I’m coming into the year with relative optimism that publishers may have stumbled upon some literary gold but I’m also nervous to see such few debuts published by British Asian writers. It’s a strong year for non-fiction, with two books by Asian writers already hitting the best seller lists and more crime-series fiction from Vaseem Khan, Abir Mukherjee and Sanjida Kay suggests that publishers have confidence in commercial fiction sales. This will continue to pave the way for more writers who have traditionally struggled to break into this genre fiction. We know that small publishers have started to put call outs specifically for underrepresented writers and with their quick turnarounds, we might be seeing something towards the latter half of the year that might just perk us all up. Here’s a list of books to have on your TBR pile in 2018:
The lack of representation in children’s/YA is something that long needs to be addressed so it’s good that we’re kicking off the year (and this list) with two debut YA novels. Love, Hate and Other Filters is written by US-based author, Samira Ahmed and published by Hot Key Books. Maya Aziz can’t wait to graduate from her small town high school. She dreams of studying film in New York City and kissing a boy (or, maybe two). Her parents (or, maybe two). Her parents forbid both. Ahmed’s debut promises to shine a light on Islamophobia and how it affects the life of an ordinary Muslim teen.
Muhammad Khan’s I am Thunder published by Pan Macmillan gives voice to 15 year old Muzna Saleem. The novel explores faith, family and extremism, and while part of me shudders when I see Muslim and radicalisation in the same bit of copy, I’m curious enough to give this one a try.
I’m a big foodie and hoarder of recipes, so I’m super excited about Dina Begum’s cookbook which explores the diverse flavours of London’s famous Brick Lane. I’m expecting some insights into Bangladeshi cuisine and some new, dare I say ‘fusion’ recipes too. Brick Lane is published by Kitchen Press.
Nikesh Shukla’s third novel, The One Who Wrote Destiny promises to be Shukla’s ‘most ambitious’ novel to date. The One Who Wrote Destiny is based in part on true stories from Shukla’s family history; it charts three generations from the 1960s to the present day, and moves from Kenya to Keighley to London, Edinburgh and New York and back to Kenya.
Across the pond, poet Sweta Vikram’s second novel, Louisana Catch is timely in the wake of #MeToo. A grieving daughter and abuse survivor must summon the courage to run a conference to raise awareness of violence against women. We’re huge fans of Vikram’s poetry, where she deftly handles big themes and issues, and expect no less from this novel.
Vaseem Khan continues his publication success with a fourth installment of the Inspector Chopra series. I look forward to seeing the return of Chopra’s sidekick elephant, Baby Ganesha and his wife, Poppy in .
When American billionaire Hollis Burbank is found dead – the day after buying India’s most expensive painting – the authorities are keen to label it a suicide. But the man in charge of the investigation is not so sure. Chopra is called in – and discovers a hotel full of people with a reason to want Burbank dead. Can’t wait.
Published on the same day (3 May 2018) is Sanjida Kay’s latest thriller, My Mother’s Secret. If it’s anything like her last two psychological thrillers, it’ll have you reading long into the night. I’m just hoping this one doesn’t leave me with nightmares!
I have huge affection for Abir Mukherjee’s historical crime series, so it’s great to see Captain Sam Wyndham and Sergeant Surrender-not Banerjee back for a third instalment. This time they investigate a series of suspiciously similar murders taking place against the backdrop of Gandhi’s non-co-operation movement and the fervent fight for Indian independence. Smoke and Ashes is published in June.
Gautam Malkani’s crowd-funded novel, Distortion is set for publication in July though I’m hoping pledged copies arrive earlier than publication date as I wouldn’t necessarily suggest we pack this in our suitcase and whisk it out on the beach. Malkani’s video has already given us a real insight into the torment the past decade has been of writing versions of his second novel which sheds light on young carers.
August sees the publication of Bina Shah’s dystopian novel, Before She Sleeps is set in modern, beautiful Green City, the capital of South West Asia, where gender selection, war and disease have brought the ratio of men to women to alarmingly low levels. The government uses terror and technology to control its people, and women must take multiple husbands to have children as quickly as possible.
Yet there are women who resist, women who live in an underground collective and refuse to be part of the system. Before She Sleeps is a modern-day parable about women’s lives in repressive Muslim countries everywhere. It takes the patriarchal practices of female seclusion and veiling, gender selection, and control over women’s bodies, amplifies and distorts them in a truly terrifying way to imagine a world of post-religious authoritarianism. A must read for fans of Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale.
Back in the UK, One of Sharmaine Lovegrove’s first four acquisitions for Dialogue Books, Amer Anwar’s Western Fringes is set in Southall and explores male friendship. The story follows Zaq Khan, who lands a dead-end job at a builders’ yard after being released from prison. He is soon forced to search for his boss’ runaway daughter and finds himself caught up in a deadly web of deception, murder and revenge. It’s been more than a decade since Anwar won the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger Award for this novel so we’re thrilled to finally see it in print.
Bloomsbury will kick off the Autumn season by publishing Mohammed Hanif’s third novel, Red Birds which will be backed by a ‘major campaign’. The story unfolds as an American pilot crash lands in the desert, unprepared for any situation that can’t be resolved with the After Eight mints in his survival kit, while in a neighbouring refugee camp, Momo has his own problems to contend with, including the matter of his missing brother.
My most anticipated debuts of the year happen to be written by Singaporean writers. Clarissa Goenawan’s debut, Rainbirds opens with a murder and shines a spotlight onto life in fictional small-town Japan. Winner of the Bath Novel Award, I’m certain this one will be a real page turner. In similar vein, Sharlene Teo’s Ponti is the story of friendship and memory, told from the perspective of three women, Szu, Amisa and Circe. Ponti won the inaugural Deborah Rogers Writers Award and was acquired by Picador following a seven-way auction. We can’t wait to read it!