Ahimsa by Supriya Kelkar

Ahimsa

In 1942, when Mahatma Gandhi asks Indians to give one family member to the freedom movement, ten-year-old Anjali is devastated to think of her father risking his life for the freedom struggle.But it turns out he isn't the one joining. Anjali's mother is. And with this change comes many more adjustments designed to improve their country and use "ahimsa"—non-violent resistan...

Title:Ahimsa
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Edition Language:English

Ahimsa Reviews

  • Kate Olson

    This story has now become my absolute number one title to recommend about social justice and equality in any era, country, religion or race. Kelkar has done such a superb job of with this story that although it is set in 1940s India a

    This story has now become my absolute number one title to recommend about social justice and equality in any era, country, religion or race. Kelkar has done such a superb job of with this story that although it is set in 1940s India and deals with the caste system, English colonialism, and religious strife between Muslim and Hindu groups, the messages she conveys can be applied to virtually any other country and time period and still be applicable.

    This story is a timeless choice for classroom use, as the events and messages can be compared to so many other situations and will make for rich discussion and analysis. Included in the book is a very thorough afterword by the author about the genesis of the novel as well as a general overview of the history of India and a glossary.

    Highly recommended for grades 4-8, but also a rich enough title to use for cultural discussion in high school. Required purchase for school libraries, and highly recommended as a whole class read aloud.

  • Elisabeth

    offers a fascinating glimpse into the world of the freedom movement in India in the 1940s. While I knew a little about Indian history from movies like

    and

    , it was interesting seeing it all from the perspective of 10-year-old Anjali. I think kids will really connect with her as she grapples with giving up the trappings of her privileged lifestyle and learns to embrace the movement.

    A minor gripe of mine is that Kelkar refers to a Gandhi quote several times that is slightly ina

    offers a fascinating glimpse into the world of the freedom movement in India in the 1940s. While I knew a little about Indian history from movies like

    and

    , it was interesting seeing it all from the perspective of 10-year-old Anjali. I think kids will really connect with her as she grapples with giving up the trappings of her privileged lifestyle and learns to embrace the movement.

    A minor gripe of mine is that Kelkar refers to a Gandhi quote several times that is slightly inaccurate. Gandhi never actually said "Be the change you wish to see in the world." He said something similar when he said, "We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do." With the incredible attention to detail Kelkar uses in the rest of the book, this mistake rubbed me the wrong way every time it popped up.

    *****EDIT 7/11/17: If you'll check the comments,

    was kind enough to respond to my review and assure me that this has been revised for the final publication. Hooray for great editing and authors!!!*****

    Highly recommended for kids who like reading about other countries and historical events, and adults will like this one too.

  • The Reading Countess

    This is a (timely) historical fiction tale of a country fighting for justice, a society struggling to advance past its archaic caste system, and Ahimsa, or peace, woven throughout its entirety. I liked the strong female characters and a glimpse into a time period not many children read about. The cover is simply to die for! Gorgeous. Thanks to Edelweiss for the the e-version of the ARC. Ahimsa will hit the shelves on October 2, 2017. Be sure to look for it! It has already earned the New Visions

    This is a (timely) historical fiction tale of a country fighting for justice, a society struggling to advance past its archaic caste system, and Ahimsa, or peace, woven throughout its entirety. I liked the strong female characters and a glimpse into a time period not many children read about. The cover is simply to die for! Gorgeous. Thanks to Edelweiss for the the e-version of the ARC. Ahimsa will hit the shelves on October 2, 2017. Be sure to look for it! It has already earned the New Visions Award!

    "Change is possible. Progress is possible. It may take time. But it is possible, isn't it?"

  • Ms. Yingling

    E ARC provided by Edelweiss Above the Treeline

    In a small town in India in 1942, Anjali is worried that her mother has lost her job working for a British colonel, Brent. At the age of ten, her biggest worry is that there won't be enough money to buy a new dress for her for the holiday. It turns out that there are much bigger problems brewing. Anjali's mother has quit her job so that she can join the resistance to the British, which in her case means learning to spin and weave so that India isn't

