participated in a debate about reservation. I chose to speak against reservation with nothing but my prejudices to back me up. I was ignorant and as I read this book, I felt deeply ashamed of myself for choosing the popular narrative over facts. I did not care to research then. I went by the opinions and discussions I had heard of my parents, relatives, teachers and media, who repeatedly reiterated the idea that reservation was unfair. It's only now when I read this book, I realise In college, I participated in a debate about reservation. I chose to speak against reservation with nothing but my prejudices to back me up. I was ignorant and as I read this book, I felt deeply ashamed of myself for choosing the popular narrative over facts. I did not care to research then. I went by the opinions and discussions I had heard of my parents, relatives, teachers and media, who repeatedly reiterated the idea that reservation was unfair. It's only now when I read this book, I realised why reservation was unfair. It was unfair because it did not work in favour of the upper caste. Anything that did not work in the favour of uppercaste sensibilities was deemed unfair. Coming Out As Dalit is a fansatic memoir. The first few pages were enough to convince me that this book would change me. Yashica is brilliant to say the least. Her potrayal of the realities of Dalit lives is raw and personal. Her words come like whiplashes. She takes us through the journey of her life, the caste markers of her exsistence she did everything to hide, her poverty, struggle for education, the shame of being born low caste, the caustic caste slurs of her colleagues she smiled through, the realisation of the pain and suffering of other Dalits, institutional harrasment, rapes, murders, denial of justice and dignity to Dalits. In her prologue she writes- "Our Dalitness is imprinted onto us through the burned bodies of our children, suicides of our PhD scholars and college students, rapes of young girls and women, asphyxiation of our manual scavengers and 'honor killings' of lovers. These penalties are so routine that they aren't even considered worthy of shock and outrage.' She has dedicated this book to Rohith Vemula. Rohith's death which did not make a dent in my life 4 years ago, strangely became a deep personal loss as I read this book. I grieved the death of this boy who thought of himself as 'glorious star dust' but was reduced to a suicide note owing to institutional discrimination. His final words read - ' My birth is my fatal accident. I can never recover from my childhood loneliness. The unappreciated child from my past.I am not hurt at this moment. I am not sad. I am just empty.' As I read this book, there were times I zoned out for hours thinking about the injustice of this world, wondering if I lived in the same land as Yashica did and why I did not see what she did, why my experiences were so differnt, when did I become so blind. There were times when I snapped the book shut because the information and incidents were too much for me to take in. If I could unread those sentences in those moments, I would, but I couldn't. I didn't want to. There were times when I had tears flowing down my face and I sobbed without restrain, took a break and continued reading. This book will break your heart and awaken your soul. I highly recommend you read it.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Aaditya

    Around halfway through this book I was filled with an almost inability to continue reading but at the same time a searing drive to know more. The crippling feeling, I thought, was being brought about by the examples and statistics that are put forth that make it almost seem like the people that live on the same soil as I do are virtually misanthropic at their core. But the answer is not that simple. What made it hard was also the fact that it uncovered how absolutely ignorant I've been with resp Around halfway through this book I was filled with an almost inability to continue reading but at the same time a searing drive to know more. The crippling feeling, I thought, was being brought about by the examples and statistics that are put forth that make it almost seem like the people that live on the same soil as I do are virtually misanthropic at their core. But the answer is not that simple. What made it hard was also the fact that it uncovered how absolutely ignorant I've been with respect to the topics that are discussed. Being progressive isn't as simple as acting like an issue doesn't exist and overlooking it completely and acting like you are not part of the problem because you don't partake in it. It doesn't work like that. Knowing is a key factor that I've woefully ignored. I've just had my eyes opened and I'm keen to know more.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Durgesh Deep

    "Rohith Vemula, who lit a flame that made my silence impossible" - Yashica. I'm glad to know that Yashica has received Sahitya Akademi Yuva Puraskar for this amazing book for the year 2020. "Rohith Vemula, who lit a flame that made my silence impossible" - Yashica. I'm glad to know that Yashica has received Sahitya Akademi Yuva Puraskar for this amazing book for the year 2020.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Shruti Khaitan

