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 female authors do not get the traction they deserve.
Our Book Club is an initiative to celebrate female South Asian 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 one hour sessions are a way to connect with other like minded South Asians and share your thoughts on the book.
The next book we’re reading is ‘Asian Girls are Going Places‘ by Michelle Law.
You might have heard of Michelle Law- She is a writer and screenwriter from Brisbane and has made a name for herself with her play Single Asian Female and in co-creating the SBS series Homecoming Queens. Her book looks at all the different ways women can travel- by themselves, with family, with partners- and why they do it. Asian Girls Are Going Places takes a fun, comedic, but sincere approach to making your next trip count. Think of Michelle as a big sister, or well-travelled friend who offers up her tested tips and tricks to navigate what can become memories that you’ll look back on for a lifetime- and just in time for a summer break!
Join us online on the Thursday 6th October at 7.00-8.00pm AEST for our book club discussion. Buy your book here.
Books We’ve Read
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.
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
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.
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.
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 below.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.