Join our newsletter for South-Asian book recos by age & to get free creative tools

Neema Avashia grew up as a part of a small desi community in West Virginia and has been an educator for the last decade or more. In this interview with Kitabi Qisse, Neema talks about books that speak to different parts of our identity. She also talks about finding meaning in reading in our own way, not relying on how others see it.

Showcase your books at Varta!

Authors and friends, we just announced a culture & literary fest at Dehradun.

It feels fitting to share Neema’s conversation on the international LGBTQ and pride day. Her book, Another Appalachia: Coming Up Queer and Indian in a Mountain Place, was named Best LGBTQ Memoir of 2022 and one of the New York Public Library’s Best Books of 2022.

Neema shares how it wasn’t up to college where she read diaspora stories that spoke to her identity more closely. Reading those stories where characters looked and felt like her highlighting pieces of her identity, made her feel seen. She was able to believe that books can reflect her unique experiences.

She talks about the need to have books for young kids that don’t just check singular boxes. Neema advocates for books that speak to different parts of our identity as complex as they may be, so all kids are able to feel fully represented. As a reading tip, Neema encourages us to think about reading as something we create our own meaning for. So, what interests us and what makes us feel good, is valid.

Kitabi Qisse is a place to meet desi authors and connect with them on wonderful stories and their inspirations. This series began in February and will be on till August before we restart in 2024!


About Neema Avashia

Neema Avashia is the daughter of Indian immigrants, and was born and raised in southern West Virginia. She has been an educator and activist in the Boston Public Schools since 2003, and was named a City of Boston Educator of the Year in 2013.

Her first book, Another Appalachia: Coming Up Queer and Indian in a Mountain Place, was published by West Virginia University Press in March. It has been called “A timely collection that begins to fill the gap in literature focused mainly on the white male experience” by Ms. Magazine, and “A graceful exploration of identity, community, and contradictions,” by Scalawag. The book was named Best LGBTQ Memoir of 2022 by BookRiot, was one of the New York Public Library’s Best Books of 2022, and is a Lambda Literary Award finalist. She lives in Boston with her partner, Laura, and her daughter, Kahani.