    Yashica Dutt's Coming Out as Dalit brilliantly juxtaposes her personal story with the larger caste system in the country. I picked this book after reading Annihilation of Caste by B.R Ambedkar and couldn't have asked for a better reinforcement ー especially in the chapter where Yashica Dutt introduces Ambedkar and his journey against caste. Reinforcement, of course, is not everything this book did for me ー Yashica Dutt's brave and personal story of coming out as Dalit ー also made me look at the i Yashica Dutt's Coming Out as Dalit brilliantly juxtaposes her personal story with the larger caste system in the country. I picked this book after reading Annihilation of Caste by B.R Ambedkar and couldn't have asked for a better reinforcement ー especially in the chapter where Yashica Dutt introduces Ambedkar and his journey against caste. Reinforcement, of course, is not everything this book did for me ー Yashica Dutt's brave and personal story of coming out as Dalit ー also made me look at the immunity granted to me, for free, without shedding any sweat for it, up and close. This book is a personal memoir about Yashica Dutt hiding her caste for a decade, the resilience of her mother along the way, and her coming out story - the trigger, the journey, the wake. It's also part history and part the reality we face today - how our academia, media, cinema does little to change the narrative. Largely and at the heart of it - this book is a call to action to acknowledge and address the evils of caste. Yashica Dutt's book taught me about the origin of the caste system ー how "Aryans exaggerated the concepts of purity and pollution and used it to maintain their superiority" how color and caste are deeply connected, the historic Azadi Kooch March and Dalit movements which the national media failed to cover and the textbooks ignored, how systemic casteism stems from a nexus of religion and pride, shaped by arbitrary and wanton violence and exclusion, constitutional reservation and how it's a corrective measure, and Ambedkar's and Jyotirao Phule's legacy. Leaving you with this searing description of "upper-caste" privilege by Peggy McIntosh which Yashica Dutt has quoted in her book and that will indefinitely stay with me: "an invisible package of earned assets. This invisible package which is attached to their not so invisible upper caste, opens doors for jobs, bank loans, business opportunities, and education that are often closed for Dalits." Please, please read this book. I cannot recommend it enough.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Shashank Garg

    When I was young, somehow the entire neighborhood came to know that one of my neighbor's tenant family, who everyone knew were Brahmins, were actually SCs. Though I didn't know much about the caste hierarchies back then, but my young mind understood that they were the worst sort of criminals. They polluted everyone for their selfish benefits. Yashica Dutt's Coming Out as a Dalit invoked that memory and made me think that they were victims rather than criminals. The book makes one think about the When I was young, somehow the entire neighborhood came to know that one of my neighbor's tenant family, who everyone knew were Brahmins, were actually SCs. Though I didn't know much about the caste hierarchies back then, but my young mind understood that they were the worst sort of criminals. They polluted everyone for their selfish benefits. Yashica Dutt's Coming Out as a Dalit invoked that memory and made me think that they were victims rather than criminals. The book makes one think about the caste realities and suffering of low caste people without much gory detail. It touches upon the psychological side of discrimination. The book very fluidly jumps from being memoir to being book on dalit sociology to being dalit struggle history book and back again. The book also makes a distinction between class and caste. It explains that life for a middle class low caster person is not the same as middle class upper caster person. The struggles of middle class low caste, though being different from poor dalits, are very much real. The book tries to make dalits human. I think the book is a must read for anyone who has ever had any brush with casteism, which involves everyone living in India.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Darshan Temker

    More people need to read this book. Period. Privilege has created a bubble for a lot of us which doesn't expose us to the atrocities faced by a huge chunk of our population. If nothing else, this book will force you to acknowledge your privilege and introduce you to the shameful reality of the caste system in 21st Century India. Highly, highly recommend it. More people need to read this book. Period. Privilege has created a bubble for a lot of us which doesn't expose us to the atrocities faced by a huge chunk of our population. If nothing else, this book will force you to acknowledge your privilege and introduce you to the shameful reality of the caste system in 21st Century India. Highly, highly recommend it.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ribhav Pande

