This year is giving us some of the best stories by south asian authors. From fantasy to contemporary and from science fiction to romance, these stories are all refreshingly different yet somehow connected with a desi thread. For all who want to read more south asian works, this list can be a great place to pick up titles that have either recently released, are releasing soon, or will be here in the later months to end the year of 2021 at its best note. Please note: this list isn’t an exhaustive database of any sort. ✨

N A V I G A T E

01. Sisters of the Snake by Sasha & Sarena Nanua
02. Rising Like A Storm by Tanaz Bhathena
03. When Tara Met Farah by Tara Pammi
04. City of the Plague God by Sarwat Chadda
05. Sister of the Bollywood Bride by Nandini Bajpai
06. The Chariot At Dusk by Swati Teerdhala
07. The Knockout by Sajni Patel
08. If I Tell You The Truth by Jasmin Kaur
09. Much Ado About Baseball by Rajani LaRocca
10. Where Hope Comes From by Nikita Gill
11. Make Up Break Up by Lily Menon
12. Counting Down With You by Tashie Bhuiyan
13. Rea and the Blood of the Nectar by Payal Doshi
14. Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating by Adiba Jaigirdar
15. That Thing About Bollywood by Supriya Kelkar
16. The Marvelous Mirza Girls by Sheba Karim
17. Unsettled by Reem Faruqi
18. Sparks Like Stars by Nadia Hashmi
19. Aru Shah and the City of Gold by Roshani Chokshi
20. We Free the Stars by Hafsah Faizal
21. A War of Swallowed Stars by Sangu Mandanna
22. Zara Hossain is Here by Sabina Khan
23. Rise of the Red Hand by Olivia Chadha
24. The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri
25. Red, White, and Whole by Rajani LaRocca
26. The Bad Muslim Discount by Syed M. Masood
27. The Dating Plan by Sara Desai
28. American Betiya by Anuradha D. Rajurkar
29. Accidentally Engaged by Farah Heron
30. Strong as Fire, Fierce as Flame by Supriya Kelkar
31. Radha and Jai’s Recipe for Romance by Nisha Sharma
33. Kiki Kallira Breaks a Kingdom by Sangu Mandanna
34. Serena Singh Flips the Script by Sonya Lalli
35. Force of Fire by Sayantani DasGupta
36. Hana Khan Carries On by Uzma Jalaluddin
37. Yusuf Azeem is Not A Hero by Saadia Faruqi
38. The Lady or the Lion by Aamna Qureshi
39. It All Comes Back to You by Farah Naz Rishi
40. The Descent of the Drowned by Ana Lal Din
41. The Shaadi Set-Up by Lillie Vale
42. Ahmed Aziz’s Epic Year by Nina Hamza
43. Incense and Sensibility by Sonali Dev
44. Misfit in Love by S.K. Ali
45. Bruised by Tanya Boteju
46. My Sweet Girl by Amanda Jayatissa
47. The Startup Wife by Tahmima Anam
48. Quiet in Her Bones by Nalini Singh
49. Gold Diggers by Sanjena Sathian
50. Ravage the Dark by Tara Sim
51. Journey to the Heart of the Abyss by London Shah
52. Fragile Monsters by Catherine Menon
53. Agent Zaiba Investigates: The Haunted House by Annabelle Sami
53. Then There Was You by Mona Shroff
54. First Comes Like by Alisha Rai
55. Love, Chai, and Other Four-Letter Words by Annika Sharma
56. A Dark Queen Rises by Ashok K. Banker
57. Of Princes and Promises by Sandhya Menon
58. Big Bad Wolf by Suleikha Snyder
59. The Wild Ones by Nafiza Azad
60. The Theft of Sunlight by Intisar Khanani
61. House of Glass Hearts by Leila Siddiqui
62. Machinehood by S.B. Divya
63. Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri
64. China Room by Sunjeev Sahota
65. The Bombay Prince by Sujata Massey
66. Amira and Hamza: The War to Save the Worlds by Samira Ahmed
67. Tahira in Bloom by Farah Heron
68. The Last Queen by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
69. Diana and the Underworld Odyssey by Aisha Saeed
70. Born Behind Bars by Padma Venkatraman
71. First Love, Take Two by Sajni Patel
72. Steeped in Stories by Mitali Perkins
73. How To Find What You’re Not Looking For by Veera Hiranandani
74. Blue Skinned Gods by S.J. Sindu
75. Trauma Queen by Esha Patel
76. Sway With Me by Syed M. Masood
77. The Mountain of Castaway Belongings by Saumya Roy
78. No Honour by Awais Khan
79. A Passage North by Anuk Arudpragasam
80. The Boy With Fire by Aparna Verma
81. Two Times Removed by Tiara Jade Chutkhan
82. Would I Lie to You? by Aliya Ali-Afzal
83. Rumaysa: A Fairytale by Radiya Hafiza
84. Antiman by Rajiv Mohabir

Sisters of the Snake by Sasha & Sarena Nanua

Identical twins separated at birth— Ria, a princess, and Rani, a thief—switch places to break out of their old lives and to sway the danger away from their Indian-inspired fantasy kingdom where deadly magic, hidden temples, and dark prophecies exist. First in a duology and a desi retelling of The Prince and the Pauper, the Indian-Canadian twins + author duo say this book is “a wish for hope” amidst dark forces.

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Rising Like A Storm by Tanaz Bhathena

A conclusion to The Wrath of Ambar duology, this YA fantasy resurges from the cliffhanger at the end of Hunted by the Sky to show a connection deeper than just some romantic sparks between Gul, the chosen girl with a prophesized birthmark, and Cavas, the boy who holds her soul. Bringing their magical forces together, a usurper queen must be overthrown in this sequel to “an epic adventure” — as praised by Tasha Suri, author of Empire of Sand.

