31 Must-Read South Asian LGBTQ Books For 2021 - Homegrown

31 Must-Read South Asian LGBTQ Books For 2021

It is safe to say that 2020 was the year when queer literature finally came out of the closet. However, prowling the aisles of a local book shop, you’d be hard-pressed to find titles by queer authors. Or at least openly queer authors. Credit where it’s due, though. Independent efforts at compiling resources have taken off – there’s the Bi Collective Library in New Delhi and ‘Tilt’ in Ahmedabad, to name a few. The capital city got its very first Queer Literature Festival, Rainbow Lit Fest, by Sharif D Rangnekar in 2019 which completed its second-year anniversary in 2020. At a time when Indian queer publishing in a way is pushed back into the closet due to the pandemic, I think it is extremely important to realise the power of queer literature.

If someone would’ve asked me to name a few queer writers five years ago, as a queer kid in Jabalpur, I would’ve fumbled. However, today there are more and more queer perspectives being written across the length and breadth of this country, especially, outside the metropolis where being queer is a political proclamation and existing as both brown and queer is like a double-edged sword. As it is, the conditions that such folks experience in small towns are very different from what they experience in metropolitan cities like Delhi and Mumbai. Thus, it becomes elusive for these voices to reach the mainstream audience and publishers. However, I’m inclined to think that there may soon be an LGBTQIA+ section at book shops, snuggled between, say, ‘Biographies’, and ‘Bestsellers’. In the meantime, I share my favourite South Asian LGBTQ books with you, dear reader. We live in an era of social media and we’ve completely forgotten the essence of books. Nonetheless, this is my little effort to keep our reading habits intact.

Here are 31 South Asian LGBTQ books everyone needs to read for 2021.

I. Like Blood on the Bitten Tongue

Delhi Poems by Akhil Katyal This is Akhil Katyal’s third collection of poems which was published in February 2020 by Context. In an increasingly cynical world, his bittersweet poems are shot through with empathy. This book is a must-read for all poetry lovers.

II. Straight to Normal by Sharif Rangnekar

This autobiography was published on 25 January 2019 by Rupa Publications India. It is a fierce story of a gay man who had to battle bouts of confusion, vulnerability, fear, rejection, and depression and also unlearn the normative definition of lust, love, and everything in between, in order to thwart the desire to kill himself and find a reason to live. Through the twists and turns of hate and affection, love and break-ups, violence, and near peace, he finally finds the courage to speak for himself and others like him. After several failed attempts to write this book due to the fear of the law and society, as a fifty-year-old gay man who does not want to see a single person losing hope and life, Sharif has written his story where he describes how he gained an identity but lost a near lifetime, looking for love and companionship. Through this book, he hopes that anyone who feels pressured to appear ‘straight’ finds the strength to be who they are.

III. Beyond the Gender Binary (Pocket Change Collective) by Alok Vaid-Menon

This book is part of a series called ‘Pocket Change Collective’, which was published by Penguin Workshop on 2 June 2020. This is a series of small books with big ideas from today’s leading activists and artists. In this instalment, Beyond the Gender Binary, Alok Vaid-Menon challenges the world to see gender not in black and white, but in full colour. Taking from their own experiences as gender-nonconforming artist, they show us that gender is a malleable and creative form of expression. The only limit is your imagination.

IV. Loving Women: Being Lesbian in Unprivileged India

This book was published on 30 October 2006 by Yoda Press. The narratives in this volume constitute immense challenges and small but profoundly significant triumphs. Located within a personal journey of emergence from a space fraught with silences and half-truths, the book documents the life-stories of ten working-class queer women living in north India. In doing so, it dispels the myth that lesbians in India are all urban, westernised and come from upper and middle classes. These real-life narratives create a space for voices with little or no privilege, providing these women with an opportunity to share their lived realities with one another and with others. The stories effectively challenge the notion of women as sexual beings without agency, and it is hoped, will influence the women’s movement towards the inclusion of lesbian women in the movement.

