2021 Releases from South Asian Authors
Jhumpa Lahiri has a new novel coming out this year. I am thrilled. I am also laughing. Let it be known that no other South Asian authors will exist this year, because there’s a new Lahiri book on the way!
Okay, I kid, I kid. But in all seriousness, when Lahiri’s new novel was announced last fall, I was both excited and curious to see what the literary space would look like this year. What will upcoming release lists look like? Will Lahiri’s book be the only one mentioned? Who else is releasing books? Where can I go to find out what they are?
I scanned 13 different 2021 upcoming release lists*, including major ones from LitHub and Millions, and within these lists a South Asian author was mentioned 18 times out of 838 possible mentions. Eight of those 18 mentions belonged to Jhumpa Lahiri. Only 4 lists included a book that wasn’t Lahiri’s.
After looking through the lists and these numbers, I don’t have any particularly strong feelings. If you follow me on Instagram, you know I am relentlessly skeptical of South Asian books that do receive a lot of advanced publicity. So if anything, this feels safer. I see this gap in awareness as an opportunity for readers to explore books by South Asian authors and champion our faves.
Here are 11 new releases for the first half of 2021 that caught my eye. I know there are more and we’ll discover them as they’re released, but in the meantime, these are fun to consider.
1. Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi (January 26)
A novel set in India exploring a fraught mother/daughter relationship and how memory can shape and un-shape our understanding of the people around us.
2. The Bad Muslim Discount by Syed M. Masood (February 2)
A comic novel, following two families from Pakistan and Iraq in the 1990s to San Francisco in 2016, about Muslim immigrants finding their way in modern America.
3. Midnight's Borders: A People's History of Modern India by Suchitra Vijayan (February 16)
A journalist travels India’s vast border, from Pakistan to Myanmar, to explore and document how the legacy of colonialism, state violence, and government corruption shape the lives of those who live along the border.
4. Quiet In Her Bones by Nalini Singh (February 23)
A thriller set in New Zealand; the body of wealthy socialite Nina Rai has turned up and now the secrets of what happened that rainy night 10 years ago are about to be exposed.
5. Sparks Like Stars by Nadia Hashimi (March 2)
A novel following an Afghan American woman who returns to Kabul to learn the truth about her family and the tragedy that destroyed their lives.
6. Gold Diggers by Sanjena Sathian (April 6)
A classic striver story told through social satire and magical realism with aims to skewer the model minority myth and tear down American customs.
7. Southbound by Anjali Enjeti (April 15)
An essay collection exploring life in the Deep South as a mixed-race brown girl and seeking to understand how identity can inspire, inform, and shape a commitment to activism.
8. Are You Enjoying? by Mira Sethi (April 20)
Debut short story collection from a Pakistani actress-turned-writer exploring themes of identity and family.
9. The Parted Earth by Anjali Enjeti (May 4)
A debut novel, spanning half a century and cities from New Delhi to Atlanta, exploring the long shadow of the Partition of India on the lives of three generations of women.
10. Blue Skinned Gods by S.J. Sindu (June 1)
Sindu’s second novel takes us from India to the underground rock scene of New York City, exploring ethnic, gender, and sexual identities, in a heartfelt look at the need for belief in our globally interconnected world.
11. Antiman: A Hybrid Memoir by Rajiv Mohabir (June 22)
A genre-blending memoir that navigates the fraught constellations of race, sexuality, and cultural heritage that have shaped Mohabir’s experiences as an Indo-Guyanese queer poet and immigrant to the United States.
I put together a Bookshop list, if you want to explore these titles further.
*Note: I focused on lists that feature literary fiction, short story collections, memoirs, and essay collections. So YA, romance, etc isn’t included in this analysis. Also, the vast majority of these lists focus on the first half of 2021.
In The News
Aravind Adiga’s 2008 Booker Prize-winning White Tiger was recently released as a Netflix movie, and while I haven’t read the book or watched the movie, I was curious to see what the response would be like with Indian viewers. Charukesi Ramadurai wrote an excellent piece for BBC examining the types of stories that do make it to Hollywood.
Netflix is adapting Min Jin Lee’s Free Food for Millionaires and this news has me geeked. Lee is working on the script, Master of None’s Alan Yang will help executive produce, and this show has a champion in Netflix development exec, Jinny Howe. This book is in good hands and I’m adding it to my TBR while we wait for the first Korean American drama to hit our screens.
I started Paula J. Giddings Ida: A Sword Among Lions this week and what was supposed to be me dabbling in a few pages, turned into me reading the first 100, because I could not put it down.
Giddings took on the monumental task of piecing together a biography of Ida B. Wells, an activist and journalist who worked tirelessly to report on and campaign against lynching.
I have a blank spot when it comes to U.S. history between the Civil War and the 1920’s. No doubt thanks to an education that glossed over the decades after slavery. This book does an incredible job painting a picture of what life was like in Northern Mississippi and Memphis, TN in the late 1800’s. Giddings is a wonderful storyteller and has turned what is dense, heavy history into something immersive and gripping. I’m still early in the book and I know it’ll take me some time to finish. It is over 700 pages long. But I’m excited to find a book that fills some gaps of U.S. history and to learn about a Black woman whose writing and activism helped shape her generation.
Thank you for reading the second edition of Bookish Behavior. I had fun putting together this email and learning more about what books are coming out this year. I included affiliate links for the books mentioned. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I earn a small commission. I’m not sure if I’ll use these consistently, but I wanted to try it out for this email.
If you have any questions or feedback on anything featured in this email, let me know!