ABC challenges have always made a bad impression on me for two very specific reasons: either the overused alphabets make me to choose from so many titles, I simply give up or the rare alphabets leave me wondering if any book with that letter even exists. I mean, staring at the letter Q for hours does make you wonder why it looks like a broken five o’clock and no one would want to use all their brain cells for such semi-pareidolia.
But when Books and Boba announced their annual challenge for readers to recommend Asian books, I knew I had to do it. After all, it’s Asian Heritage Month! [Reminder: You shouldn’t restrict reading and hyping Asian books to a single month, do it all year.]
And what better way to celebrate history, culture, and diversity than by sharing twenty-six books by authors of Asian descent, both diaspora and homeland. So here is a list of my recommendations, some I absolutely love and some I hope to read soon. It might be slightly dominated by South Asian titles but that’s because I truly want more people to find these desi titles!
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A Spark of White Fire by Sangu Mandanna is a SFF space opera inspired by the Hindu epic, Mahabharata, where gods, curses, and family intertwine. The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman follows four children who are forced to survive on the streets of Chennai in India as they navigate disability, hunger, and hope. Circus Folk & Village Freaks by Aparna Upadhyay Sanyal is a collection of poems that build eighteen twisted tales over a wide range of realistic settings, themes, and issues. Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara is a contemporary where three friends in a North Indian slum have to find their missing classmate.
Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal has a hilarious narration that empowers women amidst the desi moral police disregarding desires. The Family Tree by Sairish Hussain is a multi-generational tale of a British-Pakistani family navigating twenty five years of grief and love. Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust is a fantasy inspired by Persian mythology and culture where sad curses and sapphic love thrives. Hunted by the Sky by Tanaz Bhathena is a fantasy inspired by Indian and Persian mythology, giving readers a revengeful girl, royalty, and destiny rolling the dice.
If I Tell You The Truth by Jasmin Kaur is a mix of prose and poetry that explores immigration experience and the unneeded gender-restricted expectations. Jaipur Journals by Namita Gokhale is collection of short stories around lose love and regret, self-doubt and new beginnings set against the vibrant literature fest of the city. The Knockout by Sajni Patel shows an Indian-American athlete navigating her dreams while belonging to a community she isn’t attached to much. Last Tang Standing by Lauren Ho shines the spotlight on a successful Malaysian lawyer who continues to stand strong amidst the pressures put on women in an Asian family.
A Match Made in Mehendi by Nandini Bajpai converges a desi family’s legacy and a young girl’s matchmaking passion to demolish the high school hierarchy. The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani recounts a historical story where a young girl and her family is forced to leave their home following the India-Pakistan partition. The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water by Zen Cho journeys through a war-torn world alongsdie a found family that unpacks conversations around identity, spirituality, and purpose. The Perfect Escape by Suzanne Park is an endearing romantic comedy amidst zombies in an escape room adventure.
The Quilt by Ismat Chagutai is a classic Urdu short story exploring secret sapphic desires and sexual liberation in a world of subtle tyrannies. Red Pill by Hari Kunzru offers a complex narrative to point towards poetic romanticism of the nineteenth century, harsh history, and political philosophy. Star Daughter by Shveta Thakrar is a fantasy inspired by Hindu mythology where a celestial competition amongst the heavenly clouds commences. Timeless Tales from Marwar by Vijaydan Detha is a translated collection of oral folktales told and retold through multiple generations in Northwest India.
Upon A Burning Throne by Ashok K. Banker is an epic fantasy inspired by Mahabharata where an empire burns in political intrigue and complex family dynamics. Vagabonds by Hao Jingfang is a space science fiction where kids from an utopian Martian colony are sent to Earth, giving way to a narration that makes one question what home means. White Ivy by Susie Yang is a literary fiction that assimilates and, at the same time, upturns stereotypes through a flawed yet real main character. Xoxo by Axie Oh gives a secret romance in the glamorous world of K-pop through which female friendships, family, and the streets of Seoul are explored.
Your Heart is the Sea by Nikita Gill is a poetry collection that speaks on trauma, healing, and everything in between through stunning stanzas. Agent Zaiba Investigates by Annabelle Sami is a detective middle-grade series where a British-Pakistani girl, along with her best friend and little brother, solve crimes.
Recommend your favourite asian books in the comments! 💛