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When Tara Met Farah by Tara Pammi

A sapphic NA romance between a grumpy math genius, Farah, and a foodie sunshine girl, Tara, this housemates-to-lovers story has chicken biryani, Bollywood beats, and kissing, through a deal where Tara would welcome Farah—a math genius and research intern—into the local Bollywood Drama & Dance Society to meet her dancing idol, and Farah would help ‘the masala life’ vlogger—Tara— pass her math course.

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City of the Plague God by Sarwat Chadda

A middle-grade adventure based on Mesopotamian mythology, this urban fantasy brings an immortal Muslim boy of NYC, born to Iraqi immigrants, at the center of an impending plague. With gods, goddesses, demons, nightmares, and family dynamics, this fiction inspired by the epic of Gilgamesh is the first middle-eastern book under the famous and trusted Rick Riordan Presents; and the newest by the author of the Ash Mistry Chronicles.

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Sister of the Bollywood Bride by Nandini Bajpai

Younger sister, Mini, knows her mother would’ve planned the best wedding for her elder sister, Vinnie, if she hadn’t passed away seven years ago so Mini is determined to still make this massive cultural milestone in their family the best. Amidst the preparations for an Indian wedding, a mysterious and smoking-hot Vir is Mini’s biggest distraction—oh, and a hurricane is headed their way. With themes of grief, traditions, and family, this YA romance will stand tall with Bajpai’s debut, A Match Made in Mehendi, as “a high-spirited novel”—as praised by Teen Vogue.

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The Chariot At Dusk by Swati Teerdhala

The third and final book in The Tiger at Midnight trilogy, this YA fantasy inspired by Indian history and Hindu mythology raises romantic stakes by driving down a path of enemies-to-lovers-to-enemies. With a louder projection of the Indian-American author’s aim to tackle the “tension between duty and self”, this conclusion also promises plot twists, ruling women, power imbalances, and a steamy chemistry. 

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The Knockout by Sajni Patel

An Indian-American Muay-Thai champion and aspiring Olympian— Kareena — is set to change people’s reaction to a sport too rough for a girl and distract herself from the growing feelings for the perfect Indian boy — Amit — all the while yearning to be accepted in a community she doesn’t feel enough for. Newest by the author who creates stories around strong women, this YA contemporary is said to be a “true knockout of a book” by Marissa Meyer, author of The Renegades Trilogy.

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If I Tell You The Truth by Jasmin Kaur

The fear of living undocumented and the pain of being pregnant after a sexual assault make up a Punjabi Sikh woman’s — Kiran —  journey to and life in Canada, while her daughter — Sahaara — is desperate to protect her mother from deportation, eighteen years later. Secrets are revealed and a child’s encouragement for her mother to speak up against the assaulter creates this work of prose, poetry, and illustrations that “invites much-needed conversation” —as praised by Jasmine Warga, author of Other Words for Home.

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Much Ado About Baseball by Rajani LaRocca

This companion novel to the middle–grade contemporary fantasy, Midsummer’s Mayhem [a Kirkus Best Book of 2019], stays true to the inclusion of yummy snacks but also adds math and baseball to the magical potion. Math competition rivals—Trish and Ben—is on the same baseball team, a team not so great, and once they start solving the math puzzles together while munching on some snacks from Salt Shaker, the team’s luck changes for good. 

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Where Hope Comes From by Nikita Gill

Said to be the most personal collection yet and penned during the time of global lockdown due to a pandemic, the newest by star poet and Instagram sensation— Nikita Gill—will explore trauma, mental health, and pain as a journey from the five stages of grief to five stages of hope is travelled. Accompanied with beautiful line drawings illustrated by the poet herself, this collection can guide through a process to heal.

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Make Up Break Up by Lily Menon

After a summer fling in Las Vegas, two rival app developers— Annika and Hudson —find themselves in neighboring offices and are competing in a prestigious epic investment pitch. The first adult romance by bestselling author Sandhya Menon (writing under her pen name), is expected to have the signature humor and fun, in addition to some steaminess, while making everyone cheer for a woman in tech and swoon over the ‘second chance at love’ trope.

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Counting Down With You by Tashie Bhuiyan

A reserved Bangladeshi-American teen, Karina, is counting down twenty-eight days after agreeing to fake date the school’s resident bad boy, Ace, and what unravels is family dynamics, cultural differences, and the want to make one month last a lifetime. An awaited debut romance, this witty, romantic, and thoughtful YA contemporary promises authenticity and “tremendous compassion” — as praised by Rachel Lynn Solomon, author of Today Tonight Tomorrow.

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Rea and the Blood of the Nectar by Payal Doshi

Set in the beautiful Indian city of Darjeeling, a twelve-year-old girl—Rea— is pulled into a secret quest and an exciting adventure to find her missing twin—Rohan—who is nowhere to be found. A middle-grade fantasy promising to explore family, culture, and discovering oneself in the midst of magic and evil creatures, this debut is said to be a “gateway into pure imagination” by Kacen Callender, author of Queen of the Conquered.

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Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating by Adiba Jaigirdar

The easy-going and popular girl at school—Hani—just came out as bisexual but her friends are quick to invalidate her identity; a quick lie about being in a relationship with—Ishu—the academic overachiever, unfurls into a YA rom-com where two Bengali girls: Bangladeshi-Irish Hani & Indian-Irish Ishu develop feelings for each other. The fake dating trope meets LGBT+ in this highly anticipated release after the excellent debut through The Henna Wars.

