Author: Joseph Macwan
Translator(s): Rita Kothari
Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISBN/UPC (if available): 0195666240
The Stepchild is a cornerstone of Gujarati literature, the first Dalit novel set in rural Gujarat of the 1930s, which draws attention to its own aesthetics and political ideology. Rich in local idioms and expressions, the novel vividly explores the ethos, fears and aspirations of the Vankar community through the characters of Valji, Methi, Teeharam, and Bhavaankaka.
Angaliyat in Gujarati, is a child whose mother leads him by the hand to his stepfather's house. This is metaphorically the social position of the Vankars, a Dalit community. Significant from several points of view, the novel provides a view of history from below. Caught in external and internal forms of subjugation, the community of weavers, the Vankars, is subject to oppression from the more powerful upper castes, the Patels.
Through the use of powerful dialogue, the author illustrates the subtlety and complexity of the major Dalit characters, and elevates them. But they are ultimately defeated by the dominant castes in the story. The novel critiques systems of internal colonization that exist within the Hindu caste system, which is far more difficult to fight than the British colonization of the land.
Angaliyat represents the recently emerged genre of the Dalit novel. Today, Dalits are both asserting their identity and challenging a society that had earlier excluded them, by writing about their lives themselves. This translation is aimed at students and general readers interested in regional Indian literature and anyone who is trying to understand South Asian society.
Angaliyat tells the story of oppression and exclusion by transforming the vanquished into the victor, by turning the periphery into the core.
Teeha and Methi, and Valji and Kanku, fiercely oppose two oppressive social structures, one represented by landowning, aggressive and vicious Patidar and Thakor village leaders and the second by greedy and manipulative Dalit caste leaders. Both Valji and Teeha are ultimately killed but to the end, they refuse to submit.
The portrayal of Methi and Kanku as pure women challenges the age-old perceptions of higher castes which denigrate the practice of remarriage among backward communities. The stepchild who follows the mother to a new home holding her finger or angali, remains on the periphery of the stepfather's family. Angaliyat signifies the secondary, the peripheral, never accepted by the core family or society.