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June is World Refugee Awareness Month, and so it makes sense to spotlight some literature that talks about these experiences. With our focus on South Asia, we are talking about the Indian subcontinent’s own experiences with internal displacement, post-partition migration, and forced movements due to wars. Millions of people were displaced from within South Asia as per World Bank data in 2023 alone. Here are some books on South Asian refugee experiences.

These books will shed some light on often forgotten histories and the human cost of the colonial empire. They remind us of our own histories and the colonial baggage we carry. If we care about building empathetic and tolerant worlds of the future, we have to go back in time to understand our histories.

5 Books that Talk About South Asian Refugee Experiences

5 Books On South Asian Refugee Experiences

  1. A Long Season of Ashes by Siddharatha Gigoo: 16-year-old Kashmiri Pandit forced to spend his youth in exile, in a camp. This historical truth of 1990 Kashmir is often ignored by media, or those who support the Kashmiri cause. The reality is that an entire community of people were forced to leave their homes due to their religious identity. This wasn’t a movement of choice by an aftermath of terrorism that tore through Kashmir.
  2. The Naked Don’t Fear the Water by Matthieu Aikins: Journalist Aikins follows an Afghan refugee through an underground smuggler way out of the war torn country. Sometimes friendship is our only hope to a better future.
  3. The Lightless Sky by Gulwali Passarlay: A child goes through 8 countries from Afghanistan to the west in the search for a better future away from war. Will it mean something?
  4. The Boy refugee by Khawaja Azimuddin: Houston cancer surgeon and author, Azimuddin talks about boyhood in refugee camps. This is a story set after the 1971 Bangladesh war between India and Pakistan.
  5. The Long Partition and the Making of Modern South Asia by Vazira Zamindar: Parts of this book have been adapted into Dastangoi performances. This book is an account of the one of the largest displacements of people in the twentieth century. The history of the Indian partition and its aftermath is well documented.

Another series of books we love is from Aanchal Malhotra that talks about the partition. Rahul Pandita’s Our Moon Has Blood Clots is also a good book covering the Kashmiri Pandit migration history.

Have you read any of these books? Which books have really inspired you recently? Share with us!


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