Skip to main content

Distributed for Zubaan Books

Words to Win

The Making of a Modern Autobiography

The first full-length autobiography in Bengali, Amar Jiban (My Life) was written in the early nineteenth century by an upper-caste rural housewife named Rashundari Debi. Published in 1868 when she was 88 years old, the book is a fascinating snapshot of life for women in the nineteenth century. Debi, who gave birth to eleven children—her first was born when she was 18-years-old, the last when she was forty-one—ruminates on her very individual understanding of bhakti as well as the new times that were unfolding around her.

Offering a translation of major sections of this remarkable autobiography, Words to Win is a portrait of a woman who wants to compose a life of her own, wishes to present it in the public sphere, and eventually accomplishes just that. The words, in the end, win out. First published in 1999, the book is a must-read for anyone interested in nineteenth-century Indian history. The classic text is reissued here in a new paperback format.

318 pages | 5 x 8 | © 1999

Biography and Letters

History: Asian History

View all books from Seagull Books


“Tanika Sarkar’s dissection of the text—the autobiography of an upper-caste East Bengali widow from a family of landlords, who teaches herself to read and write in secrecy as it’s a taboo to do so—yields a cracking yarn of social history.”

Pothik Ghosh | Outlook

Table of Contents

1. Introduction
2. Her Times, Her Places
3. The Changing World of Religion
4. Strishiksha, or Education for Women
5. Women’s Writings
Amar Jiban (My Life)
6. On Re-reading the Text

Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press