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7 Must-Read Books by Indian Women Authors


Indian women authors are breaking into the field of literature in a major way and making us proud with their beautiful writings. Here are some amazing books by Indian women authors which celebrate our culture and our common stories in their literary voices.

This great Mughal Emperor [Akbar] was illiterate; he could neither read nor write. However, that had not stopped Akbar from cultivating the acquaintance of the most learned and cultured poets, authors, musicians, and architects of the time - relying solely on his remarkable memory during conversations with them.

— Indu Sundaresan, The Twentieth Wife

1. The Twentieth Wife by Indu Sundaresan

The novel is set in the Mughal Empire of the 1500s. It is an epic tale of royal romance, unbridled passion, tradition, history and struggle for control of the throne. The novel follows the enchanting love story of Meherrunnisa and Prince Salim which defied all logic and tradition.

This fairy tale romance tells the real story of a beautiful woman who rose in stature to become Nur Jahan, the undisputed Queen of the Mughal Empire. It is a rags-to-riches story. Mehrunnisa was the daughter of a starving refugee and faced a lot of struggles in her personal life. She was married at the age of 17, had a daughter and became a widow 13 years later. When Emperor Jahangir proposed to her, she was 34 years old…an age which was considered past its prime in the royal ‘haram’. But this didn’t deter Jahangir and she became Jahangir's 20th and last legal wife.

The slow blooming romance between Mehrunnisa and Jahangir is magical and is portrayed beautifully. This book will take you back to the grandeur of the Mughal era. It will show you the culture, traditions and beliefs of those times—everything woven intricately with the story. If you love period dramas or historical fiction then this is the perfect book for you.

Love comes like lightning, and disappears the same way. If you are lucky, it strikes you right. If not, you'll spend your life yearning for a man you can't have.

— Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, The Palace of Illusions


2. The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

Being able to retell a well-known story takes a lot of skill, and Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni excels at it. The Palace of Illusions retells the famous Indian epic Mahabharata from the perspective of Draupadi, its lead female character.

Draupadi was the reason behind the battle of Mahabharta. She was a royal princess who later married the five Pandava brothers. But still she faced the humiliation of being dragged into the royal court where Kauravas tried to disrobe her. She is an ever-present, central character of Mahabharta but little is told from her perspective or about her motives and thoughts in the original epic.

The author has brilliantly portrayed the story of Draupadi, and in doing so presents the challenges women have faced for centuries. In presenting Draupadi’s thoughts and feelings, the author sensitizes the readers to the pain women faced in medieval times and continue to face today. The book deviates in some parts from the original epic and that’s my only grudge against this book. Still, it’s an entertaining read with its colourful scenes and lyrical language.

We descend

From solitude and miracles.

— Mamang Dai, Legends of Pensam

3. Legends of Pensam by Mamang Dai

Mamang Dai is a poetess and writer from Arunachal Pradesh. Through this collection of short stories, readers are transported to the state's snow-capped mountains. This anthology is an intricate web of stories, customs, traditions and superstitions of the Adi tribe of Arunachal Pradesh.

There is a touch of folklore in the stories, as the author talks about rivers, black magic and forest spirits. She presents with empathy the hardships of the tribal people living in remote mountainous regions with very little contact with the outside world.

The book has a distinct dreamy vibe that draws the readers in. The stories are all different, yet it feels like they are somehow connected to each other. I loved reading this book and it helped me in becoming better acquainted with a part of India I knew very little about.

She was like that, excited and delighted by little things, crossing her fingers before any remotely unpredictable event, like tasting a new flavor of ice cream, or dropping a letter in a mailbox. It was a quality he did not understand. It made him feel stupid, as if the world contained hidden wonders he could not anticipate, or see.

— Jhumpa Lahiri, Interpreter of Maladies


4. Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

An Indian American by birth, Jhumpa Lahiri is famous for telling the story of immigrants like no other writer. Their identity crises, hopes, ambitions and melancholy are presented through charming characters and familiar experiences. Interpreter of Maladies is her debut work which won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2000.

