Last week, I wrote a piece previewing awesome books written by Indian authors being published in 2017, and it was incredibly exciting to see that so many people were looking forward to these novels as much as I was. But the comment I got the most was, “Why aren’t these books available right now????”
Well, guess what? So many great books by Indian authors released in 2016 as well. Reading about people who don’t look like you, who have a different culture, religion, orientation than you, is incredibly important right now. But what’s more, it’s important that Indian authors are able to write about whatever they want—it can be frustrating when it seems like the only books that are published are about people struggling under backbreaking misery living in the slums or rural villages of India. While those are important stories, they’re not representative of the larger Indian diaspora. What excites me about the books by Indian authors that released in 2016 is their range—they didn’t all have to even be about being Indian.
Check out all of these awesome books by Indian authors that released in 2016… but don’t forget to pick up these 2017 releases when they’re out this year!
1 'A Change of Heart' by Sonali Dev
This emotional Indian romance novel has darker undertones than its gorgeous cover suggests. Dr. Nikhil Joshi is broken after his wife was murdered in the slums of Mumbai. He works as a cruise ship doctor, drowning away his sorrows every day at the ship’s bar, and generally trying to forget about his life. That is, until he meets Jess Koirala, who received Jen’s heart in a transplant. Jess claims to be able to see Jen’s ghost, and Nic is desperate to believe her, to have some connection with his lost wife. But Jess has secrets of her own that can destroy them both, and as they get swept up in events they can’t control, will Nic be able to put aside his hurt and anger and trust Jess?
2 'The Private Life of Mrs. Sharma' by Ratika Kapur
Renuka Sharma lives in Delhi, working as a receptionist while her husband is working in Dubai. She subscribes to the upwardly mobile Indian dream: something better than her modest flat, a higher paying job, a car with a driver, and believes that she wants nothing more in life than to achieve these things. But a chance encounter with a stranger at a Delhi metro station changes everything, as Renuka begins to reevaluate what she expects out of life and what she’s currently receiving. It’s a wise meditation on life, and you’ll feel as though Renuka is your intimate friend by the end of this novel.
'Enter Title Here' by Rahul Kanakia
This hilarious YA novel features Reshma Kapoor, a driven high school student who will do anything it takes to succeed. On paper, Reshma is a dream: top of her class, extracurricular list a mile long. But in person, Reshma is a bit… difficult. Ruthless, even, and willing to step on anyone to achieve her dreams. When Reshma decides to write a novel (because she’s sure that will clinch her acceptance into Stanford), it has wildly unpredictable results on who she is, even as Reshma tries to control everything around her.
'Rich and Pretty' by Rumaan Alam
Rumaan Alam, a gay Indian man, writes a spot-on novel about two young women living in New York City and navigating that bridge between post-college years and true adulthood. What’s remarkable about Sarah and Lauren is that they’re both flawed, realistic women who are often unlikeable (a thing women usually aren’t allowed to be in literature). They can be selfish and difficult, but you’re always invested in them. It’s a hard line to walk with your characters, and Alam does it expertly in his debut novel.
'Michelangelo’s Ghost' by Gigi Pandian
If there’s one series I think is criminally underrated, it’s Gigi Pandian’s Treaure Hunt Mystery series. Jaya Jones is a historian who finds herself in all kinds of amazing situations, as she follows maps and clues to find historical artifacts and treasure. These books (this is the fourth in the series—starting with Artifact, then Pirate Vishnu, and finally Quicksand) are fun, with an incredible main character and really well-developed secondary characters. Michelangelo’s Ghost links a lost work of art from the Italian renaissance to India, as Jaya must travel to Italy to uncover the truth behind a new mystery.
'The Star-Touched Queen' by Roshani Chokshi
This lush YA fantasy novel features Maya, a 16-year-old princess who is shunned by her kingdom because her horoscope tells of a marriage that will bring death. But when Maya’s father asks her to agree to a marriage she knows will bring her doom—to an enemy prince—she has to decide whether she’ll obey her father or take her fate into her own hands. This book moves quickly in unexpected directions, with a rich world, and the fact that it’s a standalone is rare and refreshing in YA fantasy lit these days. (A companion novel, set in the same world, but a standalone story, is releasing in 2017).
'Lucky Penny' by Ananth Hirsh and Yumi Ota
I have recommended this graphic novel to anyone and everyone, and I’ll recommend it to all of you too: Penny is a little bit down on her luck. She lost her job and her apartment in the same day. But things might not be all bad: She met a cute guy, and she’s got some new career prospects (even if they’re at the laundromat). I absolutely adore this quirky rom com—Penny makes no apologies for the woman she is, and I love her for it.
'A Mother’s Secret' by Renita d’Silva
When Jaya loses both her mother and her infant son in a short amount of time, she’s bereft. A counselor encourages Jaya to learn more about her mother, to go through her belongings and set the ghosts of her past to rest. But Jaya stumbles upon a family mystery: among her mother’s most treasured possessions are two diaries and two photographs: one of a young boy and the other of a gorgeous mansion. Who is the boy, and why did Jaya’s mother save these pictures and diaries? Renita d’Silva writes gripping contemporary novels featuring Indian women, and this is no exception.
'The Year of the Runaways' by Sunjeev Sahota
What makes a young person want to leave their home country and immigrate to a new country, where they have no prospects or connections? That’s what Sunjeev Sahota examines in his novel, an often-difficult (due to subject matter, not writing—the writing is beautiful) story of three young men and one woman who leave India for England. There, they live in a crowded shared house that’s falling apart, on the fringes of legality, as they try to create new lives for themselves. This book follows their stories over the course of one year and examines the harsh realities of immigrant life.
'Shiny Broken Pieces' by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton
The sequel to Tiny Pretty Things, Shiny Broken Pieces is a YA novel about the difficult and competitive world of ballet. Three teenagers, June, Bette, and Gigi, must navigate the difficulties of what it is to be a ballerina while also dealing with their personal lives. I can’t get enough ballet novels, and this series is gripping and surprising, with a great trio of main characters who’ll stick with you.