10 Best South Asian Books to Give for Christmas

These South Asian books have modern and fresh storylines and make great Christmas presents. We count down the top 10 to gift someone.

10 Best South Asian Books to Give for Christmas

"This book will stay with me for a long time to come"

South Asian books make one of the most unique Christmas presents to give someone, whether they love reading or not.

More and more novels are becoming inclusive. Numerous South Asian authors are diversifying the “typical” story with characters that represent different communities.

This is vital for younger readers who can see characters similar to them but just as impactful to wider society who can get an insight into different cultures.

From mythical plots to more real-life storylines, these books can shed a light on the talents of South Asian authors.

It’s these writers that are bringing forward vibrant imaginary tales as well as revealing the difficulties within South Asian communities such as identity, sexuality, and expectation.

So, make someone’s Christmas extra special by gifting them one of these tremendous South Asian books.

Kaikeyi: A Novel by Vaishnavi Patel

10 Best South Asian Books to Give for Christmas

From Chicago-based writer, Vaishnavi Patel, comes her fantasy fiction debut, Kaikeyi: A Novel.

It focuses on the protagonist Kaikeyi who is the only daughter of the Kekaya kingdom. She’s been raised around tales of the gods who have obtained immortality and offered powerful requests to wise people.

However, she begins to question these very gods after her own worth is reduced to how great of a marriage alliance she can achieve.

Kaikeyi’s father also banishes her mother. Unsure what to do, she turns to old texts that her mother shared with her.

It’s here where the protagonist discovers a magic that only she can possess and transforms herself into a warrior looking to carve a better world for the women around her.

But, this disruption of the cosmic order clashes with the destiny set out for her by the gods. Kaikeyi must decide whether to carry on her resistance or risk catastrophic destruction.

This tale of inspiring courage and heartbreak shows determined women looking to make their mark in a world dictated by men.

Get a copy here.

TJ Powar Has Something to Prove by Jesmeen Kaur Deo

10 Best South Asian Books to Give for Christmas

TJ Powar Has Something to Prove is a romantic comedy that surrounds the main character, TJ Powar, a pretty high school debater.

Things get tense when Powar and her cousin, Simran, become the subject of a nasty picture.

In the image, Powar is labelled as the “expectation” of dating an Indian girl, and Simran, who is a devoted Sikh and doesn’t remove her body hair, is the “reality”.

So, Powar makes a resolution to stop shaving, plucking, and waxing to prove she can be hairy and beautiful.

However, she finds that this debate is far harder to win as she struggles with the idea of beauty standards and the viewpoints of others.

One fan of the book, Adiba Jaigirdar, expressed why this is a must-read:

“This book does a wonderful job tackling the idea of body hair through a very nuanced perspective.”

“I enjoyed reading the book immensely, but it’s also a book I think about often even months after I read the last page because it left me with so much to think about.

“I feel this is a must-read for everyone, but it’s particularly valuable to young girls and women who are starting to understand their own bodies vs how society wants their bodies to be.”

South Asian books don’t get much more real than this. Get your own copy here.

The Loophole by Naz Kutub

10 Best South Asian Books to Give for Christmas

Naz Kutub’s debut YA novel is an epic tale of heartbreak and belonging that focuses on 17-year-old Sy.

As a queer Indian-Muslim boy, Sy already faces a lot of challenges but his biggest hurdle is overcoming the regret of not travelling with his boyfriend, Farouk.

Stuck in a dead-end job at a coffee shop, a mysterious girl suddenly slams through the entrance and falls.

After Sy helps her up, she grants him three wishes, the first of which comes true as she transfers a million dollars into his pitiful bank account.

Is she just rich or is she magic?

The plot thickens after Sy is outed and his father kicks him out. It’s here where he is faced with a giant conundrum.

Will he journey across the Atlantic Ocean led by his potentially mythical new friend? Will he track down Farouk and rebuild his life? Or, will he fall further down a black hole of mysery?

Buy The Loophole here.

All My Rage by Sabaa Tahir

10 Best South Asian Books to Give for Christmas

All My Rage starts off in Lahore, Pakistan, where the storyteller, Misbah has an arranged marriage to Toufiq.

The young couple’s lives are shaken by a tragedy that forces them to migrate to Juniper, California, where they hope for a new start running their own motel.

This business is the core of the friendship between Misbah’s son Salahudin (Sal) and Noor, who works at the motel.

However, after they get into a huge fight, Sal struggles to run the business. His mother’s health fails and he loses his father to alcoholism.

Meanwhile, Noor is planning to escape the wrath of her uncle and his liquor store by applying to college. But, both of them soon realise that the monsters they face cannot be beaten alone.

Avid reader, Nicola Yoon, emphasised why this novel is such a delight:

“In richly evocative prose and with characters so well crafted I’m sure I know them, All My Rage takes a clear-eyed look at the ways in which we hurt and heal each other.

“It’s a gorgeous meditation on grief and love and the possibilities each of us have for redemption.

“This book will stay with me for a long time to come.”

Sabaa Tahir’s stunning debut novel won the National Book Award in 2022 which highlights why this is one of the best South Asian books.

Get All My Rage here.

The Last White Man by Mohsin Hamid

10 Best South Asian Books to Give for Christmas

The Last White Man makes a great Christmas gift as it’s a clever story about loss, love, and rediscovery whilst balancing change.

The protagonist is a white man called Anders who awakens one day to find that his skin has turned dark and he is unrecognisable in the mirror.

He tells his friend and new lover, Oona, and then quickly realises that more reports of this colour change are happening across the land.

Some see the transformations as the overturning of order and others see it as the start of a war.