The book is an anthology of nine short stories. These stories are about Bengali immigrants in the U.S. The characters share a sadness from being away from their homeland, yet the stories also offer a glimmer of hope for their lives in a new country. Enriched with colorful details of the Indian tradition, cuisine and celebrations, the stories address the universal struggle of getting adapted to the ways of a foreign land without losing one’s roots. You must read this book for the way Lahiri beautifully brings the ordinariness of life alive in her stories.

That's what careless words do. They make people love you a little less.

— Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things

5. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

The Booker-Prize-winning debut novel by Arundhati Roy tells the story of a family in Kerala during the 1960s. Set in the southern state of Kerala, the story focuses on the life of fraternal twins Estha and Rahel and their mother Ammu’s relationship with the character Velutha. Their world is shaken irrevocably when their visiting English cousin Sophie dies by accidental drowning. Through this story, the author brings out the taboos of caste and gender that cloud Indian perspectives.

It’s a compelling story of intertwining family lives and their many-layered and complicated relationships. It is a story about birth and death, love and loss. The story is beautifully told in a poetic language which you will definitely enjoy.

And it is true you write in Urdu, Kashmiri, and English?”

“My daughter talks too much,” he said, evidently pleased. “But she is correct. I find that different languages are useful for different things. For instance, it is best to write poetry in Urdu. Urdu words are made for poetry and songs. For stories, Kashmiri is the best.”

“And English?”

“English?” He smiled. “English is excellent for signboards and maps.

— Madhuri Vijay, The Far Field


6. The Far Field by Madhuri Vijay

The Far Field is the debut novel of Bengaluru-born Madhuri Vijay. It won the JCB Prize for Literature 2019. The novel follows the story of Shalini, a privileged and restless young woman from Bangalore who is trying to cope with the loss of her mother. She sets out for a remote village in the troubled region of Kashmir in search of Bashir Ahmed, a Kashmiri salesman who used to frequent her childhood home. But upon her arrival, Shalini is forced to face Kashmir’s politics and the hostile atmosphere. In due course of time, she has to make choices that prove to be disastrous for the very people she has come to love.

The book masterfully presents Kashmir politics and the turmoil of the people living in the terrorism-hit regions through the lens of an outsider. Though I don’t agree with the negative portrayal of the Indian army in this book, it’s still a politically relevant read. The lyrical writing style of the author makes it all the more enjoyable.

The bell at the Church of Our Lady of Hope swung slowly, ringing a sound so beautiful that those who heard it wouldn’t forget it for aeons. It had music, it had rhythm and it had strength. It had everything a church bell could boast of; such was the sway of the enormous clapper that when it struck the rim of its brass container, its thud pervaded through all of Cavel in a divine, ceremonious hum.

— Jane Borges, Bombay Balchão

7. Bombay Balchão by Jane Borges

This debut novel by Jane Borges presents a charming portrait of the Catholic community in Mumbai. This historical fiction is set in South Bombay and spans over 80 long years. The story revolves around the inhabitants of Bosco Mansion, an old two-storeyed building in Cavel, a tiny Catholic village on Bombay’s D’Lima Street. Michael Countinho and his quirky neighbors, and the lives they live and the situations they find themselves in, make for an engaging read.

The author presents a beautiful account of Bombay’s cultural heritage and its past and present. The culture, history and ethnicity of many communities present within the Christian community of Mumbai are presented through the stories of the characters. The stories are delightful and heartwarming.

Bombay Balchao is a treat for not only people who love Bombay but all the book lovers. This beautifully written book will make you laugh, it will make you smile and it will make you nostalgic. It’s a perfect book for those lazy afternoons when you want to read something light-hearted and relatable.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Shaloo Walia


Shaloo Walia (author) from India on April 25, 2021:

My pleasure

Shaloo Walia (author) from India on April 25, 2021:

You're welcome

Shaloo Walia (author) from India on April 25, 2021:

My pleasure

Shaloo Walia (author) from India on April 25, 2021:

Thanks Devika.

Shaloo Walia (author) from India on April 25, 2021:

You're welcome

Shaloo Walia (author) from India on April 25, 2021:

My pleasure

Shaloo Walia (author) from India on April 25, 2021:

I am sure you will enjoy The Far Field. It deftly describes the beauty of Kashmir as well as the terrorism that has engulfed the region since decades.