For many of us, the literary world is our quiet enclave away from the rest of the world, an escape from reality. We get lost in our books and characters that may or may not exist in real life, characters within whom we find comfort, resemblance and love.
But for some of us readers, there isn’t enough resemblance or representation in novels. Of how we look, who we are, what we do, how we grew up. It’s not that there aren’t any authors of color. It’s that only a handful of them get published. The book industry is nowhere near racial equity for authors, even though it’s 2023.
That’s something Mishika and Sri realized in 2020, and since then, they’ve been doing their part to spotlight South Asian authors to appreciate the little representation they have in the literary world. Let’s see what they are all about!
Mishika and Sri
Bookstagram | Website | Digital Reads | Twitter | Bookshop
Why did you start your Bookstagram?
Black Lives Matters fundamentally shifted the conversation around anti-racism, diversity, equity, and inclusion. These ideas charged our every conversation, and while social media pushed out think-pieces, we looked toward books. Despite our love for reading, even among popular South Asian titles, neither of us had actually found a book that spoke to our most authentic identities: a Sikh-American and a South-Indian-American. This realization made the absence of truly multi-faceted South Asian narratives starkly evident. We started Brown Girl Bookshelf (BGB) in August of 2020 to highlight the nuances within the South Asian umbrella.
What do you want your Instagram to bring to the world?
The unfortunate truth is that book publishing still strongly favors white authors. South Asian authored bestsellers recycle themes catered to white audiences: rampant poverty and human rights violations in Afghanistan and India, or immigrant stories which feature strict parents and unusually high prevalence of butter chicken and samosas. So, most South Asians do not feel represented in writing. This is because it would be impossible to capture the vast diversity of the South Asian moniker in just a few books.
BGB showcases the existence of, and interest in, a rich array of South Asian stories, addressing a gap felt by both readers and authors.
One look at their Instagram shows you the tight knit community of followers — both readers and authors — who personify the space BGB has created. If you’re looking for new South Asian reads, BGB has you covered! Mishika and Sri have curated the perfect platform to highlight the South Asian literary community in all its creativity, camaraderie and warmth.
Aesthetic / Instagram page theme:
Our brand colors are earthy autumnal tones such as a warm orange, emerald, and plum. We picked these because it reminded us of the coziness of curling up with a good book.
Getting cozy with a good book is all we want in life, right?
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Yu & Me Books in Chinatown, Manhattan. It is the first Asian American woman-owned bookstore in NYC. Their shelves reflect the depth of the Asian American community. We see so many BGB adored titles on display!
Heads up: this next answer is a hard flex that WILL make you jealous of Mishika and Sri!
Author to take a selfie with:
We love attending book talks; and we’re lucky to have taken photos with Mohsin Hamid, Sarah Thankam Mathews, Sonora Jha, Madhushree Ghosh, and Dur E Aziz Amna.
Additionally, I’d love to learn more about your guest review program and how that has progressed since launching it two years ago!
To expand our capacity to feature more books, we started a volunteer review program. Through this process, we’ve interacted with over 150 volunteer reviewers – most of which are strangers to us – who are united in their support to amplify South Asian writing.
What’s better than seeing Mishika and Sri review their latest reads? Being a part of the review process with them! @browngirlbookshelf is definitely one of the coolest Bookstagrammers out there, hands down.
That’s a wrap on our Bookstagrammer of the Week! Make sure to follow us on Instagram — @bookstrofficial — to see Mishika and Sri’s feature, and of course, follow @browngirlbookshelf for the best South Asian book recommendations!
Looking for more Bookstagrammer of the Week content? Here’s our feature from last week.