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That Thing About Bollywood by Supriya Kelkar

With her parents almost separating and her younger brother constantly crying with the impending sadness, an Indian-American girl—Sonali—can’t help but wonder if things can turn upside down. And they do when she suddenly breaks into a Bollywood song-and-dance performance, and finds everyone around her bursting into such routines too. A lot is expected from the author whose last release, American as Paneer Pie, was all about “finding an empowered voice” —as reviewed by Brown Girl Magazine.

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The Marvelous Mirza Girls by Sheba Karim

A desi girl of the diaspora—Noreen—takes a gap year and flies to New Delhi in hopes of letting the city take away her grief, ends up finding her joyful voice through stand-up comedy and morphing a friendship with the handsome boy into a real romance. All the while, she navigates family expectations, cultural clashes, and the city’s issues with help of her mother, and a mix of humor and heart, in this contemporary by the author of Mariam Sharma Hits the Road [NPR Best Book].

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Unsettled by Reem Faruqi

A hopeful immigration story of Nurah and her family moving from Karachi, Pakistan to America, and the tale of finding one’s place at the age of thirteen. A novel in verse, it promises a genuine, funny, and strong female lead coming of age amidst the timely issues of prejudice and discussions building everyone’s emotional learning. Middle grade debut by the award-winning author of Lailah’s Lunchbox, it’s said to be lightly inspired by one’s own life too.

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Sparks Like Stars by Nadia Hashmi

An Afghan-American woman returns to Kabul to learn the truth about a tragedy that destroyed everything she once had at the age of ten. Raised by an American diplomat who adopted her after the assassination of her entire family, she sees someone from her past years later and a tale commences through themes of family, loss, and home. The bestselling author calls it an exploration of “the turning point in a story with as little whitewashing of history as possible”.

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Aru Shah and the City of Gold by Roshani Chokshi

The fourth in the Pandava Quintent, this middle-grade fantasy inspired by Hindu mythology is raising the stakes with the world on the brink of a war between asuras and devas. Being the penultimate installment in a widely loved series, it’s filled with wondrous magic, manipulative gods, and an adventure made better with friendship. A New York Times bestselling series, nothing less than fun, flaws, and girl power is being expected.

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We Free the Stars by Hafsah Faizal

The conclusion to the Sands of Arawiya duology, this YA fantasy set in an ancient Arabian world will return with the kingdom’s darkest threat that the zumra is plotting to overthrow, but Zafira and Nasir’s darkness within is humming too and they’re falling in love. In addition to the lush world, unleashed chaos, found companionship, and drastic sacrifices, this sequel to the New York Times bestselling We Hunt the Flame is sure to be beautifully written.

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A War of Swallowed Stars by Sangu Mandanna

Final book in The Celestial Trilogy, this perfect fusion of science fiction and fantasy immersed in political power play, family dynamics, and an impending war is bound to bring the gods and myths inspired by the epic Mahabharata to a gripping conclusion. An exiled prince, a vanished princess, and a ravenous beast will unleash the ultimate chaos in this space fiction conclusion even S. A. Chakraborty, author of The City of Brass, ‘can’t wait for’.

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Zara Hossain is Here by Sabina Khan

A seventeen year old Pakistani immigrant, Zara, lives in Texas with her family and attempts to lay low so as to not jeopardize her family’s dependent visa status while they await their green card approval. But one day, the star football player at her school leaves a threatening note in her locker and gets suspended, and what follow in the name of revenge is racist graffiti, house vandalizing, and a violent crime. A timely story by the author of The Love and Lies of Rukhsana Ali — said to be “heart-wrenching yet hopeful” by Samira Ahmed.

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Rise of the Red Hand by Olivia Chadha

A dystopian South Asia is split in two and the underprivileged are expected to suffer the horrendous effects of climate change while the Uplanders live in a climate-controlled biodome. But a fight against the technocratic government is unfolding and the streetrat turned revolutionary must come together with a politician’s hacker son to take down the powerful system built on destruction — while a pandemic threatens to sweep the city.

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The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri

A vengeful, captive princess — Malini — and a servant in possession of forbidden magic — Priya — become unexpected allies when the former needs to steal her throne and the latter needs to find her family, but together they need to save this kingdom from a tyrant king. The newest by award-winning author of Empire of Sand, this start to an epic fantasy trilogy promises powerful women, a slow-burn f/f romance, and a world inspired by the history and epics of India..

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Red, White, and Whole by Rajani LaRocca

A young Indian-American girl — Reha — feels caught between two cultures, and is determined to be the perfect daughter; even if it means becoming a doctor while not being able to stomach the sight of blood. But when she finds out that her mother is diagnosed with leukemia, her life turns upside down. A heartbreaking novel in verse, this coming of age story is said to be about “belonging, love, devastating loss” by Veera Hiranandini, author of The Night Diary.

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The Bad Muslim Discount by Syed M. Masood

A Pakistani boy’s family decides to start their life over in California in the 1990s and at the same time, an Iraqi girl us suffocating in a war-torn area and a grief-stricken father decides to take a far more dangerous path to America. Two different narratives collide and create an irreverent, dramatic, and often hilarious graphic novel about faith, inclusivity, and immigration; the sophomore title by author of More Than Just A Pretty Face.

