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10 Books By Canadian South Asian Authors You Need To Discover!

Anokhi Buzz List It! Jul 05, 2017

As we continue to celebrate #Canada150 (because it’s a year-long celebration!), and as we get our summer reading list in shape, what better way to mark the occasion than by embracing the diversity and multiculturalism that have become synonymous with the Canadian identity? Enjoy a page-turning book by some of the country’s best authors — many of whom are first-generation South Asian Canadians. From classics to next-gen, cheers to #Canada150!

Krishna Nikhil is the executive VP, print, and chief strategy officer at Canada’s largest book retailer, Indigo. He says, “Canada is fortunate to have so many talented authors of South Asian heritage, from acclaimed writers such as Rohinton Mistry, Michael Ondaatje and M.G. Vassanji to new talents who are breaking boundaries and barriers such as Rupi Kaur, Neil Pasricha and Lilly Singh. We truly believe that stories connect us, and Canada 150 is an excellent time to explore Canada’s diverse culture through the words of some of these wonderful authors.”

That’s why ANOKHI, together with Indigo, has created a collection of classic and newer titles from Canadian South Asian authors who should be on your reading list to commemorate the nation’s sesquicentennial this summer!

 

The Happiness Equation (2016) by Neil Pasricha 

The ongoing search for happiness is the focus of Oshawa native Neil Pasricha’s bestseller, which comes on the heels of his Book of Awesome series. The Harvard MBA and Walmart exec uses The Happiness Equation to go from observation to application. In the book, he takes a common ideal, flips it and casts it in a completely new light. Through this approach, he shows readers “how to want nothing, do anything and have everything.” Pasricha says if that sounds like a contradiction, then readers have not yet uncovered the nine secrets to happiness. The idea for his book stemmed from a letter he began writing to his unborn child about living a happy life soon after learning of his wife’s pregnancy.

#Canada150 10 Books By Canadian South Asian Authors You Need To Discover
#Canada150 — 10 Books By Canadian South Asian Authors You Need To Discover: Neil Pasricha. Photo Credit: The Happiness Equation/2016

 

Milk and Honey (2014) by Rupi Kaur 

Kaur is only 24, but already her debut book, Milk and Honey, is on the top-seller list for Canadian literature on Amazon, among veteran Canadian writers like Margaret Atwood. It was even on The New York Times bestseller list for 25 consecutive weeks. The book is a collection of poetry, prose and illustrations by Kaur split into four chapters, “the hurting,” “the loving,” “the breaking,” and “the healing.” Her unique approach to writing focuses on diverse themes, ranging from love and loss to sexual violence, womanhood and healing. Born in Punjab, Kaur emigrated with her parents to Toronto when she was just four years old. She yearned for books written by people who looked like her and were going through her experiences. All of her work is written in lowercase, and the only punctuation she uses is the period as a way to honour her Sikh culture and the Punjabi Gurmukhi script, where all letters are treated the same.

#Canada150 10 Books By Canadian South Asian Authors You Need To Discover
#Canada150 — 10 Books By Canadian South Asian Authors You Need To Discover: Rupi Kaur. Photo Credit: Milk and Honey/2014

 

Trust No Aunty (expected August 2017) by Maria Qamar

Qamar emigrated from Pakistan to Canada when she was nine years old. She uses her tongue-in-cheek illustrations to rise above the racism and bullying she experienced growing up and create something that celebrates her dual South Asian and Canadian identity. Trust No Aunty features Qamar’s art as she takes a hilarious look at those overbearing aunties in the South Asian community — whether they’re family members, annoying neighbours or just random older ladies. Qamar’s debut book is full of advice designed to help people manage those meddling aunties whom she says she defied almost every step of the way in her own life. Her illustrations are often featured on her Instagram account, Hatecopy, which she started in 2015. She now boasts 100,000 followers.

#Canada150 10 Books By Canadian South Asian Authors You Need To Discover
#Canada150 — 10 Books By Canadian South Asian Authors You Need To Discover: Maria Qamar. Photo Credit: Trust No Aunty

 

How To Be A Bawse (2016) by Lilly Singh

“This journey has taught me to always pick yourself up, not allow anything to stand in your way and that the only secret to achieving your dreams is hard work, ” explains Lilly Singh. Born and raised in Scarborough, the 28-year-old Singh, AKA Superwoman, penned her story so she could share with others what she’s learned about success and happiness on her own journey so far. The YouTube sensation’s tough, no-nonsense guide How To Be A Bawse uses stories from her own life to illustrate her message, showing readers that there are no shortcuts to success. And she has certainly achieved success! The proof is the the 2 billion views her online videos have racked up.

#Canada150 10 Books By Canadian South Asian Authors You Need To Discover
#Canada150 — 10 Books By Canadian South Asian Authors You Need To Discover: Lilly Singh. Photo Credit: How To Be A Bawse/2016

 

The Tiger Claw (2004) by Shauna Singh Baldwin

Born in Montreal and raised in India, Baldwin currently lives Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She been recognized here in Canada and internationally for her writing. The Tiger Claw was a finalist for the coveted Giller Prize, and it’s being turned into a film. The book is a Second World War spy novel featuring a woman spy protagonist, Noor Khan. Khan is a radio operator who volunteered for a special operations unit and was dropped behind Nazi lines in occupied France in 1943. Another element central to the story line is Khan’s faith. Her father is a Muslim Indian, and Khan is constantly in dialogue with Allah, asking favours and making promises.

