Growing up, I struggled to make sense of my Indian heritage while living in a Western country. It didn’t help that most books I read had no connection to anything Indian. I knew I wanted more opportunities to read books that showcase Indian mythology and culture.
I am so happy that I found such an amazing readathon to join and I really have to thank the creators: Charvi @ Not Just Fiction, Shruti @ This is Lit, and Nandini @ Novels and Nebulas. I got to read so many novels written by Indian authors, featuring an Indian cast of characters that took inspiration from such a rich culture! I felt so excited whenever I saw references to Indian food, phrases, and stories that I grew up with – and it was lovely to be able to gush about these books with other readers! The fact that this readathon had its own storyline where you could be a member of the court just made the experience that much better.
For this readathon, I chose the role of Scholar, where I had to read a book that is more than 400 pages long, with a side quest to recommend at least 3 Indian books. The novel I read for this prompt was Star Daughter by Shveta Thakrar, which worked really well since I also have to read it for a blog tour coming up SO KEEP YOUR EYES PEELED FOR THAT!
But here are my recommendations:
The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
I grew up hearing the stories of the Mahabharata, one of the greatest Indian epics. My mother actually recommended this book to me because she knows how much I love retellings – and this one I just couldn’t pass up. This story is told from the perspective of Draupadi, wife of the Pandavas, and it offers such a fresh take on this classic tale. It is such an insightful feminist viewpoint, packed with such complexity that it makes the reader stop and think. It took a familiar story and presented me with a different way of looking at it; it became a completely new reader experience and I loved it. I have reread this novel so many times now and it never gets old; I cannot praise and recommend this novel enough!
Hunted by the Sky by Tanaz Bhatena
This was a YA fantasy novel that had really great worldbuilding. Every detail, from the clothing style to the architecture was well developed and I loved how the author connected the story to medieval India. The plot itself was intriguing, as it followed the lives of 2 characters. Both Gul and Cavas have suffered in their own way and have different approaches to handling their problems. I loved Gul’s strength and her fierceness, and I liked how Cavas was so conscientious and responsible. There were also plenty of mystical characters and magical abilities to keep me excited and interested. The novel also did a great job of discussing serious themes about divisions of class and caste. I cannot wait to see the journey this story will take in the next book in this series!
10 Things I Hate About Pinky by Sandhya Menon
Unlike the other novels I’ve mentioned, this is a contemporary fiction story that I adored. Ever since I discovered Sandhya Menon’s work, I have been in a little happy place where I obsessively read everything she writes. This is the novel that I wish was present during my teenage years – but I am so grateful to have it now! I loved the different characters and the way the author shows the struggles of growing up Indian in a Western country – while still making sure the characters have unique personalities that don’t play to stereotypes. Pinky and Samir are such polar opposites and I just loved watching them change, grow, and fall in love with each other. While the premise in this novel isn’t anything new, it was special to me because of all of the memories of my own childhood. If this novel isn’t on your TBR – IT SHOULD BE!
Honestly, I cannot thank the creators of IndianLit enough for hosting this readathon for its 3rd run! I loved having the opportunity to connect to my roots, engage with other people from a similar background, and just read some fantastic books. This readathon has made me realize just how few books I read by Indian authors, which is something I will definitely rectify – because we need to uplift and promote OwnVoices more!