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The Dating Plan by Sara Desai

An Indian-Canadian software engineer has entered that age when every aunty around her is expecting her to get married, and when her childhood crush — an Irish venture capitalist — enters with a need to marry as part of an inheritance contingency, the best plan is to become fake fiancés. But when abandonment issues, a dysfunctional family, and years of holding the anger of a teenage heartbreak are added to the mix, emotions rise and nothing is just a plan.

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American Betiya by Anuradha D. Rajurkar

An Indian-American girl is struggling with her cross-cultural life because everyone’s expectations and her passions don’t always align, and with the slow first-love exploration of a teenage interracial romance, this young adult contemporary brings important themes around self-love, shattering stereotypes, and owning one’s identity while “overflowing with honesty, and [being] stunningly beautiful” — as praised by Akemi Dawn Bowman, author of Starfish.

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Accidentally Engaged by Farah Heron

A desi woman in her thirties and an eligible bachelor posing as a marriage prospect are thrown in neighbouring apartments of a building in Toronto, through a happenstance set up by desi parents adamant on finding a perfect Muslim man for their daughter. A cooking competition, family dynamics, and many cultural expectations come together in this adult rom-com that’s said to be “a must-read” by Tiff Marcelo, author of The Key to Happily Ever After.

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Strong as Fire, Fierce as Flame by Supriya Kelkar

A twelve-year-old Indian girl escapes an act of throwing herself on her husband’s funeral pyre and ends up as a servant to a British general of East India Company. The year is 1857 and with a rebellion against the colonizers spreads, she has to choose between relative safety and bravely standing up. A new historical fiction from the New Vision Award winner for Ahimsa, it’ll show “the true brutality of colonization” — as said by the author herself.

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Radha and Jai’s Recipe for Romance by Nisha Sharma

Once passionate about being a great Kathak dancer but now determined to leave performing in the past, Radha wants to reinvent herself from scratch. But when Jai, the overachiever whose family can’t afford medical school, wants to make the most out of high school and is the captain of the Bollywood Beats dance team, there’s a rhythm waiting to be tested. Highly praised by Julie Murphy, author of Dumplin’, as a rom-com “full of heart, flavor, and just enough heat”.

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Kiki Kallira Breaks a Kingdom by Sangu Mandanna

The Indian mythological creatures, that Kiki doodled from the tales her mother has told over years, spring to life and so does a rich fantasy-adventure that acknowledges a young girl’s growing anxiety and the need for her to overcome fear because an ancient deity is seeking to destroy the real world. Set in the magical city of Mysore, this middle-grade “weaves the healing power of art and imagination” — as praised by Veera Hiranandani, author of The Night Diary.

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Serena Singh Flips the Script by Sonya Lalli

A smart and confident woman in her thirties doesn’t care for her relatives’ reactions to her being single but after a meeting with her new co-worker, she can’t help but wonder about independence, happiness, and identity. Said to be “equal parts relatable and entertaining” by Saumya Dave, author of Well-Behaved Indian Women, this women’s fiction is set to explore modern relationships through a strong, complex, and determined female character. 

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Force of Fire by Sayantani DasGupta

With a lineage of rakkhosh resistors — demons working to overthrow the oppressors and take back their rights — Pinki is determined to maintain her status as the fiercest demon in class but she’s still not able to control her fire breathing. When called for help by Sesha, the charming son of the Serpentine Governor, she has to pretend to be human, survive a family reunion, and protect someone in this middle-grade fantasy for her to finally be able to control her powers.

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Hana Khan Carries On by Uzma Jalaluddin

Hana, in her twenties, wants to tell stories and the radio internship is a stepping stone to this passion but when her mother’s halal restaurant in Toronto is about to be closed, she has to shift her focus. And the new gourmet halal place makes it worse; though, the proprietor — Aydin — does build a friendship with Hana. Following a hate crime against both, this rom-com strikes a balance with serious political commentary and an exploration of community.

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Yusuf Azeem is Not A Hero by Saadia Faruqi

The regional robotics competition in Texas is something Yusuf has long waited to participate in, but when the year marks the twentieth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, he and his family are on edge. Plus, Yusuf has read his uncle’s journal from that time and understands the fear then. Following hate comments from certain people in his small town, he realizes how the anger still persists and has to find the courage to stand up to bullies with love and justice.

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The Lady or the Lion by Aamna Qureshi

A crown princess, Durkhani Miangul, will do anything to protect her people but when she’s bound to prove her grandfather’s innocence of a deadly attack, she has to make the foreigner — Ambassador Asfandyar Afridi — her ally to expose the true wrongdoers and has to avoid falling for him. This YA fantasy brings forbidden romance, court intrigue, and Muslim characters to a Pakistan-inspired world while a mysterious illness and imperialists raise tension.

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It All Comes Back to You by Farah Naz Rishi

Kiran Noorani and Deen Malik had dates four years ago, but it all ended when Deen ghosted Kiran with no explanation. Now they come face to face when their siblings start dating. The feelings might be resurfacing but their walls are high up as Kiran seeks answers and Deen is determined to hide the truth in this irresistible romance between two Muslim characters by a Pakistani-American author whose promising debut, I Hope You Get This Message, left many speechless.

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The Descent of the Drowned by Ana Lal Din

Roma is a sacred slave of a goddess and Leviathan is the bastard son of an immortal tyrant. Roma wants freedom but deserters are hunted and hanged; Leviathan needs to reclaim his soul after he executes in his father’s name as one of the deadliest soldiers and faces judgment from his mother’s people. Their destinies interlock while a doom waits in this colonized Indo-Persian world — “a story about humanity”, as said by the Danish-Pakistani author.