V. The Subtweet: A Novel by Vivek Shraya

This book revolves around the story of an Indie musician named Neela Devaki who has built a career by writing the songs she wants to hear but nobody else is singing. When one of Neela’s songs is covered by internet artist RUK-MINI and becomes a viral sensation, the two musicians meet and a transformative friendship begins. But before long, the systemic pressures that pit women against one another begin to bear down on Neela and RUK-MINI, stirring up self-doubt and jealousy. With a single tweet, their friendship implodes, a career is destroyed, and the two women find themselves at the centre of an internet firestorm.

Published on 7 April 2020, by CW Press, this is celebrated multidisciplinary artist Vivek Shraya’s second novel. It is a stirring examination of making art in the modern era, a love letter to brown women, an authentic glimpse into the music industry, and a nuanced exploration of the promise and peril of being seen.

VI. Mohanaswamy by Vasudhendra and Rashmi Terdal

‘Much like the great James Baldwin, the acclaimed Kannada writer Vasudhendra has transformed his personal experience of bigotry, shame, and tragedy into harrowing but magnificent truth-telling. His work will leave you impatient with other writers.’ — Siddharth Dube, author of No One Else Mohanaswamy has just lost his long-time partner, Karthik, to a woman. Even as he scrutinizes himself, the choices he’s made, the friends and lovers he’s gained and lost, Mohanaswamy dreams of living a simple, dignified life. A life that would allow him to leave, even forget, the humiliation and fears of adolescence, the slurs his mind still carries around – gandu sule, hennu huli — and the despair that made him crave to conform. A coming out of the closet for Vasudhendra himself, these stories of homosexual love and lives jolted Kannada readers out of their notions of the literary and the palatable. The gritty narratives of Mohanaswamy explore sexuality, urbanization, and class with nuance and unflinching honesty that will both unnerve and move readers in English, and serve as a fine introduction to one of the strongest voices in Kannada literature. This book was published on 10 November 2016 by HarperPerennial.

VII. Yaraana: Gay Writing from South Asia by Hoshang Merchant

An exploration of gay identity in South Asia. From Ashok Row Kavi’s autobiographical piece on growing up gay in Bombay to Vikram Seth’s brilliantly etched account of a homosexual relationship in The Golden Gate, the stories, poems, plays, and prose extracts in this collection cover a range of literary styles, themes, and sensibilities. Mahesh Dattani’s play Night Queen is significant as one of the first serious attempts at dramatizing homosexuality on the Indian stage; the poems by R. Raj Rao included here are part of a series that formed the basis for the Bollywood film Bomgay; and the poetry of Dinyar Godrej, Adil Jussawalla and Sultan Padamsee is searing in its intensity.

Apart from the pieces written originally in English, there are works translated from Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati, and other Indian languages, which speak of the agony and the joy of being a man in love with other men. Extracts from the work of well-known writers including Bhupen Khakkar, Kamleshwar, and Vishnu Khandekar provide a rare insight into the lives of homosexual men in India s small towns and villages. An extract from Shyam Selvadurai’s Funny Boy details an account of growing up gay in war-torn Sri Lanka, while K.C. Ajay, an illiterate taxi driver, gives us an alternate glimpse of love and friendship in Nepal. Pieces such as these along with the poetry of Agha Shahid Ali and Iftikhar Naseem expand the scope of this collection to include writers from South Asia.

The First Edition of this book was published on 1 January 2000 by Penguin Books. With wit, passion, and courage, these writings bring to the fore the true meaning of yaraana or male friendship and bonding, an often-ignored facet of South Asian life and sexuality.

VIII. The World That Belongs To Us: An Anthology of Queer Poetry from South Asia Edited by Akhil Katyal and Aditi Angiras

This is a first-of-its-kind anthology that was published by HarperCollins on September 22, 2020. This is a bold and necessary correction to the subcontinent’s poetry canon.’ As described by Jeet Thayil. It brings together the best of contemporary queer poetry from South Asia, both from the subcontinent and its many diasporas. The anthology features well-known voices like Hoshang Merchant, Ruth Vanita, Suniti Namjoshi, Kazim Ali, Rajiv Mohabir as well as a host of new poets. The themes range from desire and loneliness, sexual intimacy and struggles, caste and language, activism both on the streets and in the homes, the role of the family, both given and chosen, and heartbreaks and heart joins. Writing from Bangalore, Baroda, Benares, Boston, Chennai, Colombo, Dhaka, Delhi, Dublin, Karachi, Kathmandu, Lahore, London, New York City, and writing in languages including Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Urdu, Manipuri, Malayalam, Marathi, Punjabi, Tamil, and, of course, English, the result is an urgent, imaginative and beautiful testament to the diversity, politics, aesthetics, and ethics of queer life in South Asia today.

