In this blog, I wanted to highlight the voices of Indian Americans, a subgroup of Asian Americans that often gets overlooked. Although Indian Americans are often remembered as an afterthought when people think about the Asian American community, they are a sizable and growing part of the community. As of 2019, 4.6 million Indian Americans live in the United States, more than two times the population of 1.9 million in 2000. Indian Americans are an important part of the Asian American community and it’s past time that their literary contributions are recognized.
I have selected five works of fiction published by authors of Indian origin who grew up or are living in the US. I chose these titles with an eye towards covering a wide range of genres that were published relatively recently. These selections are not meant to be comprehensive and are shaped by my own subjective literary taste. I hope you will find something that piques your interest and give one of these titles a try!
Genre: Literary Fiction, Satire, Dystopian, Historical Fiction
Vara’s genre-bending debut is a sweeping epic told through three timelines in alternating chapters: the tale of a Dalit clan in early independent India, the success story of an immigrant in 1980s America, and a dystopian future with a corporatized government. The Immortal King Rao is an ambitious novel that explores many challenging questions that our technologically advanced society faces today while also weaving in themes of family lore and love. Vara resides in Colorado.
Genre: Realistic Young Adult (YA)
This YA novel follows five women in the same Bengali family from the 1960s to the present day. The character-driven story is told in alternating teen voices across three generations and follows the struggles of these young women as they navigate the everyday struggles of race, identity, friendships, crushes, and relationships with each other. Perkins is currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Genre: Fantasy, Mythology
Kaikeyi is a retelling of the Ramayana , one of the great epic poems of India. Reviewers have compared Kaikeyi favorably to Madeline Miller’s Circe. Patel’s feminist retelling puts the traditionally reviled queen at the center and portrays her in a more compassionate light by articulating the pressures of manipulative gods and the patriarchal society she must have faced. Patel grew up in the Chicago area.
Genre: Historical Fiction
While working for a master perfumer, Radha discovers that she has a rare talent of being able to detect each layer of scent in a perfume. However, Radha finds herself caught between her desire to work and her husband’s desire for her to stay at home with their daughters. When a dark secret comes to light, the life she has carefully built for herself threatens to fall apart. Joshi resides in Pacific Grove, California.
Genre: Literary Fiction, Short Stories
In this defiant collection of eleven short but meaty stories narrated by Indian Americans, Patel’s characters wrestle with relationships that fall apart from marriages to families to friendships. Patel’s compelling characters rebel against the familial expectations placed upon them, make the wrong decisions, and subvert readers’ expectations while resisting model minority stereotypes. Patel lives in Los Angeles.