But, as Anders and Oona’s relationship deepens, chances come up to see one another in a new light compared to before.

The book is an explosive piece of work that challenges nationalism and reimagines a world where racial prejudices come to the light in the most innovative way.

Buy a copy here.

Honor by Thrity Umrigar

10 Best South Asian Books to Give for Christmas

Bestselling author Thrity Umrigar presents her 2022 novel Honor which is a riveting tale of two couples and their battle for love.

Smita, an Indian American journalist returns to India to cover a story about Meena, a Hindu woman who was attacked by her own community for marrying a Muslim man.

The plot thickens as Smita realises tradition outweighs love in this society and this may reveal painful secrets of her past.

It’s here where she also meets Mohan, an Indian man on assignment.

However, the love stories in the novel are so different and themes such as freedom, betrayal, sacrifice and devotion make this such a fascinating read (and gift).

One reader, Debra, left her review on Goodreads saying:

“The descriptions in this book are vibrant and lush. As the author described the heat, the hostility, and the beauty – I could feel and imagine it all.

“I was moved by the story, saddened by the injustice of things, and felt hope for other things.”

“Not always an easy book to read, but isn’t that the case of books that describe things as they are? That make us take a long hard look at injustice and the mistreatment of others.”

Check out Honor here.

Kamila Knows Best by Farah Heron

10 Best South Asian Books to Give for Christmas

This comical and energetic novel by Farah Heron focuses on Kamila Hussain, a busy socialite with a booming life and career.

Her days consist of Bollywood movie parties, playing with her A-list celebrity dog, and an endless catalogue of friends who come to her for advice.

But, the focus on her friends’ romances means she has given no thought to her own. That is until a family friend, Rohan, comes into her life with his firm and delicious body.

Whilst it looks like things are going well, Kamila’s secret nemesis returns to town and is also infatuated with Rohan.

As Kamila tries to plan and organise her strategy to get him, as she does with every other aspect of her life, things start to unravel and her perfectly ordered life is about to come crashing down.

See more of Kamila Knows Best here.

The Candid Life of Meena Dave: A Novel by Namrata Patel

10 Best South Asian Books to Give for Christmas

One of the most moving South Asian books is Namrata Patel’s novel which focuses on photojournalist, Meena Dave.

After losing her parents when she was a child, Meena has refused to get close to others and lives like a nomad.

Living an isolated and distant life, she suddenly inherits an apartment from a woman she’s never met.

The building was bought by an Indian immigrant decades earlier and other Indian immigrants occupy separate apartments in the building.

As a woman with dark skin, Meena starts to wonder if she has any connections to her new neighbours and slowly uncovers the mysteries of her past.

The story gets weirder as Meena starts to see notes hidden in the apartment that was apparently left for her to find.

Confused by what to do and what this all means, she builds up connections to the other residents and to her past.

The novel is light yet examines deep-rooted topics like abandonment and cultural expectations.

It also gives readers a fresh perspective on the experiences of Indian nationals that migrated to Boston in the 20th century.

This entertaining rendition of belonging is worth gifting to someone.

Buy a copy here.

Brown Girl Like Me by Jaspreet Kaur

10 Best South Asian Books to Give for Christmas

Brown Girl Like Me is the debut novel from the poet, teacher, and spoken word artist, Jaspreet Kaur.

The expertly researched and expansive book explores the stories of South Asian women in Britain, looking at mental health, periods, love and cultural appropriation.

The novel is like a memoir that describes and evaluates the challenges that Desi women have had to face since the 70s.

Jaspreet cleverly intertwines conversations and interviews with South Asian women, giving a voice to shared stories.

The novel also lends a hand of solidarity to the women of the past who have not been able to share their journeys due to their repression – culturally and socially.

But, this is not just an insightful declaration of empowerment. The book is a toolkit designed to equip women with the confidence they need to navigate an intersectional identity.

It’s one of the first South Asian books to speak directly to these “taboo” topics and is described as “essential reading”.

You can find hardback and kindle versions here.

Hollow Fires by Samira Ahmed

10 Best South Asian Books to Give for Christmas

Hollow Fires is a gripping YA novel by the New York Times bestselling author, Samira Ahmed.

The book hones in on Safiya Mirza, an aspiring journalist who stumbles upon the body of a murdered boy.

The name of the boy was Jawad Ali and he was only 14 years old. He built a cosplay jetpack that a teacher mistook for a bomb.

After he got arrested, he was labelled a terrorist and eventually killed but there’s more to the story than him being described as “Bomb Boy”.

Safiya seeks to reveal the whole truth about Jawad and the people that killed him due to their hate-fuelled beliefs.

The novel is a compelling declaration of real-life stereotypes and the silent complicity of privileged people who bend the truth to their liking.

A Booklist review of the novel states:

“Ahmed weaves evocative prose with images, articles, and text messages to explore with skill and depth the twining of social media in an age of misinformation, alt-right political movements, racism and Islamophobia.”

Check out Hollow Fires and buy it here.

These South Asian books are a surefire way to give new perspectives to literature and the world around us.

Not only are they incredibly creative, but they are actively talking about real-life scenarios that can relate to most South Asians.

Likewise, they also allow non-South Asians to get a glimpse of the culture and the joy, tragedy, challenges, and rewards it has.

These books would make great presents around Christmas and allow more voices and stories to be experienced.

Balraj is a spirited Creative Writing MA graduate. He loves open discussions and his passions are fitness, music, fashion, and poetry. One of his favourite quotes is “One day or day one. You decide.”

Images courtesy of Amazon & Goodreads.

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