IX. The Scent of God by Saikat Majumdar

In an elite all-boys’ boarding school run by a Hindu monastic order in late-twentieth-century India, things aren’t what they look like on the surface.

Anirvan, a young student, is fascinated by the music and silence of spiritual life. He dreams of becoming a monk. But as he seeks his dream, he finds himself drawn to a fellow student, and they come together to form an intimate and unspeakable relationship. The boys sweat at cricket and football, crack science and mathematics in pursuit of golden careers, and meditate to the aroma of incense and flowers. It’s a world of ruthless discipline shaped by monks in flowing saffron. A sceptical teacher mentors Anirvan and reveals his suspicion of this vigilant atmosphere. Does the beating of the boys reveal urges that cannot be named? What is the meaning of monastic celibacy? What, indeed, holds the brotherhood together?

Against himself, Anirvan gets sucked into a whirl of events outside the walls of the monastery, in the midst of prostitutes, scheming politicians, and the impoverished Muslims of the villages surrounding the school. When the love of his life returns to him, the boys’ desire for each other pushes them towards a wild course of action. But will that give them a life together in a world that does not recognize their kind of love? This book was published by Simon & Schuster India in 2019.

X. Don’t Let Him Know by Sandip Roy

In a boxy apartment building in an Illinois college town, Romola Mitra, a newly arrived young bride, anxiously awaits her first letter from home in India. When she accidentally opens the wrong letter, it changes her life. Decades later, her son, Amit, back in the U.S., finds the same letter and thinks he has discovered his mother’s secret. But secrets carry within them their own secrets sometimes.

Amit does not know that Avinash, his devoted father, lurked on gay chat rooms at times, unable to set aside his lifelong attraction to men. Avinash, for his part, had no idea about the memories of a starry romance his dutiful wife kept tucked away among her silk saris. As Amit settles down as a computer engineer in San Francisco, he too is torn between his new life here and his duties toward the one he has left behind in India.

Don’t Let Him Know sweeps up multiple generations of a family, moving from an illicit encounter in a Calcutta park to an unlikely friendship forged at a Carbondale gay bar, from midnight snacks of a great-grandmother’s mango chutney to wayward temptations at a McDonald’s drive-thru. Tender, funny, and beautifully told, it is an unforgettable story about the sacrifices we make for those we love. This book was published by Bloomsbury Paperbacks; Reprint edition on 29 March 2016.

XI. Cobalt Blue by Sachin Kundalkar

Cobalt Blue is a tale of rapturous love and fierce heartbreak told with tenderness and unsparing clarity. Brother and sister Tanay and Anuja both fall in love with the same man, an artist lodging in their family home in Pune, in western India. He seems like the perfect tenant, ready with the rent and happy to listen to their mother’s musings on the imminent collapse of Indian culture. But he’s also a man of mystery. He has no last name. He has no family, no friends, no history, and no plans for the future. When he runs away with Anuja, he overturns the family’s lives.

Translated from Marathi by acclaimed novelist and critic Jerry Pinto, Sachin Kundalkar’s elegantly wrought and exquisitely spare novel explores the disruption of a traditional family by a free-spirited stranger to examine a generation in transition. Intimate, moving, sensual, and wry in its portrait of young love, Cobalt Blue is a frank and lyrical exploration of gay life in India that recalls the work of Edmund White and Alan Hollinghurst―of people living in emotional isolation, attempting to find long-term intimacy in relationships that until recently were barely conceivable to them. Cobalt Blue was published by The New Press on 2 August 2016.

