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Celebrating South Asian Australian Authors

Growing up in Australia, mainstream literature lacked strong South Asian female characters and authors to reflect our lived experience or relatable characters which help us feel a sense of belonging. While this is changing, books written by South Asian women authors do not get the traction they deserve.

Our Book Club is an initiative to celebrate South Asian women authors and their stories. It’s an opportunity for the community to get together, share and connect. Don’t worry if you’re not a ‘bookworm’ or if you’re someone who struggles to read. Our book club is for all types of readers and rather than focusing on literary critique we discuss and reflect upon the themes of the books.

Our members read select books by South Asian women and meet every 6 weeks to discuss key themes emerging from the book. These two hour sessions are a way to connect with other like minded South Asians and share your thoughts on the book. They take place in in person in Naarm / Melbourne, however members are welcome to lead chapters in their city. There is a close whatsapp group for all members that you can join by joining the book club

Meet the book club leads
Our Next Book

The next book will be announced to our book club members, become a member today to join the whatsapp group. Meet the book club leads here.

Books We’ve Read

Shankari Chandran ‘Chai Time at the Cinnamon Gardens’

Chai Time at the Cinnamon Gardens brings to life a retirement home set in the Sydney suburbs in the 80s. The story follows the present journey of the retirement home and its unconventional owner, _, the comforts and joy the home brings to its surrounding community. Built by a staunch anticolonialist couple fleeing occupation in Sri Lanka after discovering dangerous truths about their homeland. The retirement home represents a respite for fellow immigrants seeking culture and community in their late life, but their views also attract scrutiny and dangers from the surrounding suburban community. At a time of heightened race relations in Sydney, the past of Maya and her family comes back to confront them.

Shankari Chandran weaves a beautiful story of love, family, and duty to oneself and the values one stands for when history and truth are questioned. Buy the book here

The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi

Set in 1950s India, The Henna Artist follows the story of 32-year-old Lakshmi, who fled her abusive husband and village to go to Jaipur. Armed with her knowledge of folk medicines and an aptitude for art, she begins producing secret treatments and henna for the pleasure of the city’s women, eventually being scouted and hired by the maharanis of the town. Shunned by her family, she immerses herself fully into the thralls of social politics and high society, navigating the fragile and interconnecting webs of gossip and secrets.

Her careful life, however, is upset by her sister’s emergence and her husband’s return. The caution she had lived with thus far is thrown off balance; armed with her tireless disposition and arsenal of the wealthy’s secrets, she strives to keep her independence. Buy the book here.

Ayesha Inoon’s Untethered

Winner of the 2022 ASA/HQ Fiction Prize. A finely observed debut novel of a young Muslim woman’s experience of immigration to Australia from Sri Lankan-Australian writer Ayesha Inoon. Zia secretly longs to go to university but as a young woman in a traditional Muslim family, she does what is expected of her and agrees to an arranged marriage to Rashid, a man she barely knows. Cocooned by the wealth and customs of her family, Rashid’s dark moods create only the smallest of ripples in their early life together.


When growing political unrest spurs them to leave Sri Lanka and immigrate to Australia, Zia is torn between fear of leaving her beloved family and the possibility of new freedoms. While on paper their new country welcomes them with open arms, their visas come with many restrictions and for the first time Zia faces isolation, poverty and an increasingly unstable marriage that forms a cage stronger than any she’s known before.


Determined to carve a place for herself in this new country, Zia sets out on uncertain terrain and discovers friendship, devastating loss and hope for a different future. One that asks her to consider not just who she is, but who she might become. Buy the book here.

Daughters of Durga by Manjula Datta O’Connor

Manjula is a clinical psychiatrist, researcher, and advocate for family violence prevention. She has worked extensively across mental health, cultural diversity, and respectful relationships with a specific focus on South Asian experiences. Her practice includes Vedic, Aryuvedic and traditional Indian medical and healing practices and spans from Melbourne to New Delhi. Her work campaigning against dowry abuse has spanned decades and notably, in 2018, Manjula successfully lobbied for dowry abuse to be added to the Victorian criminal code as a form of family abuse.

Manjula has seen 100’s of women in her practice- women from different education backgrounds, family make ups, and stages of life – who are survivors of abuse and dowry exploitation. Their testimonies, included in her novel ‘Daughters of Durga’ are varied but share a connection to the historical context for gender roles in India, the developing culture of Indian migrants in Australia, and how we can all play a part in building safe communities. Buy the book here.

Bapsi Sidhwa’s Ice Candy Man / Cracking India

Bapsi Sidhwa is Pakistan’s leading diasporic writer. She has produced four novels in English that reflect her personal experience of the Indian subcontinent’s Partition, abuse against women, immigration to the US, and membership in the Parsi/Zoroastrian community.

The 1947 Partition of India is the backdrop for this powerful novel, narrated by a precocious child who describes the brutal transition with chilling veracity. Young Lenny Sethi is kept out of school because she suffers from polio. She spends her days with Ayah, her beautiful nanny, visiting with the large group of admirers that Ayah draws. It is in the company of these working class characters that Lenny learns about religious differences, religious intolerance, and the blossoming genocidal strife on the eve of Partition. As she matures, Lenny begins to identify the differences between the Hindus, Moslems, and Sikhs engaging in political arguments all around her. Lenny enjoys a happy, privileged life in Lahore, but the kidnapping of her beloved Ayah signals a dramatic change. Soon Lenny’s world erupts in religious, ethnic, and racial violence. By turns hilarious and heartbreaking, this domestic drama serves as a microcosm for a profound political upheaval. Buy here.


