Why we set up a book club for South Asian women

South Asian Sisters Speak (SASS) was borne out of a frustration of the lack of safe spaces for South Asian women to share their experiences. Growing up in the UK, the mainstream feminist dialogue was often non-inclusive of the varying experiences of ethnic minorities. As a result, as co-founders we (Sheetal Mistry and Shirin Shah), had individually written blogs about our struggles navigating two different cultures. When we met we felt we needed a space for these conversations.

In May 2017 our first event was held in London. Fifty attendees joined six diverse panellists to discuss what it means to be a South Asian woman in the UK and the various complexities that brings with it. Many of the attendees, having not been in an environment with like-minded individuals before, found the event to be a cathartic experience.

Having run two larger panel events centred around what it means to be a brown girl in Britain, we wanted to delve further into the topics raised during these discussions. Our current project #BrownGirlsBookClub where we select and read a book by a South Asian female author every six weeks gives us an opportunity to do this.

Through online discussion and a meet-up in London we use our book club events to unpick topics such as mental health, colourism and sexuality. Our group conversations, with around twenty women, allows us to speak openly about our own personal experiences while discussing the book.

Following the success of our book club, we are currently piloting a writing workshop in collaboration with Tara Arts which aims to encourage South Asian women to find their voice. Regular attendees of our book club have been writing responses to Meera Syal’s best-selling novel Life Isn’t All Ha Ha Hee Hee.

In May, eight members of our club will showcase their pieces at Tara Arts for what is set to be an evening of performance and readings. Meera Syal will be joining us for this special book club event.

We would love to invite you to join us for an evening of powerful performances interspersed with readings from Life Isn’t All Ha Ha Hee Hee followed by a Q&A with author, Meera Syal.

Brown Girls Book Club: An evening of exploration takes place on 17 May at 7.30 pm. Tickets are can be purchased from Tara Arts box office.

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