XII. The Carpet Weaver by Nemat Sadat

Afghanistan, 1977. Kanishka Nurzada, the son of a leading carpet seller, falls in love with his friend Maihan, with whom he shares his first kiss at the age of sixteen. Their romance must be kept secret in a nation where the death penalty is meted out to those deemed to be kuni, a

derogatory term for gay men. And when war comes to Afghanistan, it brings even greater challenges-and danger-for the two lovers.

From the cultural melting pot of Kabul to the horrors of an internment camp in Pakistan, Kanishka’s arduous journey finally takes him to the USA in the desperate search for a place to call home-and the fervent hope of reuniting with his beloved Maihan. But destiny seems to have different plans in store for him.

Intimate and powerful, The Carpet Weaver is a sweeping tale of a young gay man’s struggle to come of age and find love in the face of brutal persecution. The Carper Weaver was published by Viking on June 25, 2019.

XIII. Sufiana: Poems by Hoshang Merchant

‘And at night they close Rumi’s museum (for this is what they call his mosque since Ataturk)And a Sufi in green praying at the door bought a poor vendor’s entire store of tomatoes. So, he would not sleep hungry (and he wasn’t even a Turk, he was American. The cloth is torn. Come, love, bring me a needle The needle of love For the torn cloth of friendship, my friend, my love. Let us make love one last time...’

Such is the magic of Hoshang’s poetry. In and out of cultures, countries, homes, and beds, Hoshang has his innocence and spirit undimmed. And both shine through luminously in these poems. These poems contextualise Sufism for the twenty-first century using the wisdom and music of the East. This is indeed a glorious addition to the growing list of new world poetry. This book, published on 17 April 2013 by HarperCollins, is a feast for every poetry lover.

XIV. Queeristan: LGBTQ Inclusion in the Indian Workplace by Parmesh Shahani

This book was published on August 17, 2020, by Westland Books. The reading down of Section 377 by the Supreme Court in 2018 has led to a fundamental shift in the rights of India’s LGBTQ citizens and necessitated policy changes across the board — not least in the conservative world of Indian business.

In this path-breaking and genre-defying book, Parmesh Shahani — vice president at Godrej Industries Ltd — draws from his decade-long journey in the corporate world as an out and proud gay man, to make a cogent case for LGBTQ inclusion and lay down a step-by-step guide to reshaping office culture in India. He talks to inclusion champions and business leaders about how they worked towards change; traces the benefits reaped by industry giants like Godrej, Tata Steel, IBM, Wipro, the Lalit group of hotels and many others who have tapped into the power of diversity; and shares the stories of employees whose lives were revolutionised by LGBTQ-friendly workspaces.

In this affecting memoir-cum-manifesto, Shahani animates the data and strategy with intimate stories of love and family. Even as it becomes an expansive reference book of history, literature, cinema, movements, institutions, and icons of the LGBTQ community, Queeristan drives home a singular point—in diversity and inclusion lies the promise of an equitable and profitable future, for companies, their employees and the society at large.

XV. I Am Divine. So Are You: How Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism and Hinduism Affirm the Dignity of Queer Identities and Sexualities by Devdutt Pattanaik Edited by Jerry Johnson

In 2015, a historic panel discussion took place at the global Festival of Theology held in Sweden. Its objective was to examine what the sacred texts of the Abrahamic faiths - Judaism, Christianity and Islam - had to say about human sexuality.

By bringing in perspectives from the Karmic faiths of Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism and Hinduism, which together represent the beliefs of almost a third of the world’s population, I Am Divine. So Are You expands this conversation between world religions and human sexuality to a truly global level.

The theology of Karmic faiths is revealed at the intersection of scripture, culture, rituals, and lived realities. And hence they are dynamic and amenable to a multiplicity of perspectives. They lend themselves more easily to a recognition and acceptance of fluidity in human sexuality.

This is a landmark book as it recasts religion – especially Karmic faiths – as an ally and not an adversary of queer emancipation and thus significantly informs the secular and legal movements for LGBTQ rights around the world. The first edition of this book was published by Element; on December 14, 2017.

XVI. Funny Boy: A Novel by Shyam Selvadurai

First published by William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition on July 14, 2015 The book became a major motion picture directed by Deepa Mehta for Netflix on December 10, 2020!

