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Modern Age

Author: Kelkar, Supriya
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Time Period: Modern Age
Time Frame: 1942
Geographic Area: Asia
Country: India
Topics: Gandhi, Indian Freedom Movement
Genre: Fiction
Reading Age: Middle Grade
Format: Chapter Book
Published: 2017

Content Warning
riots and intense moments

World History > Modern Age

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 resistance--to stand up to the British government. First the family must trade in their fine foreign-made clothes for homespun cotton, so Anjali has to give up her prettiest belongings. Then her mother decides to reach out to the Dalit community, the "untouchables" of society. Anjali is forced to get over her past prejudices as her family becomes increasingly involved in the movement.

When Anjali's mother is jailed, Anjali must step out of her comfort zone to take over her mother's work, ensuring that her little part of the independence movement is completed.

Inspired by her great-grandmother's experience working with Gandhi, New Visions Award winner Supriya Kelkar shines a light on the Indian freedom movement in this poignant debut.

Emily's Review

This was such a wonderful story of activism and standing up for what you know is right. I have always been fascinated with Asian cultures, though I haven't read nearly enough stories set in India. So I was excited to read Ahimsa, a book about a time period I know very little about. This story is about a girl whose family is devoted to the Free India movement, led by Gandhi in the 1940s. At the time, the country was still being ruled over by Great Britain.

I loved the character of Anjali. She was such a great heroine. She was realistic in the way she was hesitant in the beginning to get on board with something that was going to make her uncomfortable - she had to get rid of her clothes and make herself stand out in the crowd AND fear for her mother's life. But once she understood what was really happening, she became devoted to the movement, even, at times, leading the adults.

This story has a lot to say about the Hindu caste system and those considered to be at the bottom - Untouchables or Dalits. I found that aspect of the story fascinating. This story has a great message about letting go of prejudice and seeing people for who they are and not what makes them different. The riots between the Hindus and Muslims at this time are also touched on. I think The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani would be a great follow-up to this story!

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