Every day is a great day to read literature by female authors, and this Women’s History Month we’re highlighting some of our favorites! This list is by no means exhaustive; there are plenty of South Asian female authors who aren’t mentioned here but whose works are equally incredible.
Notable works: Interpreter of Maladies, The Namesake, Whereabouts
Starting this list off with the renowned Jhumpa Lahiri, whose award-winning stories shed light on the Indian-American experience in the most captivating way possible. The movie adaptation of her first novel, The Namesake, was well received on screen. She taught creative writing at Princeton University and returned to her alma mater, Barnard College, as the director of creative writing.
Notable works: The God of Small Things, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, The Cost of Living
Author, political activist, human rights advocate, environmentalist? Is there anything the incredible Arundhati Roy doesn’t do? If you’re familiar with Arundhati Roy, you probably know how vociferous she is on human rights issues, how strongly she opposes the Indian government on many fronts and how she fights for the rights of minorities. Her writing is intersectional with what she’s most passionate for, and the plethora of awards bestowed on her speak to her level of intellect and unparalleled prose that makes her as distinguished as she is.
Notable works: Kartography, Burnt Shadows, Home Fire, Best of Friends
Internationally renowned, award-winning author Kamila Shamsie is a delight to read. In the City by the Sea made us fall in love with Karachi through the naive lens of an 11-year-old, while Home Fire is a gripping read on family bonds, love, and betrayal.
Fatima Farheen Mirza
Notable works: A Place for Us
A Place for Us is a powerful read that is surprisingly relatable in the way it sheds light on family dynamics familiar to many. This is her first and only novel so far, but anything else she writes will be nothing short of another masterpiece.
Notable works: Ice Candy Man, The Crow Eaters, An American Brat
Any avid reader of South Asian literature knows that Bapsi Sidhwa is unequivocally one of the best authors in the field. A veteran in writing about Pakistan and India, Sidhwa’s novels vividly capture the delicate and complex nuances of the sociopolitical landscape she grew up within.
Notable works: The Space Between Us, Honor, Bombay Time
Another veteran author of South Asian literature, Thrity Umrigar is an incredibly talented author whose ability to transport the audience to her settings is remarkable. Her experience as an award-winning journalist is a testament to her captivating prose.
Notable works: Marriage of a Thousand Lies, Blue-Skinned Gods
SJ Sindu is a fresh voice among South Asian authors writing on themes of identity, sexuality, and family. She holds a PhD in creative writing and also teaches at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Notable works: The Roles We Play, What is Home, Mum?
Sabba Khan is a London-based South Asian graphic novelist, visual artist, and architect. Her debut graphic novel, The Roles We Play, is already the recipient of several awards. It explores identity, belonging, and her experience as a second-generation Azad-Kashmiri migrant in East London.
Notable works: Karachi, You’re Killing Me!
Saba Imtiaz is an author, journalist and researcher currently based in the Middle East. Her outstanding book Karachi, You’re Killing Me! Was adapted into a Bollywood movie, Noor. Saba has written for The Guardian, The New York Times, The Atlantic and BBC, among several other publications.
Notable works: Songs of Blood and Sword, The Runaways, The Shadow of the Crescent Moon
A prolific writer and columnist with a tumultuous political family background, Fatima Bhutto is a longtime critic of her aunt, Benazir Bhutto, and uncle Asif Zardari. Her commentary and activism for social and economic issues within Pakistan makes her one of the most respected voices in the country.
Notable works: When We Were Sisters, If They Come For Us
An author, poet, filmmaker and all-round storyteller, Fatimah Asghar knows how to flow between a myriad of themes and genres in the work they produce. Their storytelling surrounds themes of identity, religion and relationships, particularly as a Muslim.
Notable works: American Fever
Dur e Aziz Amna is the debut novelist of American Fever, a coming-of-age, coming-to-America novel lauded for its witty, feel good perspective that is highly relatable to many. She has written extensively on food and culture, travel as well as personal essays, and is the recipient of many awards and accolades. In 2022 she was named in Forbes’ 30 under 30.
Notable works: My Feudal Lord, A Mirror to the Blind
Author, activist, and wife of current Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Tehmina Durrani is best known for her first book My Feudal Lord, where she revealed the truth about her politically famous but abusive husband Mustafa Khar. Her extensive time with late philanthropist Abdul Sattar Edhi led her to write A Mirror to the Blind.
And with that, we’ve reached the end of our list of incredible South Asian female authors. Check out more awesome female authors of color here!