    This is a deeply personal tale of the author's life and her tryst with caste. I'd suggest reading the Epilogue before starting with the book – what needs understanding is that this is not just a narration of the historic injustices that Dalits have faced or the extreme levels of discrimination that Dalits continue facing today: it's a memoir. And the memoir is of a Dalit born to a middle-class family of two generations of bureaucrats. She went to some of the best schools, she attended Stephen's This is a deeply personal tale of the author's life and her tryst with caste. I'd suggest reading the Epilogue before starting with the book – what needs understanding is that this is not just a narration of the historic injustices that Dalits have faced or the extreme levels of discrimination that Dalits continue facing today: it's a memoir. And the memoir is of a Dalit born to a middle-class family of two generations of bureaucrats. She went to some of the best schools, she attended Stephen's and went on to study journalism in Columbia (with financial difficulties throughout, I leave that to the narration). She wrote this book sitting in Chelsea. This book is to patiently explain to the reader that Dalits are normal humans too, and not their extreme portrayals in movies – either as victims of extreme atrocities or as those 'lazy', 'meritless' and 'undeserving' of reservations. And the book does an excellent job at revealing a life somewhere in between these extremes, where all things equal, she had to hide her caste to be considered 'normal'. Her case is that in a better world that we have a chance to make, nobody should have to do that. Her central argument is that caste is a real thing. With the coming of reservations and the mainstreaming of Dalit politics, Dalits have received some benefits in terms of representation. But what benefits exactly? Reservations are two-fold: for Govt. jobs and Univs. While a Dalit may enter establishments, they face such immense discrimination that makes their lives miserable. Rohit Vemula's suicide was one incident from the daily lives of Dalits in so-called modern and advanced India. Effectively, a Dalit has to hide her caste and act like an upper caste so that they don't face this– some can do it (that's the author's story), and others just cannot. The rich culture and history of Dalits necessarily gets suppressed in this entire process: it must stop. The book is an excellent introduction to Dalit movements and Dalit literature. She has explained in great detail of how Dalit voices always had to fight to be heard, and continue to do so even today– though with the advent of social media, there is a greater scope for coordinated impact. The seminal contributions of Ambedkar's views, what he means to Dalits and how upper castes appropriate Ambedkar are very well elaborated in this book. References to portals which give Dalit voices their space, and new cultural engagement (movies, music) are immensely helpful to keep a track on. Ultimately, we need to have a sustained and constructive engagement with the question of caste and Dalit voices need to be up front and centre in this engagement.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Vipan

