Sujatha Gidla's debut, Ants Among Elephants: An Untouchable Family And The Making Of Modern India, published by HarperCollins India has been chosen the winner for this year's Shakti Bhatt First Book Prize. The other top contenders for the prize were: We That Are Young by Preti Taneja (Penguin/Hamish Hamilton), Temporary People by Deepak Unnikrishnan (Penguin Books), Remnants of a Separation by Aanchal Malhotra (Harper Collins), The Sensational Life and Death of Qandeel Baloch by Sanam Maher (Aleph) and How to Travel Light by Shreevatsa Nevatia (Penguin Books).
The Shakti Bhatt Foundation announced on 19 October:
The Shakti Bhatt First Book Prize honours debutant writers — for their outstanding writing of fiction or non-fiction — with a cash award of Rs 2 lakh along with a trophy. The jury panel for this year's Shakti Bhatt First Book Prize included writers of the likes of Sampurna Chattarji, Raghu Karnad and Githa Hariharan.
The judges said, “It is a marvel how, with so little friction or strain, Ants absorbs readers into undramatised lives of poverty, patriarchy, and rebellion, and the encounter with subaltern Communism. But quite apart from the rarity and necessity of the subject — Dalit lives — the book is admirable for its clean skill and technical execution. With no authorial flourishes, it allows the story’s innate passion and gravitas to display themselves.”
Gidla, born in 1963 in the Dalit community of one of Telangana's smaller towns named Kazipet, studied Physics at the Indian Institute of Technology in (then) Madras. At the age of 26, she moved to the United States where she worked in an IT firm. Currently, she works as a conductor at New York's subway system.
Upon being declared this year's winner, Gidla tweeted:
Thank you, Shakti Bhatt Foundation, @jeetthayil , and judges Githa Hariharan, Raghu Karnad, and Sampurna Chattarjee for conferring this honor on Ants Among Elephants. It must have been a tough choice having to pick one out of the exceptional shortlist.
— Sujatha Gidla (@gidla_sujatha) October 20, 2018
Updated Date: Oct 20, 2018 18:13:45 IST