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The Shaadi Set-Up by Lillie Vale

High school sweethearts until the day Milan Rao broke Rita Chitniss’ heart. Six years later, Milan has re-entered her life, but only to seek her furniture-restoration business expertise for this one house that’s difficult to sell. Rita agrees to help and is also set to prove that she’s completely over him by showing her boyfriend, Neil, as her perfect match — but the desi matchmaking site doesn’t think so. A lovers-to-enemies-to-lovers is ready to unfold in this sophomore novel by the author of Small Town Hearts..

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Ahmed Aziz’s Epic Year by Nina Hamza

Being the only brown-skinned student in a sea of white after moving across states because his dad got sick certainly makes his year epic bad, but when he actually reads three assigned books for his English class and begins investigating his family history, he finds some comfort in this new place while learning about the uncle he never knew — his dad’s brother who died young. Through a Muslim tween’s perspective, this middle grade debut is a celebration of social-emotional learning.

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Incense and Sensibility by Sonali Dev

Yash Raje believes his control on feelings has made him California’s first Indian gubernatorial candidate but when a hateful incident at a rally critically injures his friend, he blacks out with panic and his family is desperate to keep it away from the media. India Dashwood, a stress management coach and his sister’s best friend, is here to help but when the brief passion from one magical night ten years ago is rekindling, this Jane Austen retelling will serve romance, drama, emotions, and humour.

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Misfit in Love by S.K. Ali

Janna hopes her brother’s wedding will be the perfect start to her own summer of love but Nuah the sweet, constant boy is treating her different, and with a dream Haytham and brooding Layth entering the scene, Janna is more confused about what her misfit heart really wants. In the midst of a big desi Muslim wedding, the drama unfolds and so does important conversations around contemporary issues — all the while Janna’s heart is pulled in three directions in this sequel to Saints and Misfits.

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Bruised by Tanya Boteju

Roller derby’s confusing rules and teamwork requirements might have pushed away Daya Weijesinghe — a teen girl whose parents died in an accident she survived — but the chances to be bruised are countless and that’s exactly what Daya thinks she needs to keep her emotional pain at bay. As Daya immerses herself in the brutal yet beautiful world of roller derby, she navigates first love, identity, and grief in this coming-of-age-story by the author of Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens.

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My Sweet Girl by Amanda Jayatissa

Paloma was adopted from a Sri Lankan orphanage and has since then thought her life in America would be perfect, but when her darkest secret is discovered by the man she sublet the second room in her overpriced apartment to — Arun, who recently moved from India — and when she finds him face down in a pool of blood, she is terrified. Now she must flee the apartment and erase any evidence of Arun existing in the first place, otherwise her desperate actions from years ago might unravel.

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The Startup Wife by Tahmima Anam

Asha is poised to revolutionize artificial intelligence when her high school crush, Cyrus, inspires her to write a new algorithm. Before she knows it, they’re married and gone to work at a tech incubator called Utopia. The platform creates a sensation and one would wonder if their marriage can survive the pressures of sudden fame or if Asha will be overshadowed by the man everyone is calling the new messiah. This funny feminist look at startup culture by a British-Bangladeshi author will offer real insight into “the tangled relationship between faith and technology” — as praised by Rumaan Alam, author of Leave the World Behind.

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Quiet in Her Bones by Nalini Singh

When socialite Meera Rai’s bones turn up in the forest that surrounds her elite neighborhood, a haven of privilege and secrets, her son — Aarav — is determined to discover the ugly truth hiding beneath the moneyed elegance. But the rich and those whose job it is to make their lives easier are not ready for the murderous secrets about to crawl out of the dark. Even the dead aren’t allowed to break the rules in this gripping thriller set in New Zealand’s South Island wilderness.

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Gold Diggers by Sanjena Sathian

Neil Narayan is a floundering second-generation teenager in Atlanta suburbs. His neighbor, Anita Dayal, and her mother are brewing an ancient alchemical potion from stolen gold, and Anita needs a little boost to get into Harvard using this magical potion. But Neil needs a whole lot more and joins this plot that spirals into a tragedy. Ten years later, they reunite and must pull off one last heist to save Anita’s mother in this captivating debut around magical realism and social satire.

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Ravage the Dark by Tara Sim

Survival isn’t enough for Amaya Chandra anymore because people are now counting on her for protection, for leadership, for vengeance. Cayo Mercado has lost everything and has no choice but to join Amaya in uncovering the mystery of the counterfeit currency. Through glittering galas, dazzling trickery, and thrilling heists, she’s determined to track down the man who betrayed her in this sequel to Scavenge the Stars.

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Journey to the Heart of the Abyss by London Shah

Leyla McQueen has finally achieved what she intended in the first installment, The Light at the Bottom of the World, but it came to her at a terrible cost. She must now risk illegal travel through uncharted waters in her quest for the truth, and that gets even more difficult when she is labeled as the nation’s number on enemy. This sequel to a thrilling futuristic mystery starring a British Muslim protagonist of Afghan descent is called “a stand-out, must-read book” by S.K. Ali, author of Love from A to Z.

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Fragile Monsters by Catherine Menon

A daughter-grandmother relationship is explored in this story set between World War 2 and contemporary Malaysia where Durga’s visit to her grandmother, Mary, untangles the truth from myth of their family’s past — about Durga’s mother, about the family members who disappeared during the war, and the childhood tragedy that still haunts her. This debut novel about an Indian-Malaysian family during the Japanese occupation is inspired by the “bedtime stories of [the author’s] father”.

