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Adiba Jagirdar is a queer, South Asian Muslim writer. In an interview with the Irish Times, Jagirdar talked about why she specifically writes novels with characters that carry these identities.
I learned from my beloved books that kids like me didn’t get to exist in stories, and so for years I wrote myself out. I wrote stories about white characters, straight characters, non-Muslim characters. Characters who didn’t look like me, didn’t sound like me, had absolutely nothing in common with me.
Jagirdar now writes queer, Muslim, female characters because she never saw herself in any of the books she was reading, just like many other South Asian writers. Even in 2021, 90% of characters in children’s fiction remains white. Diversity in publishing has not become a reality, despite much conversation around it. It is important that we support and elevate the diverse authors amongst our communities, and with that in mind, here are ten books by South Asian writers across many genres to start off your 2022 the right way!
Featuring a Dalit protagonist, Athena Rao is in prison accused of her father’s murder. However, through his biotech invention, The Coconut, he has given her all his memories. How will she find her way through this nightmare? The book is science-fiction and dystopia and caste criticism all rolled into one. Bending genres to tell this story, this is a must-read in 2022.
This is Tahir’s first contemporary novel, who has already made a name for herself amongst the fantasy greats with her tetralogy, Ember In The Ashes. Moving between Pakistan and California, All My Rage focuses on two young Muslims trying to find their way in the world. Family duty is juxtaposed with familial abuse and Tahir asks questions about what family and friendship is worth. So far, advanced reader copies reviews have all been glowing and Tahir’s inbuilt audience is bound to make this book a literary success!
The novel follows Mira fuller-Jensen who was adopted by American parents after her Indian birth mother gave her up. Then, after she finds a set of letters addressed to her, Mira realises she has to make a decision about travelling to India to meet her birth mother. The novel also features a same-sex marriage as the protagonist’s adoptive parents are both women. This is a great novel for South Asians in the Western diaspora who are struggling with questions of identity and home.
Irish-Bangladeshi writer Adiba Jagirdar’s first book, The Henna Wars, was probably the first mainstream Sapphic South Asian YA novel. Her second book, Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating gave us more enemies-to-lovers, South Asian, queer romance and her third, coming out in Feb 2022, promises to do the same. Billed as a Sapphic romance on the Titanic, the heist novel follows four girls who team up to steal a jewel on board the famed cruise ship.
The novel is a near-future dystopia, one that the reader sees is easily plausible, given the rise of surveillance capitalism in our times. The novel captures Delhi’s chaotic atmosphere perfectly and follows two different people whose lives become enmeshed in the world of online celebrities.
The novel follows Zahea Khan who has to juggle two boys and a meddling matchmaking mother! The writer says that the novel is meant to feel like a “Natok” or Bengali cinema set in America and almost the entire cast of characters is South Asian and/or Muslim. There is also a side queer romance, fake dating (my favourite romance trope!) and matchmaking shenanigans. The novel promises to be a warm, feel-good Bollywood movie in a book!
Coming out in early January , the novel is the first in a planned duology that follows a princess and her siblings as they search for a mysterious object of legend that will give them power in a land that is running out of magic. It is set in a mythical Ashoka, with Indian inspired magic system and world-building.
“A Darkness” is technically the third in the authors’ Dauntless series, but the second featuring the character Rae. Rae is one of the few physically disabled protagonists in fantasy and the book explores themes of self-love, violence, violence against vulnerable people, and the search for justice.
This book explains the history behind Holi through the main character, Gauri, who did not get the colour she wanted. She subsequently became angry and refused to enjoy the day. Children will easily relate to Gauri’s emotions and the book’s use of colours that are similar to those seen in Holi ensure that it is a gorgeous and engaging book for kids and adults alike.
This will thrill creative children in the Western diaspora! The story follows Paro, who comes from a dancing family. Paro wants to learn ballet, but is anxious about how she will be seen and treated. Can she be both a Bharathanatyam and ballet dancer?
Sangeetha Thanapal is a writer, activist and anti-racism trainer. Her high school teacher told her mother to stop her from reading so much; it didn’t work. The reading turned into writing, which then turned into her whole life.
Her fiction and non-fiction work has been published in Djed Press, Fireside Fiction, Eureka Street, Wear Your Voice and many more. She is presently working on her first novel, We, The South, an epic fantasy adventure set in medieval India. You can find her everywhere as @kaliandkalki.
Are there books you are looking forward to that you don’t see here? Drop us a message and let us know!