Manasa shares eleven books by South Asian authors that have made her feel seen and represented.
When I was younger, I never saw myself represented in the books. There were no South Asian authors who wrote books featuring South Asian girls like me, which was always disappointing. If I wanted to read a book, I had to read about American girls, whose lifestyle and culture I never understood or related to. Finally, once I became a teenager, authors started pushing out books featuring South Asian teenagers like me and that was the first time I’ve ever felt represented in media.
For all of the South Asian teens out there, I know what it’s like not to be represented, so here’s a list of South Asian authors and their books that you must check out. Each of these authors is truly magnificent and their books have all come out in the past few years. The books below are written by South Asian women who have fearlessly written novels that aren’t just touching on a normal teenage life. These books discuss racism, discrimination based on color and gender, class struggles, conform to society’s expectations, living as a child of two different cultures, and more. Hopefully, these books will reach and touch you the same way that they have impacted me. To the South Asian bibliophile mini-mes, this list’s for you.
When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
An arranged marriage, a web development summer program at Stanford, Little Comic Con, and two teenagers battling who they are and trying to find what they believe in.
Counting Down With You by Tashie Bhuiyan
The only YA book that I have ever read with Bangladesh representation, this book encapsulates the story of a teenager who thinks she can’t meet her parent’s expectations. While her parents leave for Bangladesh for a whole month, she realizes that she has 30 days to find herself and decide what she wants to do with her life until she makes a surprising deal with someone.
Love From A to Z by S.K. Ali
A teenager leaves the country for a break because she has drawn something against her Islamaphobic teacher. S.K. Ali shares how Islamophobia affects many and the effects of physical disabilities on people to teach readers how life itself is both a “marvel” and an “oddity.”
The Knockout by Sajni Patel
An Indian Muay Thai champion who is a teenager living in the US. Ever seen that before? Sajni Patel takes readers on a journey of a girl fighting against all odds to do what she loves no matter what others might think of her.
My So-Called Bollywood Life by Nisha Sharma
There’s nothing like the happy-ending of Bollywood movies combined with prophecies of how a teenager’s love life will work out. A Bollywood movie fanatic has to choose between what her heart wants or follow a prophecy that declares who she will marry.
Star Daughter by Shveta Thakrar
For fans of Rick Riordan, you’ll be getting your demigod dose in this book that pairs Hinduism and astrology with an ordinary teenager whose mother is a celestial star.
Hunted By the Sky by Tanaz Bathena
In a land inspired by medieval India, girls with a certain birthmark are kidnapped by the King because of a prophecy that determines that one girl with a star-shaped birthmark will kill the King and take over the kingdom. When a girl with this birthmark witnesses her parents’ death because of the King, she only wants one thing: revenge, so she joins a group of rebel women to train in warrior magic and defeat the King once and for all.
The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi
Roshani Chokshi is half-Filipino and half-Indian and shares both of her cultures in her books. She writes books set all over Europe decades ago to show readers the depth and richness of dynasties, history, effects of colonialism, and architecture.
A teenage girl who is constantly surrounded by her matchmaking family decides to create a matchmaking app for high school students armed with her family’s ancient guide to love. Once she pairs the star athlete of the soccer team with the quiet, new girl, she becomes public enemy number 1 within her school.
We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal
Set in a land inspired by ancient Arabia has everything a good book needs: a dreamy setting, dreamy characters, and the most intricate plot.
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
If you don’t want to cry at the end of a book, this series is definitely not for you. The books will take you through a fantasy land inspired by ancient Rome with unforgettable characters that you will laugh, scream, persevere, and cry with.
Diversity in literature is crucial because what we read impacts our mentalities many times. Just like people say, “you are what you eat,” you are equally what you read and hear. Reading the stories of diverse characters teaches you about life, cultures, and the struggles of people who are not like you. Although this post is about South Asian Young Adult books, it doesn’t mean that these are the only types of diverse books out there! There are thousands of YA books featuring strong BIPOC characters and you can find lists of those anywhere. Surround yourself with diverse characters and diverse stories; you’ll never regret it.
I hope that the list above was helpful and that you check out some of these amazing authors and their beautiful stories!
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