An evocative coming-of-age novel about growing up gay in Sri Lanka during the Tamil-Sinhalese conflict—one of the country’s most turbulent and deadly periods.

Arjie is “funny.”

The second son of a privileged family in Sri Lanka, he prefers staging make-believe wedding pageants with his female cousins to battling balls with the other boys. When his parents discover his innocent pastime, Arjie is forced to abandon his idyllic childhood games and adopt the rigid rules of an adult world. Bewildered by his incipient sexual awakening, mortified by the bloody Tamil-Sinhalese conflicts that threaten to tear apart his homeland, Arjie painfully grows toward manhood and an understanding of his own “different” identity.

Refreshing, raw, and poignant, Funny Boy is an exquisitely written, compassionate tale of a boy’s coming-of-age that quietly confounds expectations of love, family, and country as it delivers the powerful message of staying true to one’s self no matter the obstacles.

XVII. Out! Stories from The New Queer India by Minal Hajratwala

In Bengaluru, a law student falls in love as the nation’s highest courts decide whether his love is legitimate. In Mumbai, a film star and a parent discuss their own journeys of “coming out” as advocates of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender movement. In rural Kerala, two girls row a small boat and feel their hearts opening. These are the lives of queer Indians today: poignant, gripping, and occasionally even hilarious. Through their original and unforgettable stories, penned by the community’s master storytellers as well as emerging writers, Out! offers a glimpse beyond the closet doors – and into the lives and dreams of India’s most misunderstood minority. Editor Minal Hajratwala is the author of Leaving India: My Family’s Journey From Five Villages to Five Continents. The book won a Pen USA Award, an Asian American Writers Workshop Award, a Lambda Literary Award, and a California Book Award, and was shortlisted for the Saroyan International Writing Prize. She spent the 2010-2011 academic year in Mumbai as a Fulbright Senior Research Scholar researching a novel, while also writing poems about the unicorns of the ancient Indus Valley. She is a writing coach, and her own creative work has received numerous awards. As a journalist, Minal has worked for eight years at the San Jose Mercury News and was a National Arts Journalism Program fellow at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. She is a graduate of Stanford University. Minal spends her time between Bangalore and San Francisco. This book was published by Queer Ink on January 1, 2012.

XVIII. Queer Activism in India: A Story in the Anthropology of Ethics by Naisargi N. Dave

Published by Duke University Press Books on October 8, 2012. In Queer Activism in India, Naisargi Dave examines the formation of lesbian communities in India from the 1980s to the early 2000s. Based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted with activist organizations in Delhi, a body of letters written by lesbian women, and research with lesbian communities and queer activist groups across the country, Dave studies the everyday practices that constitute queer activism in India.

Dave argues that activism is an ethical practice consisting of critique, invention, and relational practice. Her analysis investigates the relationship between the ethics of activism and the existing social norms and conditions from which activism emerges. Through her study of different networks and institutions, Dave documents how activism oscillates between the potential for new social arrangements and the questions that arise once the activists’ goals have been accomplished. Dave’s book addresses a relevant and timely phenomenon and makes an important contribution to the anthropology of queer communities, social movements, affect, and ethics.

XIX. Facing the Mirror: Lesbian Writing from India by Ashwini Sukthankar

First published on January 1, 1999, by Penguin Books. This collection brings together, for the first time, the richness and diversity of lesbian existence in India, through fiction and poetry, essays and personal history. Countering the images of perverse desire generated by decades of lurid speculation, the writer’s quarry memory and imagination to describe what it really means to be a woman who loves other women.

XX. Because I Have a Voice: Queer Politics in India by Gautam Bhan

This book was published by Yoda Press on February 2, 2006. This book, with 27 articles is the first organised literary effort on the part of the gay community to assert itself in a world that still sees same-sex love as ‘queer’. The contributors to the anthology come from within the gay community, and hail from distant corners of the country.

