For the next post with book recommendations from around the world, we travel to India, a country with a rich literary tradition in dozens of languages, regions, and cultures. With such a wide range of literature to choose from, it's easy to feel at a loss to where to start. We asked Resh, the brilliant mind behind The Book Satchel instagram account, to reccomend some books by Indian women writers.
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India is an eclectic mixture of languages, culture and cuisines. No list titled "books from India" would be wholly complete because each state has its own books of regional literature, some of which has been translated to English. In addition there is a strong industry that publishes books written in English as well. Many Indian women writers have made a mark in international literary world, be it contemporaries like Arundhati Roy and Anita Desai or the golden ones like Kamala Das and Mahasweta Devi. Here is a list of new titles that are stellar reads written by Indian women.
When I Hit You made it to the shortlist of Women’s Prize for Fiction this year. It is an autobiographical story of a writer trapped in an abusive marriage. The author laments about feeling stuck while creating strong female characters in her writing. The narrative is raw, brutal and honest and leaves you terrified.
The High Priestess Never Marries is a short story collection from Sharanya Manivannan with stories mostly set in the state of Tamil Nadu in south India. There are stories of lonely women, wives, widows, unfaithful partners, artists and goddesses. There is a clever spiritual interplay of the supernatural (or sometimes sacred symbolisms) and is wrapped in beautiful lyrical prose.
K R. Meera is known for her powerful novellas. The Poison of Love is translated from Malayalam and tells the story of a talented woman who gives up her career and job prospects to elope with the man she loves. She ends up in a wretched life with a philandering husband. She adopts a saintly life and her story is told in a set of flashbacks with ample symbolisms.
This is a short story collection for the whimsical enthusiasts. The short stories are mostly set in India and weaved with a strong element of magical realism. So you have unexplainable events, strange twists and bizarre endings in the stories in the collection. You will love the stories and characters, be it the beetle collector who is suspicious of his wife or the lady made of cotton, if you have a thing for fabulism.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Windfall which tells the story of a family in New Delhi who come across a huge amount of money and move to a posh neighbourhood. Full of eccentric characters and quirky humour, this light read would leave you laughing and thinking.
Janice Pariat is a prominent writer from the north east of India. The Nine-Chambered Heart is a fragmented portrait of the protagonist through the eyes of the people she interacts with at different stages in her life. Each person paints a different picture before us. It is a refreshing read and at the end we wonder how well we know our heroine solely through these stories.