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320 pages
Published:   May 7, 2024
Fiction  /  Queer Lit  /  Novels
Paperback:   9781773103020    $26.00

An epic tale that spans fifty years, four generations, and two continents.

Perched out of sight in a tree beside the road, Malika, a communist resistance fighter, prepares to assassinate the new governor in a village in the recently independent India. As she prepares to shoot, she recognizes the man riding in the car and hesitates.

The man is Rayappa, who Malika had first met five years earlier in the village of Korampally. Both were deemed “untouchables”. Yet, Malika toiled as a servant in a landowner’s household while Rayappa worked for a visiting anthropologist.

Fifty years later, Rayappa, now living in Canada as Irwin Peter, receives a letter asking for information about Malika. When he decides to return to India with his family, he is forced to revisit Korampally’s turbulent history — and his own. The lingering legacy of the caste system, the brutal invasion of the kingdom of Hyderabad by the nascent Indian state, and the encounter between Irwin and Malika would all have profound consequences.

A brilliant, complex novel, Outcaste radiates with an unquenchable life-force. Shimmering with emotional depth and crackling with vibrancy, Outcaste revisits a complex period in India’s history while imbuing ordinary lives with extraordinarily dramatic dimensions.
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Sheila James is the author of In the Wake of Loss, a finalist for the Ottawa Book Awards. Her videos have been screened internationally, including Unmapping Desire, which co-won the Akua Award for Best Lesbian Short Film at Toronto’s Inside Out International Film Festival.


“In Outcaste, Sheila James has delivered a profound novel that explores the contradictions of faith, cruelties of politics, and long-lasting ramifications of India’s caste system. Memories and secrets are passed down from one generation to the next and woven into the fabric of historical events, creating a rich tapestry where ordinary yet unforgettable women cheat fate and circumstance to choose what their futures will hold. A moving story of hopelessly tangled family dynamics held together by reckless hope.” — Anuja Varghese, author of Chrysalis

Outcaste is a riveting, immersive, and sweeping novel filled with vivid descriptions and unforgettable characters. Both epic and intimate, this novel asks big questions about how we forge our futures and the ghosts we leave behind. I fell in love with these characters and learned about a chapter in Indian history about which I knew nothing. A powerful and absorbing read.” — Rahul Mehta, author of Quarantine

Outcaste is a deep, layered, and beautiful novel about a family and nation fractured by and freeing itself from colonization, patriarchy, and oppressive traditions. The writing is masterful, with James skillfully unspooling the story’s secrets bit by bit. This book will stay with me for a long time.” — Farzana Doctor, author of Seven

“With clear-sighted empathy, laced with irony, James depicts an indifferently cruel world.” — Toronto Star