    E ARC provided by Edelweiss Above the Treeline

    In a small town in India in 1942, Anjali is worried that her mother has lost her job working for a British colonel, Brent. At the age of ten, her biggest worry is that there won't be enough money to buy a new dress for her for the holiday. It turns out that there are much bigger problems brewing. Anjali's mother has quit her job so that she can join the resistance to the British, which in her case means learning to spin and weave so that India isn't dependent on the British processing their cotton. Anjali has a friend, Irfaan, who is Muslim, and while the two of them never minded the religious difference, this also becomes a problem. Anjali's mother is upset with the way Untouchables, whom Ghandi started to call Harijans, are treated, and decides that she and Anjali will clean out their own outhouse instead of leaving it for Mohan. Mohan, of course, needs the work, but the discussion with him about what his people need gives them some insight. For one thing, the term he preferred was "Dalit". As the political situation in India becomes more and more serious, it's not enough for Anjali and her mother to give food and treats to the Dalit; they set up a school, and eventually, the mother is taken to jail for "inciting riots". While Anjali fears for her mother, she would like to see change in her society but realizes that it will be very difficult.

    Strengths: I especially liked that the author based this on her grandmother's actions at this point in history. There are a lot of great details about what every day life was like, and good discussions about the Indian social structure and how it wasn't beneficial to the society as a whole. Anjali is a typical ten year old, who is more concerned with how things affect her. The inclusion of an older uncle who is opposed to the family's work in the resistance is a good one. This is a fascinating period of history that I wish more of my students knew about.

    Weaknesses: There might be a lot of this that middle grade readers might not understand. Some more extensive notes on Indian history at this time would have been helpful. Also, I wish that Anjali had been a little older and had a better understanding of her society.

    What I really think: I thought this was a great book, but it's not something my students are going to pick up without a bit of convincing. I have Bradbury's A Moment Comes, Sensai's A Ticket to India (which discusses Partition from a modern view point), and my favorite, Venkatraman's Climbing the Stairs, but my students are not interested in historical fiction as much as I would like them to be.

  • Karina

    This was a touching and informative read about the freedom movement in India to reclaim the country's government and economy from the British. I loved the nuances in this story, and it gave me a better understanding of that area and political climate in the 1940s. The main character Anjali, a ten-year-old, is thoughtful and feisty. A must-read for middle graders and beyond!

  • Amber Webb

    Ahimsa by Supriya Kelkar was an outstanding window and mirror book. A poignant middle grade novel about the Indian Freedom Movement provided a window into the world of Children and their families during this time. The author carefully and beautifully showed what the caste system, British rule and freedom fighters all had to learn and endure during the time. So many times I wanted to highlight and make notes in the book about not making assumptions, not giving up and always working to the change

    Ahimsa by Supriya Kelkar was an outstanding window and mirror book. A poignant middle grade novel about the Indian Freedom Movement provided a window into the world of Children and their families during this time. The author carefully and beautifully showed what the caste system, British rule and freedom fighters all had to learn and endure during the time. So many times I wanted to highlight and make notes in the book about not making assumptions, not giving up and always working to the change you want to see in the world. So glad to have the voice of an underrepresented population in children's literature and hope to hear more from Kelkar in the future.

  • Michele Knott

    This book completely blew me away. A definite "window" book for me as it taught me about a time in history that I really did not have much information about. A book you will want for upper middle grade libraries.

  • Gail

    Really good. 4.5. I learned a lot about some history I knew little about. I really liked the characters and how they were multi-dimensional.

  • Kendall Ball

    I think this may be my favorite book of the year. It shows India’s struggle to become free from the British through the eyes of a 10-year-old daughter of a freedom fighter. Supriya Kelkar doesn’t sugarcoat the complexities of such a struggle and raises many, many moral and ethical questions in a way that young readers can understand. I love how this story is told not only as an “us” against “them,” but also as an “us” against “us” and “them” against “them,” truly representative of real struggles

    I️ think this may be my favorite book of the year. It shows India’s struggle to become free from the British through the eyes of a 10-year-old daughter of a freedom fighter. Supriya Kelkar doesn’t sugarcoat the complexities of such a struggle and raises many, many moral and ethical questions in a way that young readers can understand. I️ love how this story is told not only as an “us” against “them,” but also as an “us” against “us” and “them” against “them,” truly representative of real struggles against oppression. Hand this one to future freedom fighters!

  • Alex Baugh

    It’s 1942 and while Britain and the rest of the world are engaged in WWII, in Bombay (today’s Mumbai), the Quit India movement, whose goal is to rid India of British rule and gain independence, is begun with a speech by Mahatma Gandhi on August 8th. The very next day, August 9, 1942, Gandhi is arrested but it doesn’t stop many from still having faith in the Quit India movement.

