Short Books By South Asian Writers
We’re more than halfway through the year (time has really flown by). Some of us will be taking a look at our reading goals and assessing where we stand. Yours truly is about a dozen books behind schedule. For my fellow readers who want to catch up a little, I always recommend reading some shorter books — ones that are less than 300 pages. They aren’t as physically intimidating as longer books and are also great ways to dip your toes into genres or authors you might not normally pick up.
But don’t let the short length fool you. Many times, shorter books say a lot with less. Each word matters, and I am always impressed with how authors are able to construct such simple yet eloquent sentences that sometimes take me days to unpack.
One of my personal reading goals this year was to read more books by South Asian writers, and while I have kept up with this goal, I can always do better. As such, I sought out a small selection of short books by South Asian writers that I hope will introduce me to some new places and people while helping to keep me on track with my reading goals.
The Adivasi Will Not Dance by Hansda Sowvendra Shekhar
A collection of short stories sent in an Indian hinterland, The Adivasi Will Not Dance follows a cast of characters who interact and react to the political environment in their home. In one story, a troupe-master refuses to perform for the President of India and is beaten while in another story, a couple waits for their baby who was born blue to turn pink. Each story tackles a sociopolitical issue in modern India with eloquence and aplomb.
Bombay Time by Thrity Umrigar
Indian weddings are the stuff of legend, and this story is set during a Parsi ceremony in Bombay. The men and women of the community gather together and reminisce about their youths and contemplate the life ahead of them. There is Adi, who has succumbed to alcoholism, and then Dosamai, who gossips for sports, and many others who are watched over by Rusi, a businessman trying to hold his community together.
Land Where I Flee by Prajwal Parajuly
Agastaya is a successful oncologist who is traveling to his Himalayan hometown for his grandmother’s birthday. His cousins are joining him, and all three just want to survive the celebrations and the family inquisitions that will surely come with it. But their objective will become impossible thanks to a mischievous maid and an uninvited guest.
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
Set in the near future, Exit West takes place in an unnamed South Asian country and follows Nadia and Saeed, who embark on a secret love affair. But their city is vibrating with unrest, which eventually turns their lives upside down. The violence escalates, and Nadia and Saeed decide that they have no choice but to leave their homeland.
Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag
One of my favorite books by an Indian author, Ghachar Ghochar follows the misadventures of a destitute family that makes its fortune in the spice trade. Their sudden economic success turns the once close-knit family against each other. In short, their relationships become ghachar ghochar, or tangled beyond repair. The writing is elegant and the characters both infuriating and relatable.
She of the Mountains by Vivek Shraya
What I love about She of the Mountains is that it is an illustrated novel that is a contemporary love story of a man with his body. But what is so compelling is that the story is actually a reimagining of various stories and parables from Hinduism. It’s an important story about gender, sexuality, and heritage.
The Story of a Brief Marriage by Anuk Arudpragasam
Most of the world never realized that there was a devastating civil war in Sri Lanka that only ended in 2009. Two decades into the war, the Tamil minority was pushed to coast, with Dinesh being one of them. His world turns into one of makeshift camps far from home. One day, an old man proposes that Dinesh marry his daughter Ganga, a union that challenges them personally and helps them move forward.
The Gurkha and the Lord of Tuesday by Saad Z. Hossain
The djinn king Melek Ahmar has awakened after a millennia of slumber. But he enters a world that has vastly changed from the one he knew. Despite this, he bombastically comes down his mountains, expecting an easy conquest of Kathmandu. But what he finds is much more complicated — a paradise in which people want for nothing, but it still holds some secrets, including a Gurkha with a score to settle.
Looking for more books by South Asian authors? Try these 33 Must-Read South Asian Books Out in 2022 and 6 of the Best Historical Fiction Books About South Asia.