    Where do I start? I would not talk about the contents of the book except that for the first time, I read a book that told a story which was somewhat close to my lived experience as a “somewhat urban” lower middle class dalit woman. The dearth of dalit stories in popular culture is so glaring that people like me mostly content themselves by drawing analogies with black experiences told by black community. Like the author, I have lived most of my life, if not actively hiding, at least passively avo Where do I start? I would not talk about the contents of the book except that for the first time, I read a book that told a story which was somewhat close to my lived experience as a “somewhat urban” lower middle class dalit woman. The dearth of dalit stories in popular culture is so glaring that people like me mostly content themselves by drawing analogies with black experiences told by black community. Like the author, I have lived most of my life, if not actively hiding, at least passively avoiding the topic of my caste. Like her, I have pretended not to hear when my caste identity (Chamar) was used as a slur by allegedly the most “progressive” people around me. Like her, I have observed upper caste people “othering” dalits who were “too dalit” for their palate. Like her, I have tried to inculcate in myself a postcaste identity most urban upper caste “cool kids” inherently have so that the caste question can not be posited to me directly. Like her, I have wondered if I’ve given it away when landlords/colleagues/friends of friends/ casually posed the question and I casually brushed them off. Like her, I sometimes suffer from a crippling imposter syndrome and a fear of being found out as a “fraud” despite doing pretty well professionally and academically on paper. Like her, I grew up with internalized casteism believing caste based reservation was something to be abhorred. Like her, my family has always lived one mishappening away from going completely broke and unable to sustain our education. Although unlike her, I am a first generation college goer (she had two generations of well educated family members) as both of my parents didn’t graduate high school and my grandparents were virtually illiterate. Still, this is the closest someone has got to my lived experience. On rare occasions when I actually discussed the topic of caste while sitting in upper caste circles, I’ve mostly done it as a third person (avoiding possessive pronouns), afraid that if they get to know that I am dalit, they would consider me either too unintelligent or too undeserving or too biased (or all of them) to have any sane opinion on the topic. What I didn't realize that the mainstream discourse is already too biased towards the upper caste narrative that its exactly the possessive outrightly dalit perspectives that are needed to be voiced so that the narrative can, if not be flipped, at least be levelled. Before writing this review, I parsed through all the reviews available on Goodreads for this book to see if any dalit person has reviewed the book. What I was looking for is comradeship. I wanted to know if someone else (like me) felt seen through this book. But I couldn’t see a single review by someone who said they were dalit. Most reviewers acknowledged their privilege as an upper caste hindu, a few didn’t talk about themselves at all. Further still, a couple of them were trying to sound academic and “third personish” by writing a review totally devoid of emotion or personality. And, it's in them that I saw myself. Before I stop, I want to talk about why it is so hard to “Come out” as a dalit. Because unlike other types of “coming out”, you are forced to come out each and every day in your every new interaction. There is no marker for being dalit, we look and walk/talk and behave pretty similar to savarnas. So, it is painfully hard to show the vulnerability to bring it up in each interaction with every new person. A facebook post (like the author herself) might work for someone who has a large social circle. For a normal person like me, they would have to wear a caste marker all the time to perpetually keep “coming out”. One way to do it, which has been adopted by most caste conscious dalits, is to associate oneself with Dalit symbols like “Jai bhim”, the blue color, Ambedkar/Ravidas iconography. I realized while reading this book that the reason most “out and proud” dalits stick to these symbols is because they act as a great source of strength for going through the inherently vulnerable act of “coming out” everyday. I’ve been a very vocal admirer of B. R. Ambedkar ever since I read “Annihilation of Caste” but I never associated myself with popular Dalit symbols outrightly. Not because I am ashamed of them (I was once upon a time), but because I don’t want to put on a label on myself that I don't fully understand. Even if we do “come out” to a set of people, it is inevitable to feel othered when casual casteism disappears but so does casual banter, meaningful discussions, or a seat at the table as an equal. Therefore, most of us just find it easier to live a double life and ignore the casual casteism which is thrown our way than to live in an imaginary “no direct casteism” bubble that takes shape around a dalit person who lounges in urban circles. Yashica is a force. Her honestly is powerful to the point of being uncomfortable for a mostly private person like me. She slams her family, herself and everything bigoted around her without any perceptible anger or shame. Her confidence, which obviously required a lot of hard work on her part, shows brilliantly in the authoritative yet simple voice of this book. Am I biased in reviewing this book? Perhaps. But as said before, my assertive dalit perspective (bias?) needs to be voiced.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Abhishek Agarwal

    While the biography is nicely written, there are few points where, IMO, she either lacks the depth of argument or begins to contradict herself. To note a few: a) While Rohith Vemula's suicide, and following protests are a recurring theme in book, Yashica plainly mentions him as Dalit, every time failing to mention the controversy about his 'actual' caste. Per the police report, he wasn't Dalit, at least from his father's side and that fact alone may collapse the case against university authoritie While the biography is nicely written, there are few points where, IMO, she either lacks the depth of argument or begins to contradict herself. To note a few: a) While Rohith Vemula's suicide, and following protests are a recurring theme in book, Yashica plainly mentions him as Dalit, every time failing to mention the controversy about his 'actual' caste. Per the police report, he wasn't Dalit, at least from his father's side and that fact alone may collapse the case against university authorities. This detail, perhaps inconvenienced the story line as the fact that he needed to be a Dalit, for anyone to be held responsible for his death, is contrary to argument presented. b) While she tries to debunks the claim that reservation perpetuates caste distinction, she seems to agree with the claim in more than one place. Eg. She says that universities which have reservation have caste based bullying. She, herself, was terrified because her name was tucked under quota (because she claimed the quota). c) Further, she says, that universities which seemed to be casteless became openly casteist during Mandal agitation. Again, is she disagreeing with or agreeing with the view that reservation is increasing casteism. d) Another contradictory theme is, that she was says that her mother was influenced into investing more in her education compared to upper caste people of same class. Is this good investment or bad investment? Because, she returns back and says that the way Indian competitive landscape works, is that such investment is necessary to crack the 'code' of examination. By this inference, a Dalit child, is better prepared to tackle the examination compared to upper caste student of same class. Sure, overall fewer Dalits than upper caste would belong to the class that can afford the investment anyways, but then that turns this into a class issue, not really a caste issue. e) She cites Tina Dabi's low interview marks claiming that any> Dalit availing reservation is offsetting this discrimination. Is she really trying to say that no reservation is needed in caste-blind written exams? f) There are a few issues with statistics that she puts up. She says less than 80% manual scavengers pass the age of sixty. In India, where the life expectancy is 69 years, 80% passing age of 60, by itself doesn't seem that bad in itself. Did she mean, less than 20% pass 60(Regardless, its pretty much given that manual scavenging is a disgusting practice, just that this piece of stats isn't adding impact) ? Again, at a different place she says 27% urban business is Dalit owned. With ~15% population, that doesn't seem bad either. g) While she calls out Arundhati Roy for not calling her position of privilege, she seems to be quite unclear of her own privilege. First, she says her parents expertise was 'limited' to 'civils' (yes, the famed civil services exam) while comparing to expertise which her peer group had. There are very very few Indians of any caste, who can claim parents with such expertise. Again, she feels the fact that it took her family four generations for first person to enter St. Stephens is a proof of her non-privileged background is rather funny. Most most Indians, of any caste, do not have anyone in their ancestry who went to St. Stephens, or IITs or IIMs. Most also do not attend costly boarding schools as well. It seems, her experience of non-Dalits is limited to her peers of rather elite education she was fortunate to have received. This is not to say that book doesn't present a compelling and necessary narrative on Dalit history or movement. These are just few places where author could pay more attention or be more clear in her arguments.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Gunjan | Bookworm Reads