#Canada150 10 Books By Canadian South Asian Authors You Need To Discover
#Canada150 — 10 Books By Canadian South Asian Authors You Need To Discover: Shauna Singh Baldwin. Photo Credit: The Tiger Claw/2004

 

 

 The Hero’s Walk (2000) by Anita Rau Badami

Badami immigrated from Odisha, India, to Canada in 1991. She earned an MA at the University of Calgary and published her first novel just six years later. Her break-through novel, The Hero’s Walk, won the 2001 Commonwealth Writers Prize for best book in Canada and the Caribbean. It tells the story of Sripathi Rao, a middle-aged family man who works as an advertising copywriter in a small city on the Bay of Bengal and leads a very tough life. His troubles reach an all-time high when his daughter, along with her Canadian husband, die in a car crash, leaving their seven-year-old daughter without parents. Rao must then embark on a life-changing journey to Canada to bring his granddaughter home.

#Canada150 -- 10 Books By Canadian South Asian Authors You Need To Discover
#Canada150 — 10 Books By Canadian South Asian Authors You Need To Discover: Anita Rau Badami. Photo Credit: The Hero’s Walk/2000

 

Anil’s Ghost (2000) by Michael Ondaatje 

One of Canada’s most renowned living authors, Ondaatje takes us to Sri Lanka — the country of his birth — in his fourth novel to tell the story of Anil Tissear. The young woman, raised in England and America, returns to her homeland as a forensic anthropologist sent by a human rights group to uncover the mystery surrounding organized murders across the island. Through her work, Tissear learns about love, family and even her own identity. Anil’s Ghost has been described as Ondaatje’s most powerful novel yet.

#Canada150 -- 10 Books By Canadian South Asian Authors You Need To Discover
#Canada150 — 10 Books By Canadian South Asian Authors You Need To Discover: Michael Ondaatje. Photo Credit: Anil’s Ghost/2000

 

A Fine Balance (1997) by Rohinton Mistry

Named one of Indigo’s top 10 favourite Canadian books of all time, and one of only two Canadian books selected for Oprah’s Book Club, the Indian-born Canadian writer Rohinton Mistry’s second novel, A Fine Balance, is set in an unknown Indian city in 1975. Amid political turmoil, the story centers on four unlikely strangers — a widow, a young student and two tailors — who end up living together.  The novel explores how their lives become intertwined and the bonds they develop following India’s government declaring a state of emergency. The book seems to parallel the changes in Indian society from Independence in 1947 to the emergency called by Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi — though Gandhi is never referred to by name in the book.

#Canada150 -- 10 Books By Canadian South Asian Authors You Need To Discover
#Canada150 — 10 Books By Canadian South Asian Authors You Need To Discover: Rohinton Mistry. Photo Credit: A Fine Balance/1997

 

 

Funny Boy (1994) by Shyam Selvadurai 

Set against the backdrop of the 1993 riots in Sri Lanka, Selvadurai’s homeland, this novel is about a young Sri Lankan man growing up in a wealthy Tamil family in Colombo as he explores and comes to terms with his homosexuality. As a child, he’s deemed a “funny boy because he prefers to dress like a girl instead of playing cricket. The novel discusses an issue that is taboo in the South Asian community, even offering a glimpse into Selvadurai’s own backstory. He and his partner had to deal with much criticism and backlash during the  time they spent in Sri Lanka in the late ’90s.

#Canada150 -- 10 Books By Canadian South Asian Authors You Need To Discover
#Canada150 — 10 Books By Canadian South Asian Authors You Need To Discover: Shyam Selvadurai. Photo Credit: Funny Boy/1994

 

The Book of Secrets (1994) by M.G. Vassanji

Vassanji is described as one of Canada’s most acclaimed writers. Born in Kenya and raised in Tanzania, he came to Canada as a postdoctoral fellow in the late ’70s. Like most of his work, The Book of Secrets focuses on the migration of East African Indians. The novel, which won the very first Giller Prize for Canadian fiction, centers on an old diary found by retired schoolteacher Pius Fernandes in the back room of an East African shop. The diary, written in 1913 by a British colonial administrator, captivates Fernandes who goes on an investigative journey to decode the entries, propelling him into his own quest of self-discovery.

#Canada150 -- 10 Books By Canadian South Asian Authors You Need To Discover
#Canada150 — 10 Books By Canadian South Asian Authors You Need To Discover: M.G. Vassanji. Photo Credit: The Book of Secrets/1994

 

Main Image Photo Credit: Trust No Aunty/2017

Neetu Seupersadsingh

Neetu Seupersadsingh

Author

Neetu Seupersadsingh has loved writing for as long as she can remember. That's why Carleton University’s journalism program  was her clear choice for post-secondary studies. In Ottawa, she was able to further develop her skill in arts, entertainment and lifestyle reporting. So...

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