In June 2021, I published a reading list of 84 books by South Asian authors that have released this year. Of course, it was one of my absolute favourite posts on this blog and I loved curating it. While I had taken months to search and select titles for that list, it was no surprise I had still missed quite a few books releasing in 2021. So when I came across these thirty South Asian books after publishing that post, I had to bring them to your notice! ✨
N A V I G A T E
01. A Holly Jolly Diwali by Sonya Lalli
02. Things We Do Not Tell The People We Love by Huma Qureshi
03. Barakah Beats by Maleeha Siddiqui
04. Maya and the Sword of Gringak by Meera J. Pillai
05. The Archer by Shruti Swamy
06. Next of Kin by Kia Abdullah
07. Radiant Fugitives by Nawaaz Ahmed
08. The Singles Table by Sara Desai
09. Mercury Boys by Chandra Prasad
10. Piece by Piece by Priya Huq
11. Are You Enjoying? by Mira Sethi
12. The Parted Earth by Anjali Enjeti
13. Samira Surfs by Rukhsanna Guidroz
14. A Mystery at Lili Villa by Arathi Menon
15. A Will to Kill by R.V. Raman
16. House Number 12 Block Number 3 by Sana Balgamwala
17. The Samosa Rebellion by Shanthi Sekaran
18. Untold by Kamini Ramdeen, Gabrielle Deonath
19. Arzu by Riva Razdan
20. Two Houses by Suleena Bibra
21. The Set Up by Falguni Kothari
22. The Eminently Forgettable Life of Mrs Pankajam by Meera Rajagopalan
23. Unbelonging by Gayatri Sethi
24. The Earthspinner by Anuradha Roy
25. Aarti and the Blue Gods by Jasbinder Bilan
26. Let Us Look Elsewhere by Mona Dash
27. Song of Draupadi by Ira Mukhoty
28. The Misfortunes of Lolita by L. Akhter
29. The Illuminated by Anindita Ghose
30. Sita: A Tale of Ancient Love by Bhanumathi Narasimhan
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A Holly Jolly Diwali by Sonya Lalli
Niki Randhawa has always made practical decisions, which is also why she became an analyst for stability despite her love for music and art. When she’s laid off, Niki realizes that practical hasn’t exactly paid off for her so she throws caution to the wind and flies to her friend’s wedding. Arriving in India, just in time to celebrate Diwali, she meets London musician Sameer and Niki is immediately drawn to him. Free-spirited Sam helps Niki get in touch with her creative side and with her Indian roots in this adult contemporary romance.
Things We Do Not Tell The People We Love by Huma Qureshi
A daughter asks her mother to shut up, only to shut her up for good; an exhausted wife walks away from the husband who doesn’t understand her; on holiday, lovers no longer understand each other away from home. The underlying themes of loneliness, secrets, family and displacement and also the desire to belong to someone, to some place; a yearning for love, intertwine these stories by a British-Pakistani author, and make it a collection about mothers, daughters, children, and lovers.
Barakah Beats by Maleeha Siddiqui
Pakistani-American Nimra has spent her whole life in Islamic school, but now it’s time to go to “real school”. She’s nervous but she has Jenna, her best friend. Middle school is tough: the teachers are mean, the schedule is confusing, and Jenna starts giving hijab-wearing Nimra the cold shoulder around other kids. Desperate to fit in, Nimra accepts an unlikely invitation to join the school’s popular 8th grade boy band. When the band signs up for a talent show, Nimra’s lies start to unravel in this middle-grade contemporary.
Maya and the Sword of Gringak by Meera J Pillai
Maya is the average teenager and all she is looking forward to is her dream date with Dhruv, the boy she’s had a year-long crush. Events set into motion and change her very existence as secrets from the past are revealed to her, leaving he reeling under their impact. Now she must embrace a destiny that will make her the savior of Earth while a whole new world of fantastical beasts, myths and legends, and a parallel universe is uncovered in this YA fantasy by an Indian author.
