A Tale of the Eunuchs of India

 b y  Z I A  J A F F R E Y

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"One of the most riveting stories never told -- until now."
--Hilton Als,
author of

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"This remarkable book -- part history, part anthropology, part travel-memoir -- casts a spell like a work of imagination. India's elusive hijras are brought to vivid life, and the reader shivers -- now at the strangeness of the tale, now at the beauty of the telling."
--Sigrid Nunez, author of

sling shot

"Jaffrey is an impressive stylist who makes every word tell...she understands that India is not part of a timeless Orient, but a rapidly changing modern nation engaged, sometimes reluctantly, in redefining issues of gender and sexuality."

"THE INVISIBLES is the delightfully eccentric record of an Indo-American writer's odyssey through India in search of the marginalized community of transsexuals and eunuchs. Jaffrey writes with lively simplicity and self-deprecating humor."
--Bharati Mukherjee, author of JASMINE

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"Given the misunderstanding this community suffers, Jaffrey certainly has clarified many issues. A definite addition to collections concerned with gender."

Z I A  J A F F R E Y  was born in New York and spent part of her childhood in Delhi, India. She attended Barnard College, where she majored in English, and the Columbia University Graduate Writing Division for fiction. She has written numerous features and book reviews, and has been published in The Nation, The Village Voice, and Elle, among other publications. She lives in New York City.

New York Newsday, Nov. 10, 1996
"We're in the able hands of a narrator who relishes suspense... helplessly captivated... The result is a languid, perceptive book... leavened by thoughtful observations ... sharp analyses ... and refreshingly honest misgivings.... The process of this story rivets our attention. -- NINA MEHTA

book-jacket design: CHIP KIDD
cover photo: CATHY CAPLAN
author photo: ELENA CIEBERT
sling-shot photo: ZIA JAFFREY
web design: VIVIAN SELBO

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S Y N O P S I S:

Anita, a hermaphrodite, was handed over to the hijra community by her parents when she was four; Kamal Baksh, born male, believed herself to be female and allegedly castrated herself in a remote village outside Hyderabad; Jagoman Dhyani, seeking pleasure in the big city of Delhi, was kidnapped, drugged, and castrated against his will. These are some of the testimonies of the hijras of India -- known as eunuchs, transexxuals, or those who are "neither male nor female." The hijras exist in thousands in every major city of India, and are known to every Indian because they crash weddings and childbirths, sing lewd sons out of key and hurl insults at the guests. Finally, they are paid to leave everyone in peace. doorway In this bold, beautifully written book, THE INVISIBLES, Jaffrey sets out on a journey through India to find out who the hijras really are; why the subject is taboo and their history never recorded; and why their numbers show no sign of decreasing, despite India's rebirth as a modern, independent nation. Her incisive exploration of the lives, rituals, and cultural history of the hijras raises many startling questions, sheds light on a subject never before considered a "subject," and challenges the traditional scholarship... Through Jaffrey we meet police commissioners, detectives, and the hijras themselves, in a labyrinth of truth, denial and humor... Says Jaffrey: "THE INVISIBLES is a very complex story, in a very Indian way..."

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