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Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
May 2020
Print publication year:
Online ISBN:
Creative Commons:
Creative Common License - CC Creative Common License - BY Creative Common License - NC Creative Common License - ND
This content is Open Access and distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0

Book description

In this exploration of the meaning of home, Annie Zaidi reflects on the places in India from which she derives her sense of identity. She looks back on the now renamed city of her birth and the impossibility of belonging in the industrial township where she grew up. From her ancestral village, in a region notorious for its gangsters, to the mega-city where she now lives, Zaidi provides a nuanced perspective on forging a sense of belonging as a minority and a migrant in places where other communities consider you an outsider, and of the fragility of home left behind and changed beyond recognition. Zaidi is the 2019/ 2020 winner of the Nine Dots Prize for creative thinking that tackles contemporary social issues. This title is also available as Open Access.


‘A wonderful book. A profound journey through memory, language, land and culture. Beautifully written, soberly devised, exquisitely sensitive to nuance. It grapples with identity fractured, identity remade, identity reclaimed, and elevates memoir to a literary art form.'

‘Annie Zaidi's gripping memoir of her brave, persistent and poignant search for a place to call her own will ring many bells in many hearts. It is a timely account of the uprooting and alienation of a contemporary Indian woman who is one amongst a multitude of other minorities.'

Lord Meghnad Desai - Member of the House of Lords, and author of The Raisina Model: Indian Democracy at 70 and The Rediscovery of India

‘Zaidi resets the perspectives from which we understand and remember the experience of home. With the same intuitiveness that permeates her sensitive fictions, she uses the personal to lay bare the new universality of home, redefining it as an unsettled, turbulent condition that we must continuously contend, negotiate, and compromise with to our incremental loss.'

Musharraf A. Farooqi - author of Between Clay and Dust and The Merman and the Book of Power

'A compelling exploration of the intimate and political sides of an itinerant life. … (A) haunting evocation of belonging and dislocation in contemporary India.'

Ashish Ghadiali Source: The Observer

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Full book PDF
  • Bread, Cement, Cactus
    pp i-i
  • Frontispiece
    pp ii-ii
  • Bread, Cement, Cactus - Title page
    pp iii-iii
  • A Memoir of Belonging and Dislocation
  • Copyright page
    pp iv-iv
  • Contents
    pp v-v
  • About the Nine Dots Prize
    pp vi-viii
  • Chapter
    pp 1-3
  • 1 - Survivors shall be Prosecuted
    pp 4-21
  • 2 - Gur, Imarti, Goons
    pp 22-39
  • 3 - Listening to Mother
    pp 40-61
  • 4 - The Wandering Brother
    pp 62-79
  • 5 - Passport to Irrecoverable Places
    pp 80-91
  • 6 - Mixed Blood
    pp 92-111
  • 7 - Outsiders at Home
    pp 112-121
  • 8 - Grave Politics
    pp 122-135
  • 9 - Place Like Home
    pp 136-143
  • Acknowledgements
    pp 144-145
  • Notes
    pp 146-160


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