XXI. Sexualness by Akshay Khanna

This book examines the emergence of ‘sexuality’ as a legitimate cause for a movement, an aspect of personhood, as a political object, as a context of social mobility, and a mode of connectedness between people and geographies. ‘Sexuality’ is, in this sense, a ‘modern’ phenomenon. Khanna looks equally, and often instead, towards ‘sexualness’, a neologism that is central to the question of what is at stake in an anthropological project of attempting to make sense of the sexual in non-Euro-North American contexts. Sexualness was published by New Text on February 4, 2017.

XXII. Same-Sex Love in India: Readings from Literature and History by Saleem Kidwai and Ruth Vanita

First published by Palgrave Macmillan; 2000th edition on October 21, 2001. Same-Sex Love in India presents a stunning array of writings on same-sex love from over 2000 years of Indian literature. Translated from more than a dozen languages and drawn from Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, and modern fictional traditions, these writings testify to the presence of same-sex love in various forms since ancient times, without overt persecution. This collection defies both stereotypes of Indian culture and Foucault’s definition of homosexuality as a nineteenth-century invention, uncovering instead complex discourses of Indian homosexuality, rich metaphorical traditions to represent it, and the use of names and terms as early as medieval times to distinguish same-sex from cross-sex love. An eminent group of scholars have translated these writings for the first time or have re-translated well-known texts to correctly make evident previously underplayed homoerotic content. Selections range from religious books, legal and erotic treatises, story cycles, medieval histories and biographies, modern novels, short stories, letters, memoirs, plays and poems. From the Rigveda to Vikram Seth, this anthology will become a staple in courses on gender and queer studies, Asian studies, and world literature.

XXIII. The Truth About Me: A Hijra Life Story by A. Revathi

“We got stared at a lot. People asked out loudly some out of curiosity, others out of malice whether we were men or women or number nines or devadasis. Several men made bold touches on us, on our backs, on our shoulders. Some attempted to grab our breasts. Original or duplicate? they shouted and hooted. At such moments, I felt despair and wondered if there would ever be a way for us to live with dignity and make a decent living.”

Revathi was born a boy but felt and behaved like a girl.

This thought-provoking book was published by Penguin on October 5, 2011. In telling her life story, Revathi evokes marvellously the deep unease of being in the wrong body that plagued her from childhood. To be true to herself, to escape the constant violence visited upon her by her family and community, the village-born Revathi ran away to Delhi to join a house of hijras. Her life became an incredible series of dangerous physical and emotional journeys to become a woman and to find love. The Truth About Me is the unflinchingly courageous and moving autobiography of a hijra who fought ridicule, persecution, and violence both within her home and outside to find a life of dignity.

XXIV. Me Hijra, Me Laxmi by Laxmi Narayan Tripathi

He was born a boy but never felt like one. What was he then? He felt attracted to boys. What did this make him?

He loved to dance. But why did others make fun of him?

Battling such emotional turmoil from a very young age, Laxminarayan Tripathi, born in a high-caste Brahman household, felt confused, trapped, and lonely. Slowly, he began wearing women’s clothes. Over time, he became bold and assertive about his real sexual identity. Finally, he found his true self-she was Laxmi, a hijra (a term used in South Asia for transgender individuals).

From numerous love affairs to finding solace by dancing in Mumbai’s bars, from being taunted as a homo to being the first Indian hijra to attend the World AIDS Conference in Toronto; from mental and physical abuse to finding a life of grace, dignity, and fame, this autobiography is an extraordinary journey of a hijra who fought against tremendous odds for the recognition of hijras and their rights. This book was published by Oxford University Press; 1st edition on July 1, 2015.

XXV. The World of Homosexuals by Shakuntala Devi

This book is an investigation of the world of gay, containing personal interviews with homosexuals in India and abroad. It touches on many aspects of the subject and makes a plea for more humane, compassionate, rational scrutiny of its social and psychological repercussions. This book was published by Vikas Publishing House Pvt Ltd on 1 December 1977.

