Coming Out as Dalit: A Memoir of Surviving India's Caste System (Updated Edition)
“…a moving personal story and a useful educational examination of persistent discrimination”—Kirkus Reviews
For readers of Caste, the coming-of-age story of a Dalit individual that illuminates systemic injustice in India and its growing impact on US society
Winner of the Sahitya Akademi Yuva Puruskar, 2020
Born into a "formerly untouchable manual-scavenging family in small-town India," Yashica Dutt was taught from a young age to not appear “Dalit looking.” Although prejudice against Dalits, who compose 25% of the population, has been illegal since 1950, caste-ism in India is alive and well. Blending her personal history with extensive research and reporting, Dutt provides an incriminating analysis of caste’s influence in India over everything from entertainment to judicial systems and how this discrimination has carried over to US institutions.
Dutt traces how colonial British forces exploited and perpetuated a centuries old caste system, how Gandhi could have been more forceful in combatting prejudice, and the role played by Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, whom Isabel Wilkerson called “the MLK of India’s caste issues” in her book Caste. Alongside her analysis, Dutt interweaves personal stories of learning to speak without a regional accent growing up and desperately using medicinal packs to try to lighten her skin.
Published in India in 2019 to acclaim, this expanded edition includes two new chapters covering how the caste system traveled to the US, its history here, and the continuation of bias by South Asian communities in professional sectors. Amid growing conversations about caste discrimination prompting US institutions including Harvard University, Brandeis University, the University of California system, and the NAACP to add caste as a protected category to their policies, Dutt’s work sheds essential light on the significant influence caste-ism has across many aspects of US society.
Raw and affecting, Coming Out as Dalit brings a new audience of readers into a crucial conversation about embracing Dalit identity, offering a way to change the way people think about caste in their own communities and beyond.
Praise for Coming Out as Dalit: A Memoir of Surviving India's Caste System (Updated Edition)
“Dutt reveals the persistent prejudice still surrounding this ancient system of oppression . . . Both a moving personal story and a useful educational examination of persistent discrimination.”
“Coming Out as Dalit exposes the blurred lines between caste and race, for both are fabrications meant to preserve the power of a few and require the ideological purchase of the many. And for women, for whom ‘purity’ is a measure of status and value, the traps of caste are even more sinister, even deadly. Yashica Dutt exposes the absurdity and terror of a purportedly ‘dead’ caste system by telling her truth in and against a world built on lies. A beautiful and courageous book we all must read.”
—Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination
“A deeply felt, eminently readable, eye-opening book about the continuing presence of caste discrimination in India—and the US. We should all be grateful to Yashica Dutt for coming out with this very necessary book.”
—Suketu Mehta, author of Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found and This Land Is Our Land: An Immigrant’s Manifesto
“Yashica Dutt brilliantly distills the history and decodes the hidden dynamics of caste oppression in a way that everyone can understand—and no one can deny. A heartrending, eye-opening, game-changing revelation of one of the most urgent yet unseen social issues of our time.”
—Rachel Sanders, PhD, senior diversity and inclusion specialist