An Engaging Historical Engagement – Book Review of Threads of Peace by Uma Krishnaswami
An absorbing examination of how Mahatma Gandhi influenced Martin Luther King Jr., Threads of Peace – How Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. Changed the World is a riveting read. Besides the main story, Krishnaswami succeeds in drawing in the reader through sidebars that offer a glimpse into her own personal history connection to the narrative she unfolds, vignettes into some of the personalities involved as well as the sites and colours of the respective movements.
Why It Should Be Read
It’s a very ambitious attempt and to see it being pulled off with elan
is what makes it a gratifying read. It’s not just that various historical
periods and contexts are seamlessly woven together, but that in doing so,
Krishnaswami chooses to embellish her account with details, which is what gives
heft to the broad sweep that she has taken on. It’s in these details wherein
lie the book’s appeal as it unearths nuggets from history that may be unknown
to the general reader. The use of the Gandhi caps and the black child who was
the first to refuse to give up her bus seat are just two instances. Krishnaswami
also connects the past with contemporary movements like “Black Lives Matter” in the USA and others.
So, if you’re looking for a deep dive into the life and times of two
visionary men this is what should be read and re-read, especially given our
fractious time. This brings me to another charm of the book – that Krishnaswami
does not gloss over the differences that both Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.
had with those caught up in their movements as well as those who chose other
paths to the same goals. Nor does she undermine the contribution of the throngs
who supported them, marched along with them, and went to prison for it. It’s
always difficult when speaking of men who were giants of their time to not
resort to hagiography. Krishnaswami succeeds in getting the tone just right.
Kudos to her.
The book is also worth reading as an exemplar of citing sources (running
into eight pages!) with every historical information and quotes painstakingly
detailed as well as photo credits in their own separate sections. It’s a
sumptuous book with stunning high-resolution photographs and artwork that uses the imagery of the threads that
bind and divide and the doves of peace to stunning effect without getting
Information on the Book
Described as a book for Young Readers, it is an eye-opener for adults as
well. An e-book edition is available, but go for the hard copy to do better
justice to the wonderful layout. Somehow this will be lost in an e-book. Yes,
it is a hefty tome going over 300 pages, but it’s because of the pains the
author has taken, not only to showcase the story she sets out to write but also to add sections of Author’s Note, Acknowledgment, Bibliography as
well as a historical Timeline, Glossary and an Index along
with Photo Credits and Sources.
Threads of Peace is published by Simon &
Schuster, New York, USA under its imprint Atheneum Books. It’s described as a
Caitlyn Dlouhy book and I was delighted to learn that she is one of the editors
at the publishing house and her name gets pride of place on the books she selects.
In her own words, “The power of voice […] - voices that just plain shimmer and
hum, that press and push and experiment – is utterly irresistible.” You’ll find
it in this book in large measure. Go get it. I got my copy for INR 799 from
Kahani Tree. They ship worldwide.
This book review has been written by Madhuri Kamat, author of Flying with Grandpa, Bringing Back Grandpa, Burial of The Dead - Mystery in a Mohalla, and Yudi Yudi Dharmasya: Mahabharat - Through the Eyes of Kunti.