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Agent Zaiba Investigates: The Haunted House by Annabelle Sami

A new family moves to the village and Zaiba is intrigued about the strange happenings in their home — things go missing, objects are smashed and unfriendly messages on the walls. While most believe the house to be haunted, Zaiba and her team are convinced that the culprit is alive. The third in a fun, fresh, and exciting middle-grade detective series, where a young British-Pakistani girl solves crimes with her little brother and best friend.

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Then There Was You by Mona Shroff

Helicopter medic, Daniel Bliant, is always cool under pressure but when he answers an emergency call at Phil’s Bar and finds the bartender to be Annika Mehta — that one beautiful women he saw in his ER months ago and hasn’t been able to stop thinking about — the calmness dissipates. Annika is still reeling from a bad breakup and knows she doesn’t need Daniel. Daniel knows he should forget her too. But this tear-jerker of a romance continues to follow two souls in need of healing.

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First Comes Like by Alisha Rai

Beauty influencer Jia Ahmed is set to conquer the internet and finally prove herself to her big opinionated family. No time for men but when an international superstar slips into her DMs, Jia quickly falls for Dev Naik’s poetic texts. She wants to meet him but he has no idea who she is. Dev is accustomed to stalkers as the son of a powerful Bollywood family, but when a strange woman accuses him of wooing her online, it’s something new. The catfishing mystery and an unfortunate photo leak leads to a single solution: fake dating for public relations.

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Love, Chai, and Other Four-Letter Words by Annika Sharma

Kiran Mathur has decided to not fall for anyone who might disappoint her parents, especially after her sister’s marriage in India nearly destroyed Kiran’s family. But when her new neighbor, Nash Hawthorne — a dedicated doctor who prefers being along — begins spending time with her, love feels like a risk for them both. The first in a not-to-read-in-order series of four friends of Indian heritage navigating adulthood and heartbreaks in New York City.

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A Dark Queen Rises by Ashok K. Banker

The epic fantasy world of the Burnt Empire returns in this sequel where Queen Aqreen of Aquila flees across the Red Desert to keep her daughter away from the Burning Throne of Hastinaga. But it might take several years to reach the queendom of Reygar, the safe harbor. Fierce battles must be fought as Jarsun — Aqreen’s husband — is relentless and the other players in this great game of demigods and mortals are pursuing their own agenda. Inspired by Mahabharata, this story is all about a quest to protect the innocent and bring down tyrants.

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Of Princes and Promises by Sandhya Menon

Caterina is determined to show she’s still the queen of St. Rosetta’s Academy despite being cheated on, and her perfect date for the upcoming gala cannot be another superficial St. R’s boy. Rahul Chopra has loved Caterina for years so when she gives him a mysterious gel with powers to transform, he’s ready. But the new — handsome and charming — Rahul must choose between his new social standing and his old persona. This second installment in a series set in an elite boarding school is bringing a romantic twist to The Frog Prince.

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Big Bad Wolf by Suleikha Snyder

Joe Peluso took out those Russian mobsters because they were responsible for his foster brother’s death, but now he has Brooklyn’s Russian mafia — controlled by ruthless bear shifters — behind him and no friends. He only knows darkness but meeting Neha Ahluwalia, a lawyer and psychologist who is crafting a solid defense for him, has made him feel human for the first time in forever. Soon they both are on the run – from monsters and from their own traitorous hearts.

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The Wild Ones by Nafiza Azad

Paheli escapes the man her mother had sold her to and runs headlong into a boy who disappears after tossing a box of stars to her. With these stars, Paheli can now access the Between — a place of magic and mystery — but not alone: she collects girls like herself to travel the world and help or save others from fates they suffered. When the boy whose magic saved them all is in danger, they are no longer safe and free. But that’s a fate they refuse to accept in this thrilling feminist fantasy by the author of The Candle and the Flame.

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The Theft of Sunlight by Intisar Khanani

Set in the same world of Thorn, this start to a new duology follows Rae, a village girl with disability who goes on to seek answers from the royal court when children continue to disappear from across Menaiya. But the court has its own surprises and when she discovers an ally in the foreign princess who then recruits Rae as an attendant she looks to the dark city streets for answers. When a street thief unexpectedly helps her, more secrets are unraveled in this fantasy that approaches important issues too.

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House of Glass Hearts by Leila Siddiqui

Maera’s older brother disappeared from her naana’s house in Karachi, Pakistan ten years ago, and when her grandfather’s greenhouse appears in her backyard from thousands of miles away after his demise, Maera is forced to confront the horrors of his past. To find out what happened to her brother, she must face the keepers of her family’s secrets: the monsters that live inside this greenhouse. Through a narration that switches between colonial India and present-day America, this debut explores the past that shapes the lives of South Asians around the world.

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Machinehood by S.B. Divya

Welga, an executive bodyguard and ex-special forces, is about to retire early when her client is killed in front of her. In the year 2095, humanity is entirely dependent on pills, which also allow humans to compete with artificial intelligence in the increasingly competitive gig economy. So when a new and mysterious terrorist group —The Machinehood that consists of part-human part-machine operatives— simultaneously attacks several major pill funders and issue an ultimatum, global panic ensues in this thrilling science-fiction from the Hugo Award nominee.

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Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri

A woman wavers between stasis and movement, between the need to belong and the refusal to form lasting ties. Through the city she calls home, on the sidewalks, from the pool she frequents to the train station that sometimes leads her to her mother, she moves in a desperate solitude after her father’s untimely death. In addition to colleagues and friends, a shadow also exists —who both consoles and unsettles her. Written in Italian and translated into English, this literary fiction by the Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Lowland is set to cross barriers. 

