Date of Award
Master of Fine Arts
Creative Writing and Environment
K L Cook
In February 2002 India made international headlines when the words “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing” showed up across the news. More than two thousand Muslim citizens were murdered on the watch of a man named Narendra Modi in the westernmost state of India, Gujarat, where Modi was then governor. Later in 2014, Modi would be inaugurated as India’s 14th Prime Minister, and his party, the BJP, has enjoyed a solid majority mandate ever since. The author was sixteen years old, living in an old Muslim neighborhood of Ahmedabad, Gujarat’s biggest and busiest city. The Lucky Ones is the story of her family and families like hers, some who made it through the pogrom, some who didn’t. Grounded in facts, and in written and oral histories of family members, survivors, and activists still seeking justice today, The Lucky Ones is a memoir that documents the violence observed by the sixteen-year-old author outside her home, and the many forms of violence within. Her family, in many strange ways, represented India’s complex and sometimes contentious multiethnic and multicultural fabric.
A grandmother with a British hangover obsesses over her coiffed hair, bone-china, and doilies; a father battling religious persecution in his government job can’t quite grasp how to love his two daughters; a divorcé aunt who rides a scooter and cusses with abandon; a mother who paints flowers on every surface she can find to make up for the lack of joy in her marriage; and a grandfather who pines for his estranged family across the Indo-Pak border: these are some of the characters who inhabit the world of The Lucky Ones. Slowly her own quieter questions about her changing body, ideas of sisterhood and motherhood, and complicated female friendships and the men around her start to emerge. In 2002, the riots were known for their use of extreme sexual violence against women to annihilate, terrorize, and devastate the Muslim citizenry. What does it mean to be a young girl in these times, she contemplates, when all she wants is to give her school exams and find a way out? As the tragic events of the pogrom unfold, the book dives into the cultural genealogy of each family member, intermittently attempting to understand how they came to be in this moment of history. Interspersed with the personal narrative are journalistic accounts of victims of the gruesome violence and portraits of those who didn’t make it. Hierarchies of privilege, presumptions of gender roles, and addictions break down indoors just as a civil society outside tears itself apart. The Lucky Ones is the story of a young girl caught in a moment of her nation’s tumultuous history, trying to hold onto forgiveness and hope in a place where both are hard to come by.
Chowdhary, Zara, "The lucky ones: A genocide forgotten, a childhood remembered" (2020). Graduate Theses and Dissertations. 18107.
Available for download on Tuesday, September 01, 2026