Yours truly has won the 3 Quarks Daily 2011 Arts & Literature Prize, which includes $1000.
I would like to thank the editors of 3QD for hosting this contest and for running an amazing site that has certainly turned me into an addict. It never ceases to amaze me how they can find such high quality content day after day. No wonder 3QD has attracted such a smart audience. Thanks also to Laila Lalami for judging the final round of the contest. If you have not visited her beautiful website, please do so now. While there, check out a video of her talk and book reading at Google. Here is what she said about my review.
Namit Arora’s powerful review of Omprakash Valmiki’s Joothan: A Dalit’s Life for 3 Quarks Daily places this 1997 memoir in a personal, cultural, and literary context. Arora gives a very moving portrayal of a kind of life I knew little about, an honest reckoning of the privileges of his own upbringing, and a thoughtful analysis both of Valmiki’s work in Hindi and its translation into English.
I also wish to acknowledge my real source of inspiration for this review: Omprakash Valmiki, for writing such a powerful memoir. As I wrote in the review, it is "the kind of book that becomes ‘the axe for the frozen sea inside us.’" The best kind of literature does that; I think literary stories have the power to teach, awaken, and reach us in ways that other kinds of writing do not. Particularly gratifying to me has been the response to this piece from upper-caste Indians in my orbit, giving me hope that raising consciousness about past and present wrongs led by our communities is not a lost cause. I hope more people will open themselves to literary works from India that are neither originally written in English, nor are confined to urban middle-class worlds.
Finally, I pledge to donate the prize money to one or more Dalit organizations engaged in the struggle.