XXVI. Myself Mona Ahmed by Dayanita Singh

“So one day I met some eunuchs in a park, and they made me friends. I felt very happy to meet them and very comfortable for the first time in my life. They were singing and dancing very well. After one week they invited me to stay in their house with them.” “Myself Mona Ahmed’’ is the first book by New Delhi-based photographer Dayanita Singh. It is the story of eunuch Mona Ahmed whom Singh met and began photographing more than ten years ago. Mona Ahmed is a member of a secret community that normally does not

permit access to outsiders. We follow the daily life and the rituals of the eunuchs, are invited to their parties and ceremonies, and learn about prejudice and the reality of a eunuch’s life. We witness the story of Mona’s castration and the loss of her adopted child. Mona is a member of the real third gender. She is a very sensitive person, as her moving emails to the publisher of Scalo show. To preserve Mona’s own voice, and to give her the power of expressing herself, these emails are published in their original form, with as little editing as possible. Myself Mona Ahmed was published by Scalo on 19 November 2001.

XXVII. A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

Vikram Seth’s novel is, at its core, a love story: the tale of Lata’s – and her mother’s – attempts to find a suitable boy for Lata, through love or through an exacting maternal appraisal. Set in the early 1950s in an India newly independent and struggling through a time of crisis, A Suitable Boy takes us into the world of four large extended families and spins a compulsively readable tale of their lives and loves. A sweeping panoramic portrait of a complex, multi-ethnic society in flux, A Suitable Boy remains the story of ordinary people caught up in a web of love and ambition, humour and sadness, prejudice and reconciliation, the most delicate social etiquette, and the most appalling violence.

An international bestseller: now a major TV series. This book was originally published by HarperCollins; 1st U.S. ed edition on May 1, 1993.

XXVIII. Foxy Aesop: On the Edge by Suniti Naamjoshi

This book was first published by Zubaan Books on November 15, 2018. Very little is known about Aesop who was supposed to have been a slave on the island of Samos in the sixth century BC. It is his fables (and those attributed to him) that have come down to us through the centuries.

In this version, a fabulist from the future, referred to as Sprite, hoicks herself back to his century. “Why didn’t you save the world?”

That’s the Sprite’s cry. Aesop, meanwhile, is trying to save his skin, make up his fables and live his life. Given the pitfalls of human nature, are the fables an Instruction Manual for staying out of trouble? What about morals, what about reform, what about the castigation of social evils? Sprite nags and cajoles and begins to wonder how much power a writer really has. The book offers a virtuoso display of how the building blocks.

XXIX. So Now You Know: A Memoir of Growing Up Gay in India by Vivek Tejuja

The year was 1991. Vivek was eight. He realised he was gay. Only he didn’t: he just figured that he wanted to be different. And that he was in love – for want of a better word – with Deepak, his best friend. Then Mast Kalandar released, with Anupam Kher playing Pinku, a stereotypical gay character. And Vivek realised he didn’t want to be Pinku. So he tried to walk differently, gesticulate differently, and speak in as gruff a voice as he could – all to avoid being Pinku.

Funny, poignant, heartwarming, and heartbreaking all at once, this is a memoir of growing up gay in India in the 1990s, with Bollywood, books, and the Bombay sea for company. This book was published by Harper India; 1st edition on May 19, 2020.

XXX. My Chacha is Gay by Eiynah

This is the first LGBTQ+ children’s book from Pakistan. It was published by Samosa Press in 2014. It’s about a boy named Ahmed who lives with his parents, baby sister, grandmother, and paternal uncle (chacha) in Karachi, Pakistan. Ahmed’s uncle is gay, but Ahmed doesn’t love him any less and understands that the way his mother and father love each other is the same way his uncle loves his boyfriend Faheem.

XXXI. Lord of the Senses by Vikram Kolmannskog

From the forest-fringed suburbs of Oslo to the bustling heart of Bombay; from the timeless banks of the Ganges to the never-closing nightclubs of Berlin, this collection of short stories by gay Indian-Norwegian author Vikram Kolmannskog captures a headily contemporary sense of what it is to be queer, cosmopolitan, spiritual and sexual. This book was published by Team Angelica Publishing; Illustrated edition on September 6, 2019, which was the first anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in India.

Aditya Tiwari is a poet, writer, and queer activist. He published his first book of poems, April is Lush in 2019, which received international acclaim and was featured on Lambda Literary in the spirit of uplifting the work of queer Indian artists. Follow his work on Instagram and Twitter.

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