Anuja's Picks for Asian Heritage Month
By Anuja Varghese, author of Chrysalis
ANUJA VARGHESE is a writer and editor whose work has appeared in Hobart, the Malahat Review, the Fiddlehead, Plenitude Magazine, and others. Her stories have been recognized in the PRISM International Short Fiction Contest and the Alice Munro Festival Short Story Competition and nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She lives in Hamilton, Ontario. Chrysalis is her first book.
To celebrate Asian Heritage Month, I’ve curated a list of 31 books by South Asian diaspora authors from Canada and beyond. There’s something here for every reader and every day of the month – literally! I hope you find one or two (or 31!) new reads and are inspired by the depth and diversity of South Asian lit. – Anuja (@anuja_v on Twitter, Instagram and TikTok)
- For kick-starting your May reading - SUCH BIG DREAMS by REEMA PATEL. A propulsive novel where guilt, luck, ambition and redemption collide on the streets of Mumbai. This is definitely how you want to start your May reading list!
- For a multi-generational family epic – A HISTORY OF BURNING by JANIKA OZA. Get this very buzzy debut novel about family secrets and the things we do to survive on the day it’s released!
- For conversations you’d rather not have – GOOD TALK by MIRA JACOB. A graphic memoir that plunges you into conversations about race, family, politics, feminism, money, sexuality, parenting choices, and all the other awkward things we’re not supposed to talk about.
- For a perspective shift – PEOPLE CHANGE by VIVEK SHRAYA. A short essay collection reflecting on change, re-invention, and finding the courage to discover (or create) who you’ll become next.
- For the picture book reader – BHARATANATYAM IN BALLET SHOES by MAHAK JAIN. Beautifully illustrated by Anu Chouhan, this charming, vibrant book explores cultural identity through dance.
- For soaking in the cherry blossoms - MY GRIEF, THE SUN by SANNA WANI. This dreamy, intimate poetry collection is perfect for springtime strolls through cherry trees in bloom.
- For your next book club read – AGE OF VICE by DEEPTI KAPOOR. Forbidden love, gangsters, greed, and the consequences of corruption make this a new novel you won’t be able to stop talking about.
- For a little horror – HELPMEET by NABEN RUTHNUM. Part medical mystery, part gothic love story, part gruesome body horror, this chilling novella will live rent-free in your head long after you’ve finished reading it.
- For courage in the face of catastrophe – SONGS FOR THE END OF THE WORLD by SALEEMA NAWAZ. This eerily prescient novel written pre-pandemic follows an interconnected cast of characters as they navigate (you guessed it) a global pandemic.
- For wisdom and warmth – YOU STILL LOOK THE SAME by FARZANA DOCTOR. This poetry collection is at once funny and piercing, confessional and conversational, and is written with honesty, grace, and generosity of spirit.
- For short stories with big heart – COCONUT DREAMS by DEREK MASCARENHAS. These linked stories take you into the world of one family, exploring immigrant experience through memory, fable, and vivid vignettes.
- For a fairy tale retelling – OF CURSES AND KISSES by SANDHYA MENON. The first in a fun YA series of modern takes on classic fairy tales, this quick and sweet read is a fresh, diverse twist on Beauty and the Beast.
- For the middle grade reader – BOOK UNCLE AND ME by UMA KRISHNASWAMI. A funny, inspiring story about activism, friendship, and the love of books!
- For Mothers Day – TRUST NO AUNTY by MARIA QAMAR. This hilarious illustrated “survival guide” from Instagram’s @Hatecopy is highly relatable reading for all of us with complicated relationships with the aunties/mothers/grandmothers/mothers-in-law in our lives.
- For a different view of the Taj Mahal - MONUMENT by MANAHIL BANDUKWALA. Layered and lyrical, this poetry collection offers a nuanced conversation with Mughal Empress Mumtaz Mahal that refocuses her legacy beyond her famed connection to the Taj Mahal.
- For moving memoir – THE SHAYTAN BRIDE by SUMAIYA MATIN. The true story of one woman’s escape from forced marriage and her navigation of faith, desire, and shaping a life on her own terms.
- For a modern Muslim take on the rom-com – HANA KHAN CARRIES ON by UZMA JALALUDDIN. Rival halal restaurants compete in this clever, character-driven story that weaves romance with family, community, and mouth-watering food!
- For spilling the tea – HOME OF THE FLOATING LILY by SILMY ABDULLAH. Set in Canada and Bangladesh, these stories feel like sitting down to hear all the latest gossip about friends, neighbours, cousins and lovers of past and present.
- For your mythology fix – KAIKEYI by VAISHNAVI PATEL. A powerful feminist novel that recasts the characters from Hindu mythology with skillful storytelling and a heroine who shines on the page.
- For a dash of spice – DATING DR. DIL by NISHA SHARMA. Like a good Bollywood movie, this Taming of the Shrew-inspired romance is a little cheesy, a little spicy, a little sweet, and a lot of fun!
- For a sharp read – THERE HAS TO BE A KNIFE by ADNAN KHAN. At once raw and tender, nihilistic and hopeful, this is a blistering novel that investigates race, class, toxic masculinity and cultural expectations with an unflinching hand.
- For sapphic fantasy you won’t forget – THE JASMINE THRONE by TASHA SURI. Epic fantasy with a sapphic slow burn love story at its heart, this is a complex story of power, sacrifice, and choices that change the fate of an empire.
- For post-long weekend motivation – I’LL START AGAIN TOMORROW AND OTHER LIES I’VE TOLD MYSELF by SONIA JHAS. Combining personal stories with wellness insights and a couple tough questions, this is your read for self-discovery, goal-setting, and growth.
- For poetic playwrighting – BUFFOON by ANOSH IRANI. A one-man play that follows Felix, born into the circus, on his journey from innocence to heartbreak, finding humour even in darkness, as he walks the great tightrope of life.
- For a Thursday thriller – ARE YOU SARA? by S.C. LALLI. A tightly woven thriller that will keep you guessing on every page (and might just keep you up all night to find out how it ends!)
- For a step back in time – MANSIONS OF THE MOON by SHYAM SELVADURAI. An immersive re-imagining of the life of Yasodhara, usually only remembered as the Buddha’s wife, but explored here with all the depth, detail, and empathy of great historical fiction.
- For stories from deep space and dark oceans – NO ONE WILL COME BACK FOR US by PREMEE MOHAMED. Blending magic, science, and horror, the stories in this otherworldly collection range from strange to sweet to absolutely terrifying. Get ready for a wild ride!
- For your next beach read – THE MOST PRECIOUS SUBSTANCE ON EARTH by SHASHI BHAT. Full of 90’s nostalgia, smart writing, and relatable moments, this one will make you laugh out loud while it quietly breaks your heart.
- 29. For the YA fantasy reader – NIGHT OF THE RAVEN, DAWN OF THE DOVE by RATI MEHROTRA. A fast-paced fantasy full of battles and betrayals, ghosts and monsters, and a friendship that might be something more.
- For cozy romance vibes – TAHIRA IN BLOOM by FARAH HERON. Small town nerds, big city dreams, and a budding romance make this a sweet read to curl up with on a rainy day.
- For your goodbye to spring – CHRYSALIS by ANUJA VARGHESE. Okay, maybe it’s cheating to put my own short story collection on here… but with stories full of heat, magic, and transformation, this is the book energy you need as you bid farewell to spring and say hello to summer!
Learn more about Chrysalis