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China Room by Sunjeev Sahota

Mehar is a young bride in rural 1929 Punjab and she is trying to discover the identity of her new husband from beneath her veil. She spends her days working hard in the family’s “china room”, sequestered from contact with men —except when she is summoned to a darkened chamber at night. Spiraling around Mehar’s story, a young man —the son of an immigrant shopkeeper in small town England— arrives at his uncle’s house in Punjab in the summer of 1999, hoping to shake an addiction, and soon discovers an abandoned china room locked and barred.

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The Bombay Prince by Sujata Massey

It’s November 1921 and Prince of Wales, the future rules of India, is arriving in Bombay to begin a four-month tour. It’s not surprising to see a local unrest over the royal arrival spiral into riots, but Perveen Mistry —India’s only female lawyer is horrified by the death of Freny, a female Parsi student who falls from the second-floor gallery right when the prince’s procession is passing her college. Perveen is compelled to bring justice just as Bombay’s streets erupt in riots against the colonial rule in this third installment to a historical mystery series.

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Amira and Hamza: The War to Save the Worlds by Samira Ahmed

On the day of a rare lunar eclipse, twelve-year-old Amira and her little brother, Hamza, can’t stop bickering while attending a special exhibit on medieval Islamic astronomy. Wowed by the amazing gadgets, Amira watches in horror as Hamza grabs a forbidden Box of the Moon and it springs to life. Suddenly, day turns to night and everyone around them falls under a sleep spell. A chunk of the moon is also broken and hurtling toward them at lightning speed. The two must, according to the Jinn, journey to the mystical land of Qaf and end a civil war to save the world.

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Tahira in Bloom by Farah Heron

Aspiring designer Tahira doesn’t land her coveted fashion internship so her parents’ plan B comes to play: she will work in her aunt’s boutique in a small town in Ontario. It shouldn’t be that bad but she just can’t deal with the rude, totally obsessive garden-nerd next door, Rowan. It’s only more irritating when she needs his help to win the flower arranging contest —an event that carries clout in NYC. Surprisingly, Rowan is more than iconic shirts and soil, and in the middle of nowhere, Tahira is beginning to bloom in this young adult contemporary.

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The Last Queen by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Daughter of the royal kennel keeper, the beautiful Jindan Kaur went on to become Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s youngest and last queen; his favorite. When her six-year-old son unexpectedly inherited the throne, she dedicated herself to protecting her son’s heritage. She distrusted the British and fought hard to not let them annex Punjab. Defying tradition, she cast aside the veil and addresses her Khalsa troops. Feared by the colonial powers, she was robbed of everything and imprisoned; as recounted in this cautionary tale and powerful parable.

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Diana and the Underworld Odyssey by Aisha Saeed

Diana, after thwarting an attempt to defeat the Amazons for good, has finally been granted permission to start training as a warrior. But goddess Artemis brings news that children all over are disappearing without a trace —and Diana is the only one who can be trusted to save them. Even if she must confront Hades, Persephone, and all of the undead souls and mythical creatures of the Underworld, young Wonder Woman is determined to save the missing children as she returns with another breathtaking adventure after Diana and the Island of No Return.

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Born Behind Bars by Padma Venkatraman

Kabir has been in jail since the day he was born because his mother is serving time for a crime she didn’t commit. He’s never met his dad and the only place he feels the least bit free is in the classroom. One day, after he’s announced as too old to stay, Kabir gets handed over to a long-lost uncle who turns out to be a fraud. Kabir runs away. Fortunately, he befriends Rani, another street kid and both begin to navigate the city of Chennai, India in a world that cares little for homeless, low caste children — from the award-winning author of The Bridge Home.

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First Love, Take Two by Sajni Patel

Between the stress of her residency and managing her traditional family, Preeti’s anxiety is through the roof. Relationships and love aren’t even an option. Fortunately, she has finally found a new place to stay…only to discover that her new roommate is her ex. Preeti never quite got over Daniel Thompson —the super-hot, amazing cook— and if it weren’t for their families, there might have been a happily ever after. And now, when the man of her dreams is sleeping mere feet away, she needs to keep herself in check. But a second chance waits. 

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Steeped in Stories by Mitali Perkins

Award-winning children’s author, Mitali, grew up steeped in stories escaping into her books on the fire escape of an apartment building and later, finding solace in them as she navigated between the cultures of her suburban California school and her Bengali heritage at home. Blending personal narrative and accessible literary criticism, Perkins delves into novels by literary “uncles” and “aunts” that illuminate the abundant life we still desire. It is never too late to discover that transformative spark of hope that children’s classics can ignite within us.

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How To Find What You’re Not Looking For by Veera Hiranandani

Change has become the only constant in twelve-year-old Ariel’s life. Her family’s Jewish bakery runs into financial trouble and her older sister has eloped with a young man from India following the Supreme Court decision —the 1967 Loving v. Virginia decision— that strikes down laws banning interracial marriage. As she’s forced to grapple with both her family’s prejudice and the anti-Semitism she experiences, she defines her own beliefs in this historical fiction from a Newbery Honor-winning author of The Night Diary.

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Blue Skinned Gods by S.J. Sindu

In Tamil Nadu, India, a boy is born with blue skin. When young Kalki is believed to be the tenth human incarnation of a Hindu god, his family sets up an ashram and the family makes a living off of the pilgrims who seek the child’s blessings and miracles. Over the next decade, as the story of his family unravels, his relationship to everyone threatens to fall apart. Traveling from the ashrams of India to the underground rock scene of New York City, this literary fiction explores ethnic, gender, and sexual identities and the need for belief in a fractured world.

