For book lovers, a new year is synonymous with new books. So SheThePeople.TV brings you a list of books by women writers that you should put on your reading list. Here is a look at our fiction list which will definitely make 2019 special for you as a reader.
The Forest of Enchantments by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni (HarperCollins)
The prolific Indian-American author, poet and professor revisits the Ramayan from the perspective of Sita. In this brilliant retelling, Sita is at the centre of the novel alongside some of the other women in the epic, often misunderstood and relegated to the margins: Kaikeyi, Surpanakha, Mandodari. A powerful comment on duty, betrayal, infidelity and honour, it is also about women’s struggle to retain autonomy in a world that privileges men, as Chitra transforms an ancient story into a gripping, contemporary battle of wills. A moving meditation on love in its many forms, this Sitayan proves once again why Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni remains an unparalleled storyteller.
The Fate of Butterflies by Nayantara Sahgal (Speaking Tiger)
Writer, journalist and activist, Nayantara Sahgal, whose last novel When The Moon Shines By Day was long-listed for the inaugural JCB Prize for Literature in 2018, is back with a new book that is a telling comment on the contemporary moment in India—on what may happen when a country’s rulers attempt to wipe out sections of its history, and marginalise a community. Who better to do it than Sahgal, a member of an eminent political family, whose incisive forthrightness promises to make this one a great read.
The Penguin Book of Italian Short Stories by Jhumpa Lahiri (Penguin)
This landmark collection brings together forty writers that reflect over a hundred years of Italy’s vibrant and diverse short story tradition, from the birth of the modern nation to the end of the twentieth century. Poets, journalists, visual artists, musicians, editors, critics, teachers, scientists, politicians, translators: the writers that inhabit these pages represent a dynamic cross section of Italian society, their powerful voices resonating through regional landscapes, private passions and dramatic political events. Curated by Jhumpa Lahiri, it includes well-known authors such as Italo Calvino, Elsa Morante, Luigi Pirandello alongside others. More than a third of the stories featured in this volume have been translated into English for the first time, several of them by Lahiri herself.
I Have Become the Tide by Githa Hariharan (Simon and Schuster)
In this prominent fiction and non-fiction writer’s new book, three distinctive narratives intertwine past and present in compelling ways to raise an urgent voice against the cruelties of caste and the destructive forces that crush dissent. But they also celebrate the joy of resistance, the redemptive beauty of words and the courage to be found in friendship and love. Deeply political, powerful and beautifully imagined, the novel, while never losing sight of humour and tenderness, champions the cause of the human spirit and its celebration of the “joy of resistance, the redemptive beauty of words, and the courage to be found in friendship and love.”
A Respectable Woman by Easterine Kire (Zubaan)
“It took my mother, Khonuo, exactly forty-five years before she could bring herself to talk about the war.” These powerful words introduce the reader to Easterine Kire’s stunning new novel which is set forty years after the decisive Battle of Kohima has been fought and won by the Allies, and people in and around Kohima are trying hard to come to terms with the devastation, the loss of home and property and the deaths of their loved ones. A pertinent and poignant story of inheriting memory and history, from mother to daughter, the narrative glides seamlessly into the present, into a world where history and memory meld and a young woman comes to understand the legacy of her parents and her land.
Draupadi, The Tale of an Empress by Saiswaroopa Iyer (Rupa Publications India)
Born out of the sacred fire, and raised by a loving father and three doting brothers Draupadi is no ordinary woman. Witnessing estrangement and betrayal within her own family makes her perceptive and intuitive beyond her years. Complicated marital relationships, a meteoric rise and a fateful loss, humiliation unheard of and a pledge of revenge, all culminate in a bloody war. Yet she stands up to it all—never succumbing, never breaking, showing what a woman is capable of. One of the most unforgettable characters of the Mahabharata, Draupadi treads the unbeaten path. Told with great sensitivity and passion, this book brings alive a character of epic proportions.
The Far Field by Madhuri Vijay (Grove Press)
In the wake of her mother’s death, Shalini, a privileged and restless young woman from Bangalore, sets out for a remote Himalayan village in the troubled northern region of Kashmir. And when life in the village turns volatile and old hatreds erupt into violence, Shalini is forced to make choices that could be dangerous for the very people she has come to love. At once politically timely and morally timeless, this evocative novel follows a complicated flaneuse across the Indian subcontinent, tracing the fault lines of history, love and obligation running through a fractured family and country, and masterfully examines Indian politics, class prejudice, and sexuality through the lens of an outsider.
A People’s History of Heaven by Mathangi Subramanian (Algonquin Books)
This moving and atmospheric debut novel centres on five best friends, girls who go to school together, a diverse group who love and accept one another unconditionally, pulling one another through crises and providing emotional, physical and financial support. It’s about a community of people living hand-to-mouth and constantly struggling against the city government who wants to bulldoze their homes. Among them are a politically driven graffiti artist, a transgender Christian convert, a blind girl who loves to dance and a queer daughter of a hijabi union leader. This elegant and poetic story is about geography, history, and strength, about love and friendship, and about fighting for the people and places we love.
