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Kids are constantly learning. Exposure to a diverse range of perspectives and experiences, especially through books, can truly make it special. Books can offer a degree of pride, comfort, and a sense of normalcy in being one’s full self. Today’s recommendations are focused on books for teens with South-Asian lead characters.

It’s crucial for teens to see themselves represented in mainstream media, as it helps them feel seen, heard, and validated. These books can also help families articulate their own experiences and create important conversations about culture, identity, and belonging.

Imagine a world full of storytellers

all kids can join Katha- our monthly creative confidence & storytelling workshop. The next one is on May 26th!

Here are our picks for books for teens with South-Asian lead characters:

  1. When Dimple Met Rishi: Sandhya Menon – Teens, Dimple and Rishi are all set to compete in a coding event. Their families set them up to connect. With clashing ideas, this novel sets up its leads for a light hearted summer romance. It’s not the best book you’ve read, but it’s definitely showcasing comfort in being desi and was on bestseller lists when launched. So, worth considering if you’re looking for a quick read. Note: the impact on desi teens reading this may be more powerful 🙂
  2. Written in the Stars: Aisha Saeed – This is a book about a forced arranged marriage, and many will not relate to it. But it’s also the experience of some real people. Sometimes it may feel like the shoehorning of South-Asian books into something tragic. But it’s still a relevant read because all brown stories do not need to be relatable and the same.
  3. Love, Hate & Other Filters: Samira Ahmed – Complex themes and pushing forward a lesser represented demographic of an Indian Muslim girl. Teen expectations against parental viewpoints with the backdrop of Islamophobia. This is again an easy breezy read, so go in with lighter expectations.
  4. Born Confused: Tanuja Desai Hidier – Story of another Dimple on this list navigating her cultural identity and the pressures of her traditional family. Something that’s a bit off to us anyway is the overexplaining of desi things – perhaps for a western audience in mind. But it still works as a teen romance that kids will either learn from or relate to, even if in parts!
  5. More Than Just a Pretty Face: Syed M. Masood – The story of Danyal Jilani, a Pakistani-American teenager has professional dreams different than expectations of a family. There is a lot packed in the book with its representation, so it’s important to remind yourself that this is one story, and the generalizations are in the context of that one story. Otherwise, it can be triggering because it won’t be relatable or right by everyone!

What books would you add? This series is a part of our #onedesibook on Instagram (follow here). We also interview desi authors as a part of our Kitabi Qisse series that you can find here. If you have recommendations, send us an email!