2021 Debut Books From Indian Diaspora Writers You Must Read

As its literal meaning in Latin indicates, ‘Diaspora’ describes the people’ scattered around’ the globe far away from their homeland. In the postcolonial discourse, diaspora as a concept has greater significance. Navigating through their multiple identities, the diaspora tends to weave their nostalgia and longing for ‘home’ through literature.   

The Indian diaspora being the largest globally with eighteen million people living apart from their homeland has a diverse and wide range of diasporic literature. From early Indian diasporic writers like G.V Desani, Kamala Markandaya to V.S Naipaul, Salman Rushdie, Anita Desai, Jhumpa Lahiri, Rohinton Mistry, Sujatha Gidla, and more, the Indian expatriate writing has been blooming.  

Let us take a look into a few of 2021’s debut releases of some emerging Indian diasporic writers.  

  1. The Grand Daughter Project by Shaheen Chishti  
British-Indian author's debut novel "The Granddaughter Project" - The  Statesman

The debut read of the champion of women empowerment, Shaheen Chishti, is a row and poignant tale of three powerful women who narrate their stories during the unforgivable and brutal historical events. Shaheen Chishti, one of the newest authors of British- Indian heritage, world peace advocate, and founder of Shaheen Chishti Women Empowerment Foundation, weaves his narrative in such a manner that it delves into the reader’s heart. The debut entitled The Granddaughter Project was published by the international publishing house, Nimble Books in 2021. The three women characters, namely Kamala, Helga, and Lynette tell their determination to not give up life during the horrific Bengal famine of the 1940s, Holocaust of 1940, and Notting Hill Gate of 1958, respectively. The must-read debut touches upon several themes of the suffering of women and examines some of the brutal tragedies of the world.  

2. Gold Diggers by Sanjena Sathian 

Sanjena Anshu Sathian, the American novelist with her Indian heritage, tells a familiar story of belongingness and otherness experienced by a generation of Indian American children. The debut novel revolves around a teenager, Niel Narayan, the son of immigrant parents, and his neighbor Anita Dayal. The novel investigates every expatriate’s troubling question that ‘what does it mean to be both Indian and American?’ The astonishing story intertwines historical fiction with a splash of magical realism. With all its mythology, alchemy, melodrama, and pursuit of the American Dream, Gold Diggers turn out to be a magical debut of 2021.  

3. American Betiya by Anuradha D. Rajurkar  

The American Indian teacher and writer, Anuradha D. Rajurkar, thoughtfully examines the cross-cultural boundaries involved in a love relationship through her characters, Rani Kelkar and Oliver Jensen, in her debut novel, American Betiya. The American Indian girl falls in love with the English boy, who romanticizes her culture as exotic. Rani finds herself breaking all the rules of her Indian parents to be with Oliver.  

The debut novel tells about the identity struggles and complications involved in a cross-cultural relationship. The struggle of an American Indian girl who is grappling with Indian culture and Western culture is portrayed in the novel. Rajurkar, in her novel, explores the powerful themes of race, patriarchy, and identity.  

4. Radiant Fugitives: A Novel by Nawaaz Ahmed 

Radiant Fugitives narrated through the internal monologues of an Indian Muslim boy, Ishraaq, who moves back and forth in time and space, from Chennai to London to the United States maps the progress of three generations of a Muslim Indian family. The Indian-born American author, Nawaaz Ahmed, a computer scientist before turning to a writer, has set his compelling debut novel in San Francisco during Barack Obama’s presidential campaign and first year in office.   

Seema, the novel’s central character, is working as a consultant for Kamala Harris’ attorney general campaign seems to have constructed a successful life despite her grappling with her father’s longstanding decision to send her out of the family as she came out as a lesbian. The author currently lives in Brooklyn and explores politics, race, and religion through his promising debut.  

5. Sita: Now You Know Me by Sini Panicker 

The Indian American writer, Sini Panicker, tells about the journey of Sita from Ramayana, India’s first epic poem written by Valmiki, in her debut novel, Sita: Now You Know Me. The novel set in Vedic times of ancient India narrates the story of Sita’s turbulent life, whom a number of writers and poets have substantially silenced since the time of the epic. Sini Panicker attempts an enigmatic re-imagining of Sita by giving the protagonist a spirited and resilient voice to befit the present-day social milieu.  

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