A Gujarat Here, A Gujarat There by Krishna Sobti, translated from the Hindi by Daisy Rockwell (Hamish Hamilton)
This majestic feminist novel of the aftermath of the Partition, from the canonical Hindi writer, opens in 1947 Delhi—a city overflowing with refugees. Eager to escape the welter of pain surrounding her, young Krishna applies to a position at a preschool in the princely state of Sirohi. While she makes attempts to make a home for herself, the opportunity to become governess to the child Maharaja Tej Singh Bahadur presents itself. She is greeted on arrival with condescension for her refugee status, and treated with sexist disdain. Part novel, part memoir, part feminist anthem, the book is a powerful tale of Partition loss and dislocation, and charts the odyssey of a spirited young woman determined to build a new identity for herself.
Small Days and Nights by Tishani Doshi (Bloomsbury)
Escaping her failing marriage, Grace has returned to Pondicherry to cremate her mother. Once there, she finds herself heir to an inheritance – a property on the beaches of Madras, and a sister she never knew she had: Lucia, who was born with Down’s Syndrome and has spent her life in a residential facility. As she sets up a new life in Madras with Lucia, she discovers the joys and sorrows of living with a sister with Down’s Syndrome. This captivating and heartbreaking novel, set against the evocative backdrop of modern India, is a story of the ties that bind and the secrets we bury, about the sacrifices the woman makes to forge a life with meaning.
Three Novellas by KR Meera, translated from the Malayalam by J Devika (Aleph)
A triad of novellas, Slowly Forgetting, The Deepest Blue, and The Angel’s Beauty Spots, by the prize-winning Malayalam author come together in this translated collection. Translated by J Devika and edited by Mini Krishnan, these stories, all featuring female protagonists, explore a range of relationships: marriage, unrequited love, past love, infidelity and failed love. KR Meera is a Malayalam author whose novel, Aarachaar, is widely regarded as one of the best literary works in Malayalam and was shortlisted for the 2016 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature. All three stories feature female protagonists and explore a range of relationships – from marriage to infidelity and from unrequited love to failed love.
The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters by Balli Kaur Jaswal (HarperCollins)
The author of the much-loved Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows follows her acclaimed debut with this life-affirming, witty family drama about three sisters who have been instructed by their dying mother to visit the Golden Temple and carry out her last rites. Arriving in India, these sisters make unexpected discoveries about themselves, their mother, and their lives. Powerful, emotionally evocative, wonderfully atmospheric and funny, the charming story explores the tensions between tradition and modernity in immigrant communities. It’s a female take on the Indian travel narrative that illuminates the bonds of family, sisterhood, and heritage that tether us despite our differences.
Daura and Bhaunri: Two Tales from the Heart of Rajasthan by Anukrti Upadhyay (HarperCollins)
Two novellas, set against the backdrop of rural Rajasthan, and redolent with its songs and myths, with the beauty and mystery of the desert. Daura is the story of a District Collector who encounters beauty in its purest and most absolute form, and the effect this experience has on him and others. Bhaunri is the story of a woman from a nomadic tribe of blacksmiths and her obsessive love for her husband. This is a tale about the destructive power of desire, and offers glimpses of a fast-disappearing way of life. Half-real and half-fable, Anukrti Upadhyay’s stories are a deep dive into the dark heart of the desert. Together, they announce the arrival of a powerful new literary talent.
Cut: The Death and Life of a Theatre Activist by Sreemoyee Piu Kundu (Bloomsbury India)
Set in a world of government censure and ruthless stifling of anyone who questions their ways, CUT is a posthumous look at the personal and professional life of a visionary theatre artist. Told in disparate voices, the book explores commitment to artistic integrity and art as a platform for social reform against all odds, even when it becomes a question of survival. A topical, relevant book on artistic freedom in light of the ‘urban naxals’ controversy.
Bombay Balchao by Jane Borges (Westland)
This historical fiction is set in South Bombay and spans eight decades. It was on the warmest of warm Christmas eves in 1945 when the folks at Cavel, a tiny Catholic village on Bombay’s D’Lima Street, first came to believe that they were the chosen lot. At the altar of the chapel of Nossa Senhora da Esperança, the parishioners would remember the happenings from that day with strange reverence. Except the reticent teenager from Bosco Mansion, Michael Countinho. An entire group of quirky people have concocted a lie that they call “the miracle”. Over the span of eighty-long years, we witness how Michael’s idyllic village in the heart of South Bombay, is making delicious, melancholic and funny memories.
This list has been curated by Archana Pai Kulkarni. The views expressed are the author’s own.
Archana is a Journalist, Editor, Creative Writer and Blogger.