    Coming Out as Dalit is a phenomenal memoir by Yashica Dutt about her personal story along with the accounts of the discriminative nature of Indian society that’s been thriving upon the caste system and by oppressing a certain section of people for over generations. This book isn’t just her story but of all the Dalits whose voices were and are suppressed under the weight of the caste system. Yashica, herself, who was hiding her identity to avoid discrimination finally decides to ‘come out as Dalit Coming Out as Dalit is a phenomenal memoir by Yashica Dutt about her personal story along with the accounts of the discriminative nature of Indian society that’s been thriving upon the caste system and by oppressing a certain section of people for over generations. This book isn’t just her story but of all the Dalits whose voices were and are suppressed under the weight of the caste system. Yashica, herself, who was hiding her identity to avoid discrimination finally decides to ‘come out as Dalit’ after Rohith Vemula’s tragic suicide and the letter he left behind. The author talks about the burden of hiding a part of herself and then experiencing a breath of fresh air when she finally speaks for her community and her rights. She talks about Dalit movements, years of oppression, police brutality, and the abuse of Dalit women by the upper-caste. In a way, this book was an eye-opener for me because my opinions were based on just my story and unfortunately, I never read their narrative. So, this book really helped me to understand the reservation, Why is it still there, the deep-rooted never-ending discriminative nature, and much more. Furthermore, I feel it’s a privilege that some of us only have to read about the tragedies to understand what’s wrong with society because experiencing the same is a different and scary thing altogether. I just feel it's a book that everyone should read at least once.

  19. 5 out of 5

    harshini

    This must be one of the quickest reads of mine in recent times, when I found this book I knew I wanted to read it. It was crushing to read at times, so had to put it down - but I would highly recommend it. Especially after reading Nivedita Menon and Arundhati Roy, I think the author really sheds light on how ignorant self-proclaimed, upper caste feminists can be. Also, as a person who hasn't followed the news enough, I am glad I could learn about the history of hate crimes in the recent years. I This must be one of the quickest reads of mine in recent times, when I found this book I knew I wanted to read it. It was crushing to read at times, so had to put it down - but I would highly recommend it. Especially after reading Nivedita Menon and Arundhati Roy, I think the author really sheds light on how ignorant self-proclaimed, upper caste feminists can be. Also, as a person who hasn't followed the news enough, I am glad I could learn about the history of hate crimes in the recent years. I have highlighted all the names of victims of the hate crimes this time, maybe will add them here.

