10 empowering reads from South Asian women

10 empowering reads from South Asian women
Book Club: To celebrate International Women's Day 2023, The New Arab shares favourite page-turners from some of the best South Asian women writers on the circuit.
4 min read
08 March, 2023
We've picked some of our favourite releases from the ever-exciting South Asian literary scene

This month is all about celebrating women. For International Women’s Day 2023, we’ve put together a short list of recommended reads from women writers of South Asian origins.

These books give us a peek into the lived experiences of women around the world. Enjoy these compulsively readable, uplifting books about female resilience, courage and achievement.

Whether your pick is relationship drama, murder mystery or feminist geekdom – these books sit firmly on your International Women's Day great reads.

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Best of Friends by Kamila Shamsie

This nuanced, contemporary novel explores the contours of a lifelong friendship and is set between the writer’s favourite cities, Karachi and London. This is the story of two childhood friends who grew up in Karachi against the backdrop of a tumultuous time in Pakistan’s history and the ways in which it impacts their personalities and career trajectories.

Your Driver is Waiting by Priya Guns 

If Taxi Driver was written by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, it would read something like this gut punch of a novel. This is an audacious debut about a woman driver with an irrepressible spirit who is living life on her terms, all the while struggling to make ends meet. Caustic, trenchant and wholly engaging, this novel offers biting social critique about the hustle culture, economic disparity and class divides with wit and verve.

The Dream Builders by Oindrila Mukherjee

After living for several years in the US Maneka finally comes back to India to visit her father after the death of her mother. Kolkata natives, the family had to relocate to the rising model city of Hrishipur after their investment plans went bust. This is a pensive debut about the ghost of the past, modernism and New India written from a kaleidoscopic point of view.

Now You See Us by Balli Kaur Jaswal 

Billed as Crazy Rich Asians meets The Help, this captivating thriller involves three women who work in the homes of Singapore's elite who are forced to solve a murder mystery. Laughing out loud funny, this novel provides biting social commentary on race, class and corporatization with levity.


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The Laughter by Sonora Jha 

A contemporary take on Lolita, this novel is about an ageing white male college professor who develops an obsession with his Pakistani Muslim female colleague. This revealing novel paints an unsettling portrait of white privilege, radicalisation and modern academia.

Love Marriage by Monica Ali

This novel is a comedy of manners about two betrothed young doctors from different cultural backgrounds and the culture clash they experience as soon as their families get involved. Love Marriage is a multi-layered novel that navigates the space between a family drama and political satire.

All My Rage by Sabaa Tahir

The writer of the best-selling fantasy series makes her foray into another genre with this novel which ended up winning the 2022 National Book Award. The book is set between Lahore and California and follows a young Pakistani couple who come to the US to make a fresh start but things go awry. A riveting, poignant story about an American Dream gone wrong

(M)otherhood: On the choices of being a woman by Dr. Pragya Agarwal 

A meticulously researched memoir and study by a behavioural scientist about women’s reproductive choices and their diverse experiences of motherhood. Thought-provoking and insightful, this intersectional book fills a much-needed void in literature about this topic.


The Breaks: An Essay by Julietta Singh 

Written as a letter to her six-year-old daughter, Julietta Singh attempts to address a wider audience and lament the state of our world. This book celebrates queer, mixed families and deplores the pre-existing racial and gender discrimination in South Asian society.

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The Startup Wife by Tahmina Anam 

A quirky novel about newlyweds Asha and Cyrus who are building an app that personalises religious rituals. This zany novel shines a light on the plights of a woman working in a male-dominated industry like Silicon Valley, gender roles and class divides. 

Rabeea Saleem is a Karachi-based freelance cultural writer and literary critic for numerous international publications including The Irish Times, Chicago Review of Books, The National UAE, the Spectator, and Book Riot