An Indefinite Sentence / No One Else

A Personal History of Outlawed Love and Sex

A New York Times Editors’ Choice Book

Shortlisted for the Crossword Jury Award and long-listed for the Tata Book of the Year Award

Shortlisted for a 2020 Lambda Literary Award

A revelatory memoir about sex, oppression, and the universal struggle for justice.

From his time as a child in 1960s India, Siddharth Dube knew that he was different. Reckoning with his femininity and sexuality—and his intellect—would send him on a lifelong journey of discovery: from Harvard classrooms to unsafe cruising sites; from ivory-tower think-tanks to shantytowns; from halls of power at the UN and World Bank to jail cells where sexual outcasts are brutalized.

Coming of age in the earliest days of AIDS, Dube was at the frontlines when that disease made rights for gay men and for sex workers a matter of basic survival, pushing to decriminalize same-sex relations and sex work in India, both similarly outlawed under laws dating back to British colonial rule. He became a trenchant critic of the United States’ imposition of its cruel anti-prostitution policies on developing countries—an effort legitimized by leading American feminists and would-be do-gooders—warning that this was a 21st century replay of the moralistic Victorian-era campaigns that had spawned endless persecution of countless women, men, and trans individuals the world over.

Profound, ferocious, and luminously written, An Indefinite Sentence is both a personal and political journey, weaving Dube’s own quest for love and self-respect with unforgettable portrayals of the struggles of some of the world’s most oppressed people, those reviled and cast out for their sexuality. Informed by a lifetime of scholarship and introspection, it is essential reading on the global debates over sexuality, gender expression, and of securing human rights and social justice in a world distorted by inequality and right-wing ascendancy.

Download full version of author’s notes.


An Indefinite Sentence | The Caravan

Are you a pansy? | The Caravan

The importance of being honest | Himal

Love & loathing in the US | DNA


The Enduring Harm of the West’s Moral Crusades | The Nation

The Strange, Long Afterlife of an Inhumane Colonial Law | The Nation

Sex Can Be Work | Asian Age

Why does India still punish adults for their choice of desire and love? | Times of India

Reviews for An Indefinite Sentence & No One Else

This searing memoir of a gay man from a country that criminalizes homosexuality is intertwined with a first-hand account of the struggle for basic human rights by gays as well as by women sex workers, two groups similarly outlawed in India. Dube unsparingly exposes a complex web of hypocrisy, corruption and brutality in this work of grave, vital importance.

Kiran Desai | Booker Prize Winner for The Inheritance of Loss

Heart-stopping…Although this is a personal memoir, it is also a memoir of work. Work helped Dube find himself. And work allowed him to live a life he could be proud of…Dube gives his readers the substantial gift of hope. The sentiment is, in fact, the spine of his memoir.

Sonia Faleiro | The New York Times

An extraordinary book that triumphs on many levels, personal and social … Above all, it is a sensual and passionate story about the search for love, the ‘endless flowing river in the cave of man’, that animates all our lives.

Sudhir Kakar | Psychoanalyst

A public health visionary gets personal with a powerful exploration of ‘the beguiling possibilities of gender beyond the conventional bipolarity of male and female, and the mysterious, limitless permutations of sexual desire.’…A gripping memoir about a gay man with feet in India and the U.S. as well as a book about how to put together a life.

Kirkus Reviews

Rich, thoughtful…exacting and moving in both its personal and political dimensions.

Supriya Nair | Mint

An unflinchingly honest account of private marginalization that opens up to a bigger world of public and communal discrimination against sexual minorities, Dube’s book is intransigent in its truth-telling, eye-opening in its revelations, and capacious in its compassion.

Neel Mukherjee | Booker Prize Finalist for The Lives of Others

A frank personal memoir of a sex life hedged round with stigma and legal constraint — in both India and the U. S. — Siddharth Dube’s An Indefinite Sentence is also a much larger book: an outraged story of how law and culture interfere with, but can potentially support, human lives. A globally recognized activist for the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS, Dube has channeled his personal struggle into committed advocacy on behalf of others — not only sexual minorities but also sex workers. Eloquent, fascinating, and profoundly moving.

Martha C. Nussbaum | Philosopher

An Indefinite Sentence bears witness to the long struggle against homophobia; it is also a vital, up to date record of gay rights and AIDS relief activism worldwide. Its rich perspective makes clear that anyone who still thinks criminalising sex work is an effective strategy to uphold human dignity needs to read this moving, impressive and necessary book.

Preti Taneja | Desmond Elliot Prize Winner for We That Are Young

Journalist-activist Siddharth Dube’s memoir…is both a personal and political journey. In recounting his own painful realisation that he is different, he provides a scathing indictment of the education system, particularly the tony Doon School, of the country’s policy on AIDS, the political establishment’s attitude to homosexuality and the deep-seated hypocrisy surrounding prostitution not just in India but also in the West…His ability to relate to others who are oppressed is moving and memorable.

Kaveree Bamzai | India Today

A discerning treatment of an otherwise unavailable social history…Dube gives us a full-blooded autobiography, tracing out the development of a coherent personhood and its bearings in the world; life shared as the honing of a perspective. Its structure is consummate.

Salim Yusufji | The Book Review