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Trauma Queen by Esha Patel

Roma is an extremely successful, rich, famous global concierge doctor with a brand of her own and a monopoly on medicine. And she’s got an ego the size of an overinflated SUV tire. When patients begin to complain about this and the low quality of care, there’s only one thing left to do —exile her to an emergency department in Las Vegas at night. Khalil is assigned to teach her what it means to be a doctor, and now Roma has an exile to survive while she’s determined to not change her ways. But the emergency room is a miraculous place and hope prevails.

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Sway With Me by Syed M. Masood

Arsalan will be completely alone in the world, except for his abusive father, after his 100-year-old great grandfather dies. So he turns to Beenish, the step-daughter of a prominent matchmaker, to find him a future life partner. But Beenish is here with a request in return: Arsalan has to help her ruin her older sister’s wedding with a spectacular dance she’s been forbidden to perform. The two’s attitudes clash every minute as they find themselves getting closer and closer in this young adult, hilarious and sweet romantic-comedy.

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The Mountain of Castaway Belongings by Saumya Roy

All of Mumbai’s memories and possessions come to die at the Deonar garbage mountains at the city’s outskirts. Among the piles of discarded items lives a small, forgotten community of ragpickers —where Farzana, a girl’s story is told through superstition and magical realism as it unfolds amidst spirits of things and is all about finding hope and beauty in this desolate landscape. When the mountains catch fire and the management is trying to close the dumping grounds, the people of Deonar are more vulnerable than ever in this modern parable.

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No Honour by Awais Khan

In sixteen-year-old Abida’s small Pakistani village, there are age-old rules to live by and her family’s honor to protect. But her spirit is defiant; she yearns to make a home with the man she loves. When Abida faces the same fate as other young girls who have chosen unacceptable alliances —public death— her devoted father, Jamil, helps her run away to Lahore. With Jamil then going to Lahore in search of Abida, father and daughter are caught in a world of prejudices from which they many never escape.

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A Passage North by Anuk Arudpragasam

Krishan gets a telephone call informing him that his grandmother’s caretaker, Rani, has been found dead at the bottom of a well in her village. The news arrives right when an email from Anjum —an impassioned yet aloof activist Krishan fell in love with years before while living in Delhi. As he makes the journey by train from Colombo, Sri Lanka, into the war-torn Northern Province of the country, he speaks of longing, loss, and legacy of a thirty-year civil war in this newest novel by the award-winning author of The Story of a Brief Marriage.

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The Boy With Fire by Aparna Verma

Yassen is the most notorious assassin of Arohassin until a horrible accident pushes him to run from authorities and his former employer. So when he’s offered a deal: defend the heir of Raven from the Arohassin and earn his freedom in return, there’s no chance to refuse. Elena prepares to ascend the throne but she lacks one thing: the ability to hold Fire. Leo is not ready to give up the crown but when an ancient prophecy threatens to undo his lifetime of work, he wages war on the heavens to protect his legacy —in this Indian-inspired epic fantasy debut.

Buy the book: Amazon US | Bookshop UK | Amazon IN [links n/a yet]

Two Times Removed by Tiara Jade Chutkhan

With a distinct history and culture that took its shape when their ancestors came from India to the Caribbean as indentured laborers more than 150 years ago, the Indo-Caribbean community has passed down history, folktales, and experiences through generations. This collection of sixteen short stories written by the new generation of Indo-Caribbean storytellers —including  those who have been raised outside of their home countries—  explores relationships, trauma, family, identity, adolescence, and more as they navigate the influences of all these elements.

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Would I Lie to You? by Aliya Ali-Afzal

It took a few years but now the snobbish mothers who mistook Faiza, at the school gates, for the nanny treat her as one of their own. She’s learned to crack the subtle codes, speak their language of handbags and haircuts. No one would guess at the glamorous kids’ parties that Faiza’s childhood was tough. When her husband Tom loses his job in finance, he stays calm but Faiza starts to unravel. Now Faiza has six weeks to find a huge sum of money —that she spent from her husband’s redundancy package— before her lies spiral out of control.  

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Rumaysa: A Fairytale by Radiya Hafiza

Featuring young Muslim girls, this is a magical tale that combines three classic fairytales as they’re retold with new adventures and unusual structural twists. Rumaysa lets her hijab down from a tall tower in order to escape into the magical South Asian land where enchanted forests and dragon lairs exist. Teaming her up with Cinderayla and Sleeping Sara along the way, this middle grade fantasy creates a strong sense of sisterhood while the girls live through a story told with love, humor, and lovely illustrations.

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Antiman by Rajiv Mohabir

Born in London to Guyanese Indian parents and immigrating to the United States when he was a toddler, Rajiv’s familial history is one of constant migration. Through poetry and prose, told in distinctive dialects, myth, and family lore, this hybrid memoir follows Rajiv as he returns to Varanasi, India a century after his ancestors left under colonization, and then to NCY where his cousin outs him as “antiman” —a Caribbean slur for queers— to his conservative family. The blend of literary genres ultimately reveals a story woven into the legacies of myths and legends.

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which of these books are you most excited to read? 💛

N O T E

This list is primarily curated on the basis of the author(s) identifying as a south asian or of south asian ancestry, which means the characters’ identity and/or quality of representation isn’t taken into account at all times—even if it slightly influenced the making of this list. To be very clear, this list is not meant to gatekeep authors or their work, neither does it mean to weigh stories on the basis of authenticity in any manner. If an author doesn’t wish to be included in this list, please contact me and I’ll be considerate to accommodate your request.

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8 replies on “84 Books by South Asian Authors to Read This Year

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