Coming Out as Dalit: A Book Reading with Author Yashica Dutt

Please join us on April 9th for a reading and Q&A with the author of “Coming Out as Dalit: A Memoir of Surviving the Indian Caste System”, the critically acclaimed Winner of the Sahitya Akademi Yuva Puruskar, 2020.

Coming Out as Dalit: a Memoir of Surviving India's Caste System

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.


Author Bio:

Yashica Dutt, the award-winning author of Coming Out as Dalit, is an internationally acclaimed Dalit journalist and among the most recognized global voices on caste. Dutt's work has been published in the New York Times, Foreign Policy, and The Atlantic, and she has been featured on the BBC, The Guardian, and PBS Newshour. Her writing has been part of Pen America’s India at 75 anthology that featured prominent Indian writers looking back on India’s history in its 75th year of independence, and a collection titled Our Freedoms: Essays and Stories from India’s Best Writers. Coming Out as Dalit, which was published in the South Asian subcontinent in 2019, quickly became a best-seller and is currently part of the curriculum in over 50 colleges and universities worldwide, including Harvard University, UC Berkeley, and UC Davis. Coming Out as Dalit is among the first books written by a Dalit author in English to win the prestigious Indian Arts and Letters Award for young writers in 2020. 

Dutt was involved in the passing of the historic anti-caste bill in the city of Seattle and her writing has been instrumental in shaping the text of the first-in-nation law. The highly anticipated, revised, and updated version of Coming Out as Dalit will be published by Beacon Press in February 2024, and has been called as “an elucidating history of Dalit discrimination and activism” by Kirkus Review. This new edition focuses on the ongoing struggle for caste rights in the US, and helps unpack its crucial and urgent history, especially in the light of the recent, historic veto of California's caste discrimination bill. Dutt is currently working on her second book on caste in the United States, also commissioned by Beacon Press. She graduated from Columbia Journalism School and lives in Brooklyn.

Tuesday, April 9 at 3:30pm to 5:00pm

Dealey Center for New Media, DMC 5.208

Event Type

Arts & Humanities, Social Justice

Departments

Moody College of Communication, Center for Media Engagement

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