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The Archer by Shruti Swamy
As a child, Vidya exists to serve her family and make sense of a motherless world. One day she catches sight of a class where the students are learning Kathak, a precise, dazzling form of dance. So Kathak quickly becomes a part of her life as she leaves home for college, marries her best friend, and battles for her time, her future, and her body. But can she give herself over to her art and also be a wife in the carefully delineated society of Bombay, India in this collection of short stories set in 1960s-70s.
Next of Kin by Kia Abdullah
Leila Syed received a call where her brother-in-law’s voice is filled with panic. He’s at his son’s nursery to pick up Max but he isn’t there. Leila was supposed to drop Max off that morning, but she forgot. Racing to the carpark, she grasps the horror of what she has done: Max has been locked in her car for six hours on the hottest day of the year. But she’s too late. And what follows is an explosive, high-profile trial that will tear the family apart in this gripping courtroom drama by a British-Bangladeshi author.
Radiant Fugitives by Nawaaz Ahmed
Seema still struggles with her father’s long-ago decision to exile her from the family after she came out as lesbian. Now, nine months pregnant and estranged from the father of her unborn son, Seema seeks reconciliation with her family: her ailing mother who is traveling alone to California from Chennai and her devoutly religious sister living in Texas. Pushed apart and drawn together, this adult fiction follows three generations of a Muslim-Indian family confronted with a nation on the brink of change.
The Singles Table by Sara Desai
After a devastating break-up, celebrity-obsessed lawyer Zara is determined to never open her heart again. She builds her career and helps her friends find romance through the wedding season. She’s never faced a guest at the singles table she couldn’t match. Former military security specialist Jay has no time for love but when charismatic Zara crashes into his life, he enters a chaos he wants to avoid. So they make a deal in this rom-com: she’ll find his special someone if he introduces her to his celebrity clients.
Mercury Boys by Chandra Prasad
Saskia feels like an outsider at her new school, not only is she a transplant, she’s biracial in a population of mostly white students. When she encounters a vial of liquid mercury and touches an old daguerreotype, she is somehow able to visit the main in the portrait. Sharing this revelation with her classmates, Saskia provides guidance to other girls as they steal portraits of young men and try the dangerous experiment: forming a bond with their own mercury boy in this YA fiction where history and speculative collide.
Piece by Piece: The Story of Nisrin’s Hijab by Priya Huq
As Nisrin, a Bangladeshi-American girl, nears the end of 8th grade, she gives a presentation for World Culture Day about her homeland while wearing a traditional cultural dress. On her way home, she is the victim of a hate crime for wearing a headscarf. Deeply traumatized, Nisrin spends the summer depressed and isolated. The night before class starts, she makes a decision: she is going to start wearing hijab, much to her family’s dismay. This choice puts Nisrin on a path to discovery in this middle-grade graphic novel.
Are You Enjoying? by Mira Sethi
From the high-stakes worlds of television and politics to the intimate corridors of home–including the bedroom–these wryly observed, deeply revealing stories look at life in Pakistan with humor, compassion, psychological acuity, and emotional immediacy. From childhood best friends agreeing to marry in order to keep their sexuality a secret to a young woman with an anxiety disorder in an illicit love affair, every story bears witness to the all-too-universal desire to be loved in this debut short story collection.
The Parted Earth by Anjali Enjeti
In August 1947, Deepa’s life in New Delhi begins to unravel as her secret Muslim boyfriend Amir, who sends her origami love notes, must now flee with his sister and their parents to Lahore, Pakistan. He promises to return to Delhi to marry Deepa after the violence of Partition has ended. Soon after his departure, Deepa’s parents are killed and nine months later, she gives birth to Vijay. In present day, Shanthi in Atlanta finds clues that lead to her the real reason her deceased father Vijay has abandoned her and her mother 30 years ago.
Samira Surfs by Rukhsanna Guidroz
Following the violence in Burma (now Myanmar), an uncertain journey by river brings her and her mama, baba, and brother to Bangladesh. Months after rebuilding a life in this new place, Samira sees surfer girls and decides she’ll become one. With her brother’s help, she pushes past her fear of the water and begins secret surf lessons, forging a friendship with the Bengali surfer girls. But as more Rohingya seek refuge, it becomes harder to leave behind fear in this middle-grade novel in verse.