  20. 5 out of 5

    GV

    A good introduction to the caste system

  21. 4 out of 5

    Dorrit

    Good for an introduction.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Amarjeet Mehto

    Starting with her personal story, Yashica gives a glimpse of what it is to be a Dalit in present times and how this invisible evil of casteism works to subvert the voices and affect the lives of more than two hundred million people in our country. An exemplary work for the world to have a renewed perspective for the life and struggles of the Dalits and their encounters with casteism.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Anshuman Swain

    Tells a holistic narrative of personal experiences combined with informative research into the lives of dalits in India - the challenges they face and have faced and the silent treatment that it generally receives. It also touches upon the spaces that have been created by and for Dalits to vocalize their experiences.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Neeladri Sarkar

    If you had your first brush with the caste system at the time of college admissions, then this is a book for you. If you saw your close friend coming out to claim reservation benefits and expressed surprise, then this is a book for you. If you consider those who claim reservation benefits as undeserving, then this is a book for you. If you have heard of Rohith Vemula(let alone if his story has moved you or not), then this is a book for you. If you have wondered why Dalits celebrate the life of B If you had your first brush with the caste system at the time of college admissions, then this is a book for you. If you saw your close friend coming out to claim reservation benefits and expressed surprise, then this is a book for you. If you consider those who claim reservation benefits as undeserving, then this is a book for you. If you have heard of Rohith Vemula(let alone if his story has moved you or not), then this is a book for you. If you have wondered why Dalits celebrate the life of Bhimrao Ambedkar(and are keen on looking beyond the stupid memes on him on the internet), then this is the book for you. If you have seen Vinod Kambli play and perhaps think why he never got the adulation he deserved, then this is a book for you. The book starts off with the author's Facebook post where she came out as a Dalit and goes on to cover various experiences from her life. She predominantly focuses on how throughout the course of her life, she had to hide her identity and attune herself to the lifestyle of the upper caste Hindus. Beyond these experiences, Yashica Dutt also highlights the key difference in the approach to the caste system of Ambedkar and Gandhi. While the former wanted a total annihilation of the caste system, the latter wanted to bring in the lower caste and build a system where the upper caste would be inclusive and more willing to accept them. The former being what one would call, radical and the latter being, practical. One more aspect highlighted extremely well was the argument for reservation. In a nutshell, what the author states is that bringing about more inclusion does not only deliver social justice, but also make economic sense. However, what stands out the most in the book is her brutal assessment of the English speaking upper middle class and the upper class. In theory, they seem to have left behind the days of caste based discrimination. But in reality, it still persists. Although subtle, but it still persists. And there are occasions when that comes out. And that by far, is the saddest takeaway from the book.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Papri Soren

    This book is eye-opening and a must-read for everyone. "Caste" plays a very important role in our society From childhood we have seen being born in an upper-caste family is a matter of pride. Though they never accept it, they always look down upon on lower caste. Dalits only make it to the news when they talk about reservation, they never talk about the discriminations, humiliation they have to face generations after generations. Hmm, now they will talk about that there are rich Dalits, Dalits w This book is eye-opening and a must-read for everyone. "Caste" plays a very important role in our society From childhood we have seen being born in an upper-caste family is a matter of pride. Though they never accept it, they always look down upon on lower caste. Dalits only make it to the news when they talk about reservation, they never talk about the discriminations, humiliation they have to face generations after generations. Hmm, now they will talk about that there are rich Dalits, Dalits who use iPhones. Have you ever heard of a poor brahmin is killed or beaten for having a mustache, riding horses, entering temples, touching wells? How many upper castes do you see working as manual scavenging cleaners, construction workers, cobblers, farmers, your cooking and cleaning maid? Dalits have to fight every day for their basic needs. But we often ignore the violence against them. If once in a while any news makes headlines upper caste people just turn a blind eye. Upper caste talk about America's #blacklivesmater never talk about #dalitlivesmatter. After reading this book I realized how our education system is so biased as there is no chapter where can learn about the struggle of Dalits and their movements. Because upper-caste never wants the students to learn about crime against Dalits. I have seen people always choose upper-caste doctor, professor over a Dalit doctor, or professor. On social media, they always judge a Dalit's merit. I have never seen any upper caste protest against management quota, EWS quota, Army quota, sports quota, Kashmiri pandit quota, in house quota. They never question their merit. "Brahmins, who is barely 5 percent of the total population, are over-represented in the cabinet or that upper caste almost exclusively run Indian-embassies across the world. Their upper caste was invisible and considered irrelevant. " This book also gives me an insight into Ambedkar's fight for Dalit's rights. It is because of him Dalits have a voice today. Otherwise, if few Dalits are making progress today in life would never get the chance of having basic rights in the first place. Not only education they didn't have access to art, culture, or any extracurricular activities. singing, dancing, acting, directing have always been associated with upper caste people. Many people mock Babasaheb on his birthday but they never care to read or learn about his contribution. Just because you have rich dalit friends does not mean the whole world revolves around them. And if we dig deep down we will see they are 1st or 2nd generation dalits who are getting educated whereas upper caste have always had access to education, property, clean water, land, art-culture. Reservation is not there to eradicate poverty, it is there to eradicate the discrimination, to represent themselves. But sadly even after 75 year of independence untouchability is still practised. Read, learn and educate yourself.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Gayatri

