Arundhati Roy (1959 - )

The Lokashakti Encyclopedia of Nonviolence, Peace, & Social Justice

Arundhati RoyArundhati Roy was born in 1959 in Shillong, India. Her mother, a Syrian Christian, and her father, a Bengali, separated when she was young. Roy spent her early childhood in a village in Kerala. She studied architecture at New Delhi’s School of Planning and Architecture and worked in the Indian capital at the National Institute of Urban Affairs.

During this time, she met director Pradip Krishen, who cast her in his film Massey Sahib. She also wrote screenplays, including In Which Annie Gives It Those Ones, which won a National Award, and starred herself - as well as actor Shahrukh Khan in an early role. Roy and Krishen, who is also an environmentalist, were eventually married and still live in New Delhi.

Roy wrote her bestselling novel, The God of Small Things, in the early 1990s. Set in Kerala in the 1960s, the novel received praised for its portrayal of socially transgressive relationships, poverty, and the relationship between communism and India's entrenched caste system. Roy won the Booker Prize for this debut novel in 1997. The novel had its detractors as well: there was an obscenity case filed against Roy in a Kerala court.

After the success of The God of Small Things, Roy turned to social commentary and writing persuasive essays in support of various social causes. In protest of India’s nuclear weapons initiatives, she penned The End of Imagination. In the late 1990s, Roy also became involved as an activist with the Narmada Bachao Andolan, using her literary fame to spread awareness about the mega-dam project and donated her Booker Prize money to the cause. She also wrote The Greater Common Good, an excoriating essay about the tragic environmental and humanitarian consequences of large dam projects.

Roy is a prolific essayist and a champion of several causes. She has been an outspoken and articulate adversary of both economic globalization and American imperialism. Roy, who won the Sydney Peace Prize in 2004, has also consistently taken the position that protest can come from anywhere and from any voice. She has held that in a highly interconnected global economy, anyone has the right to protest the foreign policies of another nation, especially when that nation's policies affect people in so many other countries around the world. In her writing, she counters the idea that only "expert" opinions should be taken seriously. She regularly writes opinion pieces for several Indian and international publications.

Sonal Shah, Lokashakti Encyclopedia

Selected Material by Arundhati Roy
  • An Ordinary Person's Guide to Empire. Cambridge, Mass.: South End Press, 2004.
  • Barsamian, David. The Checkbook and the Cruise Missile: Conversations with Arundhati Roy. Cambridge, Mass.: South End Press, 2004.
  • In Which Annie Gives It Those Ones. The Original Screenplay. New Delhi: Penguin, 2003.
  • Listening to Grasshoppers: Field Notes on Democracy. Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2009.
  • Power Politics. Cambridge, Mass.: South End Press, 2002.
  • Public Power in the Age of Empire. New York: Seven Stories Press, 2004.
  • The Algebra of Infinite Justice. London: Flamingo, 2002.
  • The Cost of Living. New York: Modern Library, 1999.
  • The End of Imagination. Kottayam: D.C. Books, 1998.
  • The God of Small Things. Random House, 1997.
  • The Greater Common Good. Bombay: India Book Distributor, 1999.
  • The Shape of the Beast: Conversations with Arundhati Roy. New Delhi: Penguin Viking, 2008.
  • War Talk. Cambridge, Mass.: South End Press, 2003.
Selected Material about Arundhati Roy

Related Resources


Arundhati Roy and Howard Zinn at the Lannan Foundation, 2002. (Includes Roy's "Come September" speech.)

Barsamian, David. "Interview with Arundhati Roy." The Progressive, 2001.

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