A Mystery at Lili Villa by Arathi Menon
Cousins Arj, Tam, and Mira are spending their summer vacation in Elathoor, a little billage in Kerala, India when their family home, Lili Villa, is broken into and some jewelry is stolen. The Terrific Three set out to solve the mystery but soon discover that there is no shortage of suspects. In a throwback to unscheduled summer vacations, there is plenty of sibling sparring, some intrepid sleuthing, and an endless parade of mouth-watering snacks in this cozy middle-grade mystery.
A Will To Kill by R.V. Raman
Ageing millionaire Bhaskar has invited his relatives to the remote, and possible haunted, Greybrooke Manor, high up in the misty Nilgiris, India. He knows his guests expect to gain from his death, so he writes two conflicting wills. Which one of them comes into force will depend on how he dies. Bhaskar also invites Harith Athreya, a seasoned investigator, to watch what unfolds. When a landslide leaves the estate temporarily isolated and a body discovered, Athreya hopes to unravel this mystery.
House Number 12 Block Number 3 by Sana Balgamwala
Nadia, in 20th century Karachi, Pakistan, has been waking up in the middle of the night in fits of anxiety, avoiding friends and family, and skipping university classes. There is no acceptable diagnosis for her behavior and maybe she is possessed by a jinn or is inclined to madness. Her mother is at pains to keep it hidden from the community, worries about the taboos that mental illness brings. The home that has sheltered the Rahmat family for decades becomes the narrator in this literary fiction.
The Samosa Rebellion by Shanthi Sekaran
Muki’s grandmother’s arrival from India coincides with big changes in Mariposa, a fictional island country where the president divides citizens into butterflies and moths with the former being those who have lived for longer generations and the latter being recent immigrants like Muki’s family. When Muki and his friends find a cap being built to imprison Moths before sending them away, and when his grandma is captured and taken there, a secret rebellion comes underway in this middle-grade contemporary.
Untold: Defining Moments of the Uprooted by Kamini Ramdeen, Gabrielle Deonath
Thirty-two emerging voices share deeply personal moments relating to immigration, infertility, divorce, mental health, suicide, sexual orientation, gender identity, racism, colorism, casteism, religion, and much more in this collection of real stories that explores the South Asian experience in the US, UK, and Canada. Every story sheds light on the authentic truths of living as womxn with hyphenated identities while balancing the push and pull of belonging to two cultural hemispheres in this Brown Girl Magazine anthology.
Arzu by Riva Razdan
It’s 1991 and India’s economy is opening up to foreign investment for the very first time. In Bombay, the pampered daughter of a newspaper mogul finds the situation particularly tense and she, Arzu, escapes to New York City with her snobby. Revelling in the heady independence that NY offers, Arzu finds herself poised on the brink of an idea that could change the nature of an entire industry back home. Now she must prove her worth to investors and silence her critics in this fiction.
Two Houses by Suleena Bibra
Priya wants to land the collection of the year for her family’s NYC auction house, gaining the approval of her father in the process. She also wants to never see her childhood rival turned auction-house competitor’s smug, handsome face. Neither of those options seem likely since Gavin is dead set on winning the same collection and he has extensive art world connections, and charm to spare. When they’re both invited to a posh country estate to spend the week wooing the prospective client, sparks fly in this contemporary romance.
The Set Up by Falguni Kothari
When Aditi comes home late from work as a pediatric resident one night and her grandfather offers this pitch: just three dates with three boys, she reluctantly agrees. But she’s too busy with med school and dreams of a love for ages like her parents, not an arranged marriage. Now all she has to do is be utterly ineligible and problem solved. But soon she finds there is more at stake than just three bad dates and her heart is on the line, and maybe her grandfather’s too in this rom-com novella.
