by Fatima Jaffry
For South Asian Heritage Month immerse yourself in a literary journey of love. From romance to friendship, these books will leave you warm and fuzzy. So, grab a cup of chai and tuck in.
Kartography by award winning author Kamila Shamsie holds a special place in my heart as it is the first book by a South Asian author I read. Shamsie’s lyrical prose and her ability to craft a story that felt both familiar and refreshingly new captivated me. Shamsie’s vivid descriptions of my family’s hometown of Karachi brought the city to life, and I was instantly transported to its streets, walking alongside the novel’s protagonists Karim and Raheen. Kartography is a love letter to the city and its people, which deftly blends the personal with the wider political context of Karachi and its wounds of the past.
These books are perfect companions for your leisurely days, offering moments of pure escapism: Uzma Jalaluddin’s fuels a Muslim romantic comedy Ayesha at Last. S.K. Ali’s Love from A to Z is a YA romance between two Muslim teens during a spring break trip. Jalaluddin’s makes a second appearance on the list with Hana Khan Carries On a perfect enemies to lovers romance that had me immersed in Hana’s journey to save her family’s restaurant and rooting for her romance with her charming competitor. For the perfect but familiar best friends to lovers trope look no further than Mona Shroff’s The Second First Chance.
Khaled Hosseini’s international bestseller The Kite Runner tells the unforgettable and heart-breaking friendship between Amir and Hassan. From Afghanistan to India, The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar delves into the unlikely friendship between Sera and Bhima, exploring societal boundaries that both separate and unite them. Capturing my attention with its intricate weaving of characters whose lives intersected in times of political turmoil, Rohinton Mistry’s much-loved A Fine Balance won high praise from The Independent as ‘A towering masterpiece by a writer of genius.’
Recently I picked up Sairish Hussain’s The Family Tree and was hooked by its depiction of an ordinary British Pakistani family which I found totally relatable. Another book I couldn’t put down was Jyoti Patel’s debut, The Things That We Lost, which won the 2021 #Merky Books New Writers’ Prize. The story follows a strained mother-son relationship, as the protagonist confronts a dark family secret. Avni Doshi’s Burnt Sugar, shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2020 examines the toxic relationship between mother and daughter.
Fatimah Asghar’s When We Were Sisters embraces the powerful bond of sisterhood as three orphaned sisters are left to raise one another. Roopa Farooki’s Bitter Sweets, follows three generations of British South Asian families and their journey of love and sacrifice. Neel Mukherjee, The Lives of Others, set in India revolves around the Ghosh family peeling back the layers of their relationships.
A Place For Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza is a modern family saga that tugs at the heartstrings with its tale of a fractured family, bound by love and forgiveness. The Sleepwalkers Guide to Dancing by Mira Jacob, explores the complexities of navigating family expectations.
A God in Every Stone by Kamila Shamsie is a mesmerising historical tale revolving around a strong-willed archaeologist, and her growing affection for Qayyum. Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake explores love through immigrant experiences. In Umi Sinha’s Belonging, Maya navigates her mixed heritage and forms a heartfelt connection with Karim. Nadeem Aslam’s Maps of Lost Lovers offers a realistic portrayal of religion, nationalism, and love in Dashta-e-Tanhaii. Meanwhile, Amulya Malladi’s A Breath of Fresh Air follows Anjali, a survivor of a catastrophic gas leak that led to the breakdown of marriage. Finding happiness in a new marriage, she faces unexpected challenges when her first husband returns.
After reading Monica Ali’s Brick Lane, I was transported into the lives of first-generation immigrants. Delving into Nazneen’s story, love emerges as a powerful force, shaping her relationships through forbidden love, familial bonds, and romantic entanglements. Meanwhile Preeti Shenoy’s The One You Cannot Have, a modern-day romance that explores the complexities of unrequited love and relationships.
So, there you have it. 23 incredible books that capture the essence of love in all its forms, from epic romances to modern-day tales of heart-warming connections. Happy Reading!
Fatima Jaffry is reading History at the University of Leicester. As an history enthusiast Fatima’s academic interests lie in the British South Asian experiences especially during the 1970s and 80s. She finds knitting the perfect escape for relaxation and creativity.