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Charis welcomes author Thenmozhi Soundararajan in conversation with Atlanta writers and activists: Shelly Anand (I Love My Body Because, Laxmi's Mooch), Anjali Enjeti (Southbound,The Parted Earth), and Gayatri Sethi (Unbelonging) for a celebration of her groundbreaking new work, The Trauma of Caste: A Dalit Feminist Meditation on Survivorship, Healing, and Abolition. This event is co-sponsored by Raksha.Raksha, Inc is a Georgia-based nonprofit with a mission to promote a stronger and healthier South Asian community through confidential support services, education, and advocacy. Raksha works towards healing, empowerment, and justice for survivors of violence.
About the book:
Caste—one of the oldest systems of exclusion in the world—is thriving. Despite the ban on Untouchability 70 years ago, caste impacts 1.9 billion people in the world. Every 15 minutes, a crime is perpetrated against a Dalit person. The average age of death for Dalit women is just 39. And the wreckages of caste are replicated here in the U.S., too—erupting online with rape and death threats, showing up at work, and forcing countless Dalits to live in fear of being outed.
“Dalit” is the name that we chose for ourselves when Brahminism declared us “untouchable.” Dalit means broken. Broken by suffering. Broken by caste: the world’s oldest, longest-running dominator system...yet although “Dalit” means broken, it also means resilient.
Dalit American activist Thenmozhi Soundararajan puts forth a call to awaken and act, not just for readers in South Asia, but all around the world. She ties Dalit oppression to fights for liberation among Black, Indigenous, Latinx, femme, and Queer communities, examining caste from a feminist, abolitionist, and Dalit Buddhist perspective--and laying bare the grief, trauma, rage, and stolen futures enacted by Brahminical social structures on the caste-oppressed.
Soundararajan’s work includes embodiment exercises, reflections, and meditations to help readers explore their own relationship to caste and marginalization—and to step into their power as healing activists and changemakers. She offers skills for cultivating wellness within dynamics of false separation, sharing how both oppressor and oppressed can heal the wounds of caste and transform collective suffering. Incisive and urgent, The Trauma of Caste is an activating beacon of healing and liberation, written by one of the world’s most needed voices in the fight to end caste apartheid.
About the speakers:
Thenmozhi Soundararajan is a Dalit American artist, community organizer, technologist, and theorist. Currently, Thenmozhi is the Executive Director of Equality Labs, which she co-founded. Equality Labs is the largest Dalit civil rights organization working to empower caste-oppressed people in the US and globally. Through her work at Equality Labs, Thenmozhi has mobilized South Asian Americans towards dismantling eons-long systems of oppression, with the goal of ending caste apartheid, gender-based violence, white supremacy, and religious intolerance. Thenmozhi previously co-founded Third World Majority, an international media training organization and collective that supported people from disenfranchised groups in telling their own stories, in their own way. Her intersectional, cross-pollinating work—research, education, art, activism, and digital security—helps to create a more generous, global, expansive, and inclusive definition of South Asian identity, along with safe spaces from which to honor the stories of these communities. Thenmozhi’s work has been recognized by the U.S. Congress, The Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, The Producers Guild of America Diversity Program, The Museum of Contemporary Art, The Sorbonne, Source Magazine, Utne Reader, The National Center for the Humanities, The National Science Foundation, The Ford Foundation, and The
Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. She is a frequent contributor on issues related to South Asia, caste, gender, and racial Equity, as well interfaith issues and peace building, and has been featured in the New York Times, Washington Post, BBC, Guardian, ABC, and NBC news. She was also an inaugural fellow of the Robert Rauschenberg Artist as Activist, Atlantic Foundation for Racial Equity, and is a
current fellow at Stanford Center for South Asian Studies.
Shelly Anand is the Co-founder and Executive Director of Sur Legal Collaborative, an immigrant and worker rights nonprofit legal organization based in Georgia. The daughter of Indian immigrants and the granddaughter of refugees from the Partition of India and Pakistan, Shelly has been fighting for immigrants and workers in the Deep South for over a decade as a legal aid attorney, a litigator with the US Department of Labor, and an immigrant rights attorney. At Sur, Shelly shares her legal expertise around the Occupational Safety and Health Act and other federal labor laws with immigrants and working class communities and engages national advocacy efforts to stop the labor abuse to deportation pipeline, whereby workers are retaliated against by their employers for exercising their labor rights with calls to ICE and subsequent deportation. In addition to her legal work, Shelly is also a children's book author who writes books she wished she had growing up as a Brown girl in the Deep South. Her debut picture book LAXMI’S MOOCH (2021, Kokila/Penguin Random House), featured on the Today show, NBC News, and Glamour magazine, tells the story of a young Indian American girl’s journey to accept her body hair and celebrate her heritage after being teased about her mustache. Her second picture book, I LOVE MY BODY BECAUSE (June 2022/Simon &Schuster) is co-authored by Nomi Ellenson. The picture book encourages young readers to celebrate their physical differences and take care of themselves through simple acts like brushing their teeth, washing their hands, and finding healthy ways to channel their feelings. Shelly has a third picture book due out in 2024, again with Simon & Schuster, entitled IN THIS FAMILY, about her multiracial, multireligious Punjabi Irish/Desi Midwestern family, to be illustrated by Meena Patel. LAXMI’S MOOCH will also be coming out in Spanish in 2024. Shelly received her B.A. from Wellesley College and her J.D. from the University of North Carolina School of Law in Chapel Hill. She lives with her husband and two children in Decatur, Georgia.
Anjali Enjeti is co-founder of the Georgia chapter of They See Blue, an organization for South Asian Democrats. She is the award-winning author of Southbound: Essays on Identity, Inheritance, and Social Change, and The Parted Earth. She lives near Atlanta.
Gayatri Sethi (PhD) is an educator, writer, and independent consultant. She teaches and writes about Social Justice, Global Studies, and Comparative Education. Born in Tanzania and raised in Botswana, she is of Punjabi descent, multilingual, and polycultural. She reflects on these lifelong experiences of identity, immigration, and belonging in her debut non-fiction book titled Unbelonging. She is also the co-founder of the Desi KidLit community, an initiative to build solidarity among South Asian diaspora writers for young people. When she is not reading or recommending reads on Instagram as @desibookaunty, she is envisioning traveling and gathering in community safely again.
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Instant Amazon Best Seller and Hot New Release
For readers of Caste and Radical Dharma, an urgent call to action to end caste apartheid, grounded in Dalit feminist abolition and engaged Buddhism.
All Are Welcome meets Bodies Are Cool in this picture book that shows us what makes every body special.
Everybody has a body and every body is good. Your body takes you where you want to go. Your body is your first home. And your body is different from everyone else’s body!
A joyful, body-positive picture book about a young Indian American girl's journey to accept her body hair and celebrate her heritage after being teased about her mustache.
Spanning more than half a century and cities from New Delhi to Atlanta, Anjali Enjeti's debut is a heartfelt and human portrait of the long shadow of the Partition of India on the lives of three generations of women.
A move at age ten from a Detroit suburb to Chattanooga in 1984 thrusts Anjali Enjeti into what feels like a new world replete with Confederate flags, Bible verses, and whiteness. It is here that she learns how to get her bearings as a mixed-race brown girl in the Deep South and begins to understand how identity can inspire, inform, and shape a commitment to activism.
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