Digital Editor Halima Ahad recommends five contemporary books to diversify your reading, focusing on novels set in British and American South Asian society

third year eng & creative writing, aspiring journalist, former culture editor and current digital editor <3
Last updated

Whether you’re South Asian like myself or not, widening your reading horizons is always a treat. In this article, I’ll give you a rundown of five of my most anticipated South Asian contemporary reads this year. I love how these books give a modern twist on the classics and integrate South Asian culture seamlessly into their narratives.

The Exes by Anam Iqbal

Described by the author herself as a ‘British South Asian gossip girl,’ The Exes explores many themes that are significant within British South Asian culture today, such as family and first love. This YA romance novel follows Zara Khan and Karim Malik, who are worlds apart from each other but meet at an event. The main question the novel poses is: do opposites ever really make it work? 

Iqbal’s representation of South Asian culture is just what modern British society needs today

When I first heard of the concept of The Exes, I was drawn to the novel immediately. Iqbal’s representation of South Asian culture is just what modern British society needs today. The novel touches upon many issues that the South Asian diaspora face in society, including Islamophobia, gender inequality, and classism. I cannot wait for the debut of The Exes since, from its premise and themes, it has everything young South Asian women would want in a novel.

(The Exes will be published on 2nd May with Penguin UK. Preorders are available.)

Debating Darcy by Sayantani Dasgupta

Putting a fun twist on Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Debating Darcy follows Leela Bosle, a headstrong young woman who never quits – until she meets the pretentious Firoze Darcy. What could possibly go wrong? Whilst putting her competitive streak on play, Leela’s heart may be drawn to Darcy’s more than she had thought.

One thing which really drew me to this book was its integration of American high school culture. As well as this, adding the South Asian diaspora into the setting sounds amazing. I cannot wait to get my hands on this novel because Pride and Prejudice is one of my favourite classics, so seeing it with a modern and cultural twist is something not to be missed.

(Debating Darcy is out now.)

Hope Ablaze by Sarah Mughal Rana

‘She lost her words but found her voice’ is the premise for Hope Ablaze. The novel charts the journey of Nida, who tries to navigate her way in a post-9/11 America amidst issues such as racism and Islamophobia.

Nida writes poetry and finds solace in this whilst living in a society that stereotypes her religion. One day, she retaliates towards a politician by writing a scathing poem back. She then goes viral and has to juggle the numerous consequences that result, including the expectations of her family within Pakistani culture. The novel’s premise is touching and I cannot wait to read it because it explores Islamic and Pakistani identity as both are intertwined in post-9/11 America.

(Hope Ablaze is out now.)

Dating Dr. Dil by Nisha Sharma

The novel touches upon typical tropes – such as enemies to lovers – with a South Asian twist

Dating Dr. Dil follows the story of Kareena, who seals a deal with her father that if she can get engaged in the next four months, she can have her mother’s home. Her plans soon become foiled as her argument with Dr. Prem goes viral on his chat show The Dr. Dil Show. However, all is not lost as Kareena’s aunties present a solution in front of him: if he convinces Kareena that he is her soulmate, they will fund his dream community clinic.

The novel touches upon typical tropes – such as enemies to lovers – with a South Asian twist. The more time they spend together, the more time Prem believes that Kareena is the one for him. But can they both convince themselves of their fate? I’m very excited to read Dating Dr. Dil because it puts a South Asian spotlight on the chick lit genre, which it truly needs.

(Dating Dr. Dil is out now.)

When a Brown Girl Flees by Aamna Qureshi

Qureshi describes this novel as a ‘breathtaking journey of healing, self-love and hope.’ When a Brown Girl Flees charts the journey of Zahra, who runs away from home to the bustling city of New York in order to learn more about herself. She stays cooped up in a bed-and-breakfast on Long Island, anxious and depressed about the consequences of her actions; however, she soon discovers the area’s Muslim community after visiting a local mosque.

Qureshi has written a novel that every young Muslim woman needs to read

The basic premise of the novel is a ‘Muslim teen goes on a breathtaking journey to find her home – and more importantly – herself,’ and from this, I can tell that Qureshi has written a novel that every young Muslim woman needs to read. It can be hard to navigate your way through modern society with numerous cultural and religious expectations upon yourself. However, Qureshi encourages readers that personal identity rises above these and that you can overcome these expectations.

(When a Brown Girl Flees is out now.)

Enjoyed this? Read more from Redbrick Culture here!

Book Review: Rat Trap by Dr Pandora Pound

Theatre Review – Stranger Things: The First Shadow

Theatre Review: Minority Report