The Eminently Forgettable Life of Mrs Pankajam by Meera Rajagopalan
When Mrs. Pankajam starts losing her memory, her doctor recommends she keep a diary to maintain a semblance of continuity in life vents. At first, she is reluctant, but as she puts pen to paper, she finds herself to have lived two lives: one of ordinary fulfillment in her experiences as a wife to her husband and a mother to her two daughters, and the other a life of desires and observations that only her mind is privy to. Now Mrs. Pankajam must discover herself anew in this Indian realistic fiction.
Unbelonging by Gayatri Sethi
Drawing upon her life story as a Tanzanian-born-Punjabi turned American educator and mother of biracial children, Sethi tells an intimate tale of stepping into her power while confronting misogyny, racism, and empire by deftly interweaving verse, memoir, and a bold call to action as she recounts her experience searching for home in the diaspora. Spanning decades and continents, this personal lesson asks: where do those relegated to the margins find belonging?
The Earthspinner by Anuradha Roy
Sara is studying at a prestigious British university and seeks a reprieve from her loneliness by practicing the craft she learned in India when younger: pottery. She recalls her childhood, the lost dog, Chinna, and the life of her revered pottery teacher, Elango—a Hindu who faced prejudice after falling in love with a Muslim woman. Switching between Sara’s diary entries and Elango’s life a decade earlier, this literary fiction explores the fragility of peace and the many ways in which the East encounters the West.
Aarti & the Blue Gods by Jasbinder Bilan
Aarti has lived on the island with Aunt for as long as she can remember. Like the weather, Aunt rules her world with rare warmth. Aarti’s only comforts are a book of Indian myths full of blue gods, a fox’s friendship, and a toy rabbit she finds in a locked room. Then, she learns Aunt has been feeding her lies. Fate intervenes when a half-drowned boy washes up on the beach. With his help, Aarti hopes to remember who she really is and perhaps find a way home in this middle-grade fantasy.
Let Us Look Elsewhere by Mona Dash
A young boy refuses to ferry his boat. A woman orders a British accent to fit in. A lover sends messages into the void. Disconnection and desire go hand in hand in this powerful collection. From the bustling streets of Mumbai, India to the glitz and glamour of Vegas, and the everyday streets of London, this beautiful short story collection explores human frailties and triumph.
Song of Draupadi by Ira Mukhoty
Born of a dangerous sacrifice, Draupadi and her brother are called forth to avenge Drona’s insult to their father. While the brother is expected to kill Drona on the battlefield, Draupadi’s role is not set out, but she dreams of fire and blood. From beloved daughter and princess to wife of the brave Pandavas and queen, she finds herself exiled to the forest, humiliated and determined for vengeance. The mythological retelling shows the exceptional women who have been the beating heart of the epic, Mahabharata.
The Misfortunes of Lolita by L. Akhter
Frank has a plan to keep his head down, work to support his mother, and graduate high school on time when his parents move him to the middle of nowhere. He does not have time to soothe the ache in his chest when he watches Lolita Abri, her river hair, her petal-soft smile. No, not when his own family is falling apart. Yet, as Lolita and Frank’s paths keep crossing, the cruelty of their peers against Lolita escalates, and painful truths are unleashed in this YA romance.
Buying links to be available soon.
The Illuminated by Anindita Ghose
After the sudden death of her celebrated husband, Shashi is alarmed to realize that overnight, she has lost her life’s moorings. Meanwhile, their fiercely independent daughter Tara, a Sanskrit scholar, has been drawn into a passionate involvement with an older man, which threatens to consume her in a way she didn’t imagine. Amidst a rising tide of religious fundamentalism in India that is determined to put women in their place, the two look at themselves and at each other in a new light, in this Indian debut.
Sita: A Tale of Ancient Love by Bhanumathi Narasimhan
Sita, the beloved princess of Mithila, is one of the most revered women in Indian history; so well known yet probably the least understood. Her life was filled with sacrifice yet wherever she was, there was abundance. She was carved out of an intense longing for Rama, yet she had infinite patience. In her, there is someone who is so divine yet so human. In this narration, the world is shown through the eyes of Sita, and through this perspective and her immortal story, the true strength of a woman.
which of these will you be adding to your shelf? 💛