    In a little over 200 pages, Yashica Dutt skilfully merges her personal journey of coming to terms with her Dalit identity with the larger issue of centuries-old caste-based discrimination and the consequent Dalit movement, to give us a searingly honest book that I could not, did not want to put down and is so much more than a memoir about what it means to be a Dalit woman in India. This is essential reading for everyone — irrespective of how much/how little we know about caste-based discriminatio In a little over 200 pages, Yashica Dutt skilfully merges her personal journey of coming to terms with her Dalit identity with the larger issue of centuries-old caste-based discrimination and the consequent Dalit movement, to give us a searingly honest book that I could not, did not want to put down and is so much more than a memoir about what it means to be a Dalit woman in India. This is essential reading for everyone — irrespective of how much/how little we know about caste-based discrimination and whether we have confronted and acknowledged our caste privilege or not. It is especially important for the snowflakes who believe that ✨reservations are evil✨ and that we live in a post-caste/equal society.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Ayushi

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5/5 This was such an amazing read. For so many nay sayers that caste does not exist in modern India, need to read this. The book was also packed with informative details about the history of caste, Ambedkar and the place he holds in the hearts of Dalits, the single narrative of the upper caste dominated media and just about every other realm. It’s the author’s memoir too about accepting her Dalit identity years after trying to pass of as upper caste because of the inherent discriminatio ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5/5 This was such an amazing read. For so many nay sayers that caste does not exist in modern India, need to read this. The book was also packed with informative details about the history of caste, Ambedkar and the place he holds in the hearts of Dalits, the single narrative of the upper caste dominated media and just about every other realm. It’s the author’s memoir too about accepting her Dalit identity years after trying to pass of as upper caste because of the inherent discrimination against dalits.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Stephy

    I honestly don't know how to review this. I don't see it as a memoir but more like a description of the conflict of castes in India. This might not be the most accurate rating because I'm so clueless about so many things that happened (and still happen) in India. I felt this book more like a history and politics class which was good. I honestly don't know how to review this. I don't see it as a memoir but more like a description of the conflict of castes in India. This might not be the most accurate rating because I'm so clueless about so many things that happened (and still happen) in India. I felt this book more like a history and politics class which was good.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Aarav Balsu

    "Mahatmaji, I have no homeland. No self-respecting Untouchable worth his name will be proud of this land." Part bildungsroman and part commentary on the Dalit experience in many spheres of Indian life (education, commerce, employment, etc.). I think this format works very well, especially because it explores the same activities that I did as a child (or do now as an adult), but from a Dalit perspective; I couldn't put it down. Yashica's writing is clear and expressive, and she methodically relate "Mahatmaji, I have no homeland. No self-respecting Untouchable worth his name will be proud of this land." Part bildungsroman and part commentary on the Dalit experience in many spheres of Indian life (education, commerce, employment, etc.). I think this format works very well, especially because it explores the same activities that I did as a child (or do now as an adult), but from a Dalit perspective; I couldn't put it down. Yashica's writing is clear and expressive, and she methodically relates the painful difficulties she faced as a Dalit woman who didn't have access to the same social infrastructure that many of us take for granted. Medium-length, 2 days to complete.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Sohail Nijas

    Strange how different books you read are connected in ways that might not have been anticipated. This one's author - Yashica Dutt worked for FCB Ulka after college, which was headed by the author of the last book I read - Ambi Parameswaran. Good work, 1 star less than perfect since some content felt like it needed more thought to be put into it before it got there. Strange how different books you read are connected in ways that might not have been anticipated. This one's author - Yashica Dutt worked for FCB Ulka after college, which was headed by the author of the last book I read - Ambi Parameswaran. Good work, 1 star less than perfect since some content felt like it needed more thought to be put into it before it got there.

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