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7 South Asian Middle Grade/YA Books To Buy This Holiday Season

Continuing on from our previous list of South Asian Children’s books bought by one of our Co-founders, Daizy, here’s the second half of that book haul featuring Middle Grade stories and Young Adult (YA) novels.

What inspired Daizy to buy all of these books?

After noticing that there weren’t many kids books by and for the South Asian diaspora in her local bookshops, Daizy went on an online book-buying spree. She’d wanted books for the young readers in her life, so they see themselves in the stories they were reading. Having grown up without stories that represented her lived experiences, Daizy knew the importance of having stories and characters that included people that looked like her and shared her cultural background and traditions.

Check out the list below to see what Middle Grade and YA books Daizy bought!

   1. Force of Fire by Sayantani Dasgupta (ages 8 – 12)

In this new stand-alone novel from New York Times bestselling author, Sayantani Dasgupta, readers are introduced to Pinki, a rakkhosh resister (demon) who must embrace her ‘bad’ in order to serve the greater good. Pinki’s ancestors spent a long time working to overthrow the snakey oppressors and be free! But she’s also got other priorities, like keeping her title as the most fiercest rakkhosh in class, looking after her cousins, and figuring out how to control her fire-breathing before it gets out of control…

When the charming son of the Serpentine Governor asks for Pinki’s help to defeat the resistance in exchange for what she most desires, to control her fire-breathing, Pinki has to decide what’s the right thing to do and if ‘it’s all worth it for the control of her powers’?

2. Yusuf Azeem Is Not a Hero by Saadia Faruqi (ages 10 – 14)

Yusuf Azeem Is Not a Hero is about of a young muslim boy in the 6th Grade navigating common, but complex issues around growing up: identity, grief, race, religion, politics and prejudice in modern America. Growing up in a small Texan town, Yusuf has been dreaming of competing in the regional robotics competition, but with the 20th anniversary of 9/11 everyone in his community is worried. Community protests begin against the building of a new mosque, ‘Never Forget’ banners are everywhere, and it becomes clear to Yusuf that the country’s pain from two decades years ago is ever present and is affecting people today, as he, too, struggles to ‘hold on to joy– and his friendships–in the face of heartache and prejudice.’

Gripping, well-paced, and poignant, this is an essential purchase … and a must-read book of our times that raises important questions about who controls historical narratives, what it means to stand up for justice, and the legacy of an event that cannot be forgotten’ – the School Library Journal

3. Rea and the Blood of the Nectar By Payal Doshi (ages 8-12)

Everything changes on Rea’s 12th birthday. After a horrible fight with her twin brother, everything and everyone in Rea’s small Indian village begins to act strangely. With her brother still missing, it’s up to Rea and her friends to save him. The old fortune teller helps guide them and on their secret quest they find another world full of ‘magic and whimsy.’ There Rea uncovers family secrets and new things about herself that her Amma kept hidden. With the help of old friends and new friends, Rea must face off against powerful magical creatures, but they’re running out of time. Will they be able to solve the clues, save Rohan and this magical realm from a deadly fate?

4. American as Paneer Pie by Supriya Kelkar (ages 10 – 14)

11-year-old, American-Indian Lekha Divekar feels like she’s living two lives. There’s one Lekha at home that enjoys Indian food and movies and another one at school who hides her bindi birthmark and shies away from confrontation and whenever anyone teases her about being Indian.

When Lekha’s new desi neighbour arrives in her small town, she’s excited that someone her age and who understands what she’s been going through. But to Lehka’s surprise, her new neighbour has a different perspective on their situation and doesn’t keep quiet about the bullying at school. Lehka learns what it looks like to ‘proudly display her culture no matter where she is: at home or at school.’

American as Paneer Pie is a ‘brilliant gem of a middle grade novel full of humor and heart, perfect for fans of Front Desk and Amina’s Voice.’ It’s a beautiful story about a young South Asian girl navigating identity, immigration and ‘prejudice in her small town and [who] learns the power of her own voice.’

5. Sister of the Bollywood Bride by Nandini Bajpai (ages 13 – 18)

For most teenagers summer is a time to have fun, but not for Mini. It’s up to her to plan her big sister’s Bollywood-themed wedding and deal with all the related family, romance and weather drama and disasters. The only problem is that growing up, Mini’s Dad preferred to teach her about computers and calculus, not so much about Bollywood and desi weddings; but Mini’s not going to let that stop her. With distracting ‘mysterious, and smoking-hot’ love interests on the horizon and a monster hurricane headed for Boston, what could possibly go wrong?

6. Sunny G’s Series of Rash Decisions by Navdeep Singh Dhillon (ages 13 – 18)

Sunny G’s Series of Rash Decisions is a romantic comedy/coming of age story about one Sikh teen’s search for love and identity after experiencing loss. After Sunny G’s brother died he decided to make some big life changes and record all of those ‘rash decisions’ in the notebook his brother left him. This is how he finds himself attending prom, alone, with a whole new look instead of being at the fandom cosplay party with his friends. It’s also how he meets Mindii Vang, and thanks to her own rash decisions the two experience an ‘all-night adventure – a night full of rash, wonderful, romantic, stupid, life-changing decisions.’

7.    The Wild Ones by Nafiza Azad (ages 14 – 18)

The Wild Ones are magically gifted teen girls who have faced the worst of humanity. Their mission is to rescue other girls like them from around the world, saving them from the same suffering they endured.

 The first Wild One, Paheli, owes her freedom to Taraana, but now he needs the Wild Ones help. ‘Dangerous magical forces are chasing him, and they will destroy him to get his powers…[but] if Taraana is no longer safe and free, neither are the Wild Ones.’ What will the Wild Ones do?

The Wild Ones is a ‘thrilling, feminist fantasy about a group of teenage girls endowed with special powers who must band together to save the life of the boy whose magic saved them all.’

We’d love to know if you’ve read any of these books or plan on buying some from this list, let us know in the comments!

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