Tony Joseph’s Early Indians: The Story of Our Ancestors and Where We Came From is the winner of the Shakti Bhatt First Book Prize 2019.
Early Indians tells the story of the people of South Asia through research in six disciplines, including path-breaking DNA evidence. It puts to rest the ugly debates about the ancestry of modern Indians by revealing an undeniable truth: we are all migrants, we are all mixed.
In its twelfth year, the Shakti Bhatt First Book Prize continues to celebrate extraordinary new writing in all genres. Administered, judged, curated and funded by writers, the Prize is and will always be entirely independent, and beholden to no corporate sponsors.
This year’s judges chose from a shortlist of five books:
Babu Bangladeshi, Numair Atif Choudhury (Harper Collins)
No Nation for Women, Priyanka Dubey (Simon & Schuster)
Goodbye Freddie Mercury, Nadia Akbar (Penguin Random House)
Early Indians, Tony Joseph (Juggernaut Books)
Ib’s Endless Search for Satisfaction, Roshan Ali (Penguin Random House)
Judges Sonia Faleiro and Prayaag Akbar said:
Early Indians is a remarkable exploration of the origins of the first humans who occupied the Indian subcontinent, bringing together a wealth of research from population genetics, archaeology, social history, biology, linguistics and other fields that are proving deeply interconnected.
Tony Joseph’s breadth of reading helps him combine insights from older studies of the topic with the latest research, resulting in a deft, compelling and accessible narrative that does not lack in rigour. As the question of origin becomes, increasingly, a tool of politics, Joseph’s book serves as a vital corrective to those who seek to simplify this most complex of subjects.
A triumph of ambition, clarity, and style, Early Indians was our unanimous choice as the winner for this year’s Shakti Bhatt First Book Prize.
Ruskin Bond was unable to participate in this year’s judging process.