    Gandhi, a practitioner of Ahimsa, or civil disobedience, had already asked that one member of every family become a fre

    It’s 1942 and while Britain and the rest of the world are engaged in WWII, in Bombay (today’s Mumbai), the Quit India movement, whose goal is to rid India of British rule and gain independence, is begun with a speech by Mahatma Gandhi on August 8th. The very next day, August 9, 1942, Gandhi is arrested but it doesn’t stop many from still having faith in the Quit India movement.

    Gandhi, a practitioner of Ahimsa, or civil disobedience, had already asked that one member of every family become a freedom fighter for Indian independence. Anjali Joshi, 10, a member of the high born Brahmin caste, knew that some of the kids in her class had family members who were freedom fighters, but after Gandhi's speech, she is more than surprised to learn that her mother has also joined the fight. And one of the things her mother is focused on is attempting to make the lives of those considered to be untouchable better (Gandhi referred to the untouchable caste as Harijan, meaning children of God, but Anjali learns they consider that an insult and would rather be referred to as Dalit, meaning oppressed).

    At first, Anjali isn’t really too happy, especially when her mother makes her burn all of her beautiful foreign-made ghagra-cholis and replaces them with plainer khadi, a handwoven homespun cotton they spin themselves. She is particularly unhappy after her mother shows kindness towards the young Dalit boy, Mohan, who cleans their outhouse, causing him to run away, and then decides that Anjali and she will clean the outhouse themselves.

    Slowly and reluctantly, however, Anjali begins to support her mother’s attempts at being an activist. They begin attending freedom movement meetings together, and after visiting the basti where the Dalits live and get to know the people better, Anjali decides that it is unfair that the young Dalits are not able to go to school, too. They begin teaching the children in the basti, even finding help from a surprising a very surprising source. Soon, Anjali and her mother are working to make it possible for the kids to actually attend the school that Anjali goes to, getting uniforms and tiffins all ready for them.

    But the weekend before their first day of school, rioting breaks out between the Hindus and Muslims and schools are closed. Later, Anjali’s best friend, Irfaan, a Muslim boy who is more like a brother to her than a friend, accuses her of writing anti-Muslim words on his father’s store, ending their friendship, and worst of all, Anjali’s mother is arrested on charges of helping to instigate the riots. While in prison and still practicing Ahimsa, or non-violence, her mother goes on a hunger strike, and although Anjali is afraid for her, she decides to carry on their work, even as she realizes she herself must unlearn the prejudices and superstitions that were so much a part of her life.

    Ahimsa is a debut novel for Supriya Kelkar, based on the experiences of her great-grandmother, who had joined Gandhi’s freedom movement so her husband could continue working, much the same way Anjali’s mother did.

    I found Ahimsa to be a very interesting novel about social injustice in 1940s India that covers quite a lot of historical and political ground, some of which may not be familiar to young American readers. But, Kelkar has taken great pains to make this important period in Indian history accessible, although at times she waxes a little on the didactic side when it comes to describing the political situation.

    But one of the things I did like is that Kelkar has included a lot of interesting, personal details in her narrative descriptions, including what daily life was like, the kinds of clothing people wore, food they ate, games kids played, holidays celebrated as well as accounts of the living conditions of someone in the Brahmin class, of the basti where the Dalits live, and even a bit about how the members of the British Raj (rulers) lived. These are the kinds of details that often work to bring a story to life, and Ahimsa is not different.

    The other thing I liked is the Kelkar has written flawed characters who learn from their mistakes. Anjali's mother is an enthusiastic freedom fighter, so enthusiastic that she can't see better alternatives to her actions, and sometimes not listening to the very people she is trying to help. For instance, burning the family's clothing in protest, following Gandhi's example, rather than giving them to the poor who really could have used them. Even Anjali is flawed, at first not really understanding what her country is going through, but slowly she becoming more enlightened, though at times no less feisty and headstrong, which can and does get her into trouble. Even Gandhi and some of his ideas are presented as somewhat flawed, as Anjali discovers the more involved she becomes in the Freedom Movement.

    Ahimsa is a very readable novel and a nice introduction to the Freedom Movement in India. It is also a novel about trying to make a difference, about social injustice, and about resistance, and although these themes are put into the context of Indian history, they will certainly resonate with today's young readers.

    Be sure to read the Author's Note for a detailed overview of this period in Indian history and the leaders involved in it. Kelkar has also included a list of books for Further Reading and a very helpful glossary.

    Although it's for slightly older readers, pair Ahimsa with Padma Venkatraman's Climbing the Stairs for another view of India's fight for independence.

    This book is recommended for readers age 10+

    This book was purchased for my personal library

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