South Asia is home to eight countries – India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bhutan, and the Maldives. And despite the extreme cultural diversity of the region, the rich history and heritage of South Asia is rarely depicted in the media. Which is why we must stay mindful of the authors that do provide a worthwhile read.
Following are our favorite books that fuse the South Asian backdrop with stories that are perfect for your summer “to-be-read” list.
“Sari, Not Sari” by Sonya Singh
This story follows Manny Dogra who grew up disconnected from her Indian lineage and was always pushed to be “All-American” by her very Indian Parents. Knowing little to nothing about her South Asian heritage, Manny builds her place in the world as the young CEO of “Breakup” – a company dedicated to helping people manage their breakups. However, nothing is all dandy and soon Manny’s parents pass away and she comes across a whitewashed photo of her on a magazine cover. What follows is a massive identity crisis. It is one of her most annoying clients, Sammy Patel, who offers to help her come back in-touch with her roots; that is if she helps him with his strange breakup request.
Follow Manny’s story of cultural disconnection and how it affects her personal life to a level that she has to undo all of her American-centric compulsions. Author Sonya Singh builds a thoughtful rom-com with this book and rather subtly asks us if the American Dream is worth it if we lose all sight of our own heritage.
“The Last White Man” by Mohsin Hamid
Following the success of his New York Times bestseller”‘Exit West,” Mohsin Hamid pens a story of love, loss, and rediscovery in “The Last White Man.” The book tells the esoteric, Kafkaesque story of Andres, who notices his skin turning dark. Soon he looks nothing like he used tobe. With similar events occurring all over, Andres’ father and his friend-turned-lover Oona tend to experience profound loss as well as profound love. Andres and Oona’s relationship deepens and helps them see themselves in a new light.
Mohsin Hamid’s writing in this book is rooted in magical realism and pays homage to Franz Kafka’s “Metamorphosis.” His writing dares the reader to reimagine themselves and encourages them to challenge their ideas of who they are and redefine their identities. Explore themes of race, privilege, grief, and social justice with “The Last White Man.”
“The Decoy Girlfriend” by Lillie Vale
“The Decoy Girlfriend” is rom-com writer Lillie Vale’s fourth book. The book tells the story of Freya Lal, a writer, who just so happens to look like a high-profile actress, Mandi Roy. Freya’s deadlines are ticking closer and she has zero inspiration to finish her. So, she goes on one of her routine escapades where she pretends to be her It-girl doppelganger. In a hilarious string of events, this masquerade trends on social media and draws unnecessary attention to Mandi Roy and her rather public relationship with Taft Bamber, a gorgeous and talented actor. Mandi and Freya then agree to swap places for a month as it gives Mandi some much-needed time off-camera. However, it starts to become apparent that Freya and Taft’s make-pretend relationship is more than just an act.
“All My Rage” by Sabaa Tahir
Following the success of “An Ember in the Ashes,” Sabaa Tahir steps into a new genre with “All My Rage.” The story takes place in Juniper, California, and follows Salahuddin and Noor. Growing up as outcasts in the small town of Juniper, Sal and Noor know each other’s ticks and are more than friends – they’re family. However, this bond gets endangered when they have The Fight. Almost destroying their bond, The Fight challenges them to deal with their own struggles. Sal gives his all to run the family motel while his mother’s health fails rapidly. His father loses himself to alcoholism and Noor works at her extremely ill-tempered uncle’s liquor store. She secretly applies to colleges so that she can escape him and leave behind Juniper along with everything else, forever.
“All My Rage” is a profound dive into destructive decisions, forgiveness, and, most importantly, rage. It tells a story of people desperate to make sense of all the chaos that surrounds them, the potholes they walk into, and how they deal with their adversaries.
As writers from South Asia evolve, so do the narratives of embracing cultural diversity and introspection – all while being fun. Books by South Asian authors really make this summer quite an interesting time for literature and some choice reads.