Nandita Chakraborty’s ‘Dirty Little Secrets, A Memoir’ .

Nandita is a Melbourne based Indian Australian author who has made a name for herself writing about identity, mental health, love. She writes in a straigh-forward yet humorous, peppered with the odd bit of angst and wit. This book was finalised after a traumatic brain injury sustained in a rockclimbing accident. It deals with disability, the connection between disaspora and their home countries as a woman in between Melbourne and Delhi, and navigating relationships after heartbreak.

The book allowed for some interesting conversations on love, travel and friendships. We were also joined by Nandita for a QnA with book club members. Buy the book here.

Too Migrant Too Muslim Too Loud by Mehreen Faruqi

Mehreen Faruqi is a Pakistani-Australian politician who has been a senator since 2015, for the Greens Party. As the first Muslim woman elected to Parliament in Australia, this memoir looks at Mehreen’s life as a migrant, engineer, and public figure.

Mehreen’s story taught us that while no migrant journey is the same, we all share the hope that there’s space to build and to create something better than what once was. It genuinely considers and recognizes migrant participation in Australia’s history and how we can all care for the land and sea, and honour our Indigenous peoples. It reminds us that the story of migrants in Australia is an ongoing and evolving one; and it’s up to us to shape the current narrative for ourselves and for future generations. Buy the book here.

Priya Parker’s ‘The Art of Gathering’

Priya has vast experience in helping leaders and communities conduct complicated conversations about community, identity and vision at moments of transition. She has trained in conflict resolution, is a facilitator and a podcast host.

Her book reveals how we can make our lives more productive, and our interactions more meaningful because even if we are constantly interacting, we aren’t always communicating on a meaningful level.

Overall, we found this book to be an interesting read which made us reflect on all the gathering we had been to and whether we had been good hosts or attendees. Buy book here.

A Golden Age by Tahmima Anam

Tahmima Anam is a Bangladeshi born British writer. Her first novel, ‘A Golden Age,’ is inspired by her parents who were freedom fighters during the Bangladesh Liberation War. She has also studied war during her post-graduation career and spent two years in Bangladesh interviewing hundreds of war fighters.

As many of our members did not know much about Bangladeh’s Liberation War, this novel encouraged us to learn more about history and the struggles experienced by people during that time. We found the book to be an easy read which instigated some great conversations about war, history, education and relationships during our book club session. To learn more about our discussions, click on the link. Buy the book here.

Nadia Hashimi’s ‘The Pearl That Broke Its Shell’.

Though our focus is on South-Asian authors, we believe it’s important to learn from a diverse sect of society and there’s no better form of empowerment than reading from their perspective.

Nadia is an Afghan-American author who writes about a woman’s freedom to control her own fate. The story follows two women, though from different centuries, who share similar experiences with bacha posh – the custom of disguising yourself as a boy to enjoy the privileges that come with it. Buy the book here.

‘Untold: Defining Moments of the Uprooted’

Untold is a series of 32 short stories by South-Asian female-identifying authors reflecting on their experience growing up in America, Canada and the UK. This book touches on themes such as immigration, infertility, divorce, mental health and more.

Reading these stories has validated our experiences as South Asian women and we’d love to see more books like these published and gain the attention they deserve. Buy the book here.

Good Indian Daughter by Sneha Lees

Ruhi is a Melbourne-based writer born in India. Her memoir deals with cultural clashes, abuse, personal reservations but is balanced with a humorous tone. Ruhi wrote this book as she set herself on a mission to confront the ingrained struggles of juggling her family’s expectations while also ensuring she gets to live for herself. Good Indian Daughter is an ‘honest and brilliantly funny memoir for anyone who’s ever felt like a letdown.

The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergil Sister’s by Balli Kaur Jaswal

This novel explores how three sisters reconnect with their roots and each other as they travel through India on a pilgrimage to scatter their mother’s ashes. Through this heartwarming story, Balli touches upon forgiveness, gender equalities, sibling rivalries and more. Buy the book here

Are you enjoying? by Mira Sethi

Mira is a young writer from Pakistan who writes stories that spotlight humanity in its rawest form. Her novel is a series of fictional short stories set in Pakistan that challenge conventional ideas of family, sexuality, compassion, and identity
While we felt as though the stories didn’t offer as much insight into the lives of ordinary people, it allowed for interesting conversations around power dynamics in the workplace. Buy the book here.

Deranged Marriage by Sushi Das

Sushi grew up in London in the 70’s in a traditional Indian household. Her best-selling memoir explores identity, belonging, all things diaspora and shines light on ‘one of the oldest traditions of Eastern culture’, arranged marriages. To escape the inevitable arranged marriage, Sushi flees to Australia where she still resides as a Melbourne-based journalist. Sushi’s book is funny, candid and so relatable that you’ll feel like you’re reading a book about your life. Buy the book here

See No Stranger by Valerie Kaur

Valarie is an activist, lawyer and filmmaker. She has degrees from Yale, Stanford, and Harvard. Her family settled as Sikh farmers in California in 1913 and her activism was prompted when her family friend Balbir Singh Sodhi was the first person killed in a hate crime post 9/11. Her book See No Stranger is a memoir and manifesto exploring revolutionary love. Valarie Kaur is a powerhouse who has united thousands and works relentlessly in protecting human dignity. Valerie’s book elicited a whirlwind of emotions, anger, sadness, joy and hope – we highly recommend it. Buy the book here.