Black Avatar and Other Essays

Books distributed by the Chicago Distribution Center

252 pages | 17 color plates | 6 x 9  | © 2023

ISBN (pbk): 978-1-946724-61-8

ISBN (ebook): 978-1-946724-62-5

Published April 2023

Black Avatar and Other Essays


Amit Majmudar

The eight pieces in this deeply engaging volume reflect author Amit Majmudar’s comprehensive studies of American, European, and Indian traditions, as well as his experiences in both suburban Ohio and the western Indian state of Gujarat. The volume begins with the title piece, a fifteen-part examination of “How Colorism Came to India.” Tracing the evolution of India’s bias in favor of light skin, Majmudar reflects on the effects of colonialism, drawing upon sources ranging from early Sanskrit texts to contemporary film and television.

Other essays illuminate subjects both timely and timeless. “The Ramayana and the Birth of Poetry” discusses how suffering is portrayed in art and literature (“The spectrum of suffering: slapstick on one end, scripture on the other, with fiction and poetry . . . in the vastness between them”), while in “Five Famous Asian War Photographs”—a 2018 Best American Essays selection—Majmudar analyzes why these iconic images of atrocity have such emotional resonance. In “Nature/Worship,” another multi-part piece, the author turns his attention to climate change, linking notions of environmentalism to his ancestral tradition of finding divinity within the natural world, connections that form the basis of religious belief.

Perhaps the greatest achievement of these wide-ranging essays is the prose itself—learned yet lively, erudite yet accessible—nimbly revealing the workings of a wonderfully original mind.

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About the Author

Amit Majmudar is an internationally acclaimed poet, novelist, translator, and essayist, as well as the former first Poet Laureate of Ohio. His recent books include Twin A: A Memoir and the poetry collection What He Did in Solitary. He has also published a translation from the Sanskrit, Godsong: A Verse Translation of the Bhagavad-Gita, with Commentary. He works as a diagnostic and nuclear radiologist in Westerville, Ohio.

Amit Majmudar
Photo Credit: A. B. Majmudar

Praise for Black Avatar and Other Essays

“Eschewing the facile, euphemistic language that characterizes so much writing on the subject of skin color, Majmudar weaves together memoir, religious learning, and literary criticism to produce a brilliant meditation on its role in Hindu culture and beyond. Rounding out the collection are shorter but no less insightful essays on the Ramayana, war photography, idolatry, Marcus Aurelius, and more.”
The New Criterion

“In his first work of nonfiction, author Amit Majmudar blends memoir, social commentary, history, literary criticism, and more. Among other things, he explores ancient Indian texts and what they might have to teach us about climate change; the role of colonialism in continuing colorism in India; and the complicated legacies of war photography. His essays are sharp, beautifully written, and full of intricate connections between disparate subjects.”
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