#DesiBookStack is our year-end reading list and a searchable guide to our featured books. You can mix and match genre tags to find just the right book to suit your need or mood.
Read more about the whys and wherefores of this new feature and what to expect in the near future.
As you’ll see in the highlights video below, 2021 has been a landmark year for us in terms of books and authors coverage. The Editor’s Note calls out one of the major themes that unites most of these books.
Thank you to the many readers and writers who’ve read, shared, and commented on these 2021 features. Together, let’s keep raising the tide of South Asian literature.
- Crime, Mystery, Thriller
- Essay Collection
- Experimental, Hybrid
- Literary Studies
- Poetry Collection
- Poetry Collection-Translated
- Story Collection
- Story Collection-Translated
There are many ancient and allegorical Indian folktales about the illustrious—some might even call him apocryphal—Emperor Vikramaditya. He was renowned for his generosity, wisdom, bravery, and patronage of the arts and the sciences. One of these stories is about his famous descendant, King Bhoj. This luminary encounters a poor Brahmin priest-turned-landowner behaving erratically: a generous soul when standing at a particular location and his usual miserly self the rest of the time. When Bhoj has that curious spot dug up, they find his ancestor Vikramaditya’s grand, bejeweled throne. Mystery solved. The Brahmin, unbeknownst to even himself, had been influenced by the legendary Emperor’s generosity when standing right above that throne. The story goes on with Bhoj having the throne brought to his court so he might sit on it. But the thirty-two goddess-like statues carved all around the throne dance to life and sing out warnings to not go near it. Unless, they trill at him beautifully, he has also performed many Vikramaditya-like virtuous and magnificent deeds. Otherwise, the intense energy of that famous throne will be, they caution, too much for a mere mortal. Stunned, Bhoj admits to not knowing these acclaimed ancestral deeds and asks to be educated so that he might better understand this enduring power of the past on the present.
To me, this is also the main theme uniting the majority of the 2021 features at Desi Books. We writers, in South Asia and across the global desi diaspora, continue to wrestle with our communal and individual pasts as we seek to make sense of our present. Whether it is a way for the empire to write back, as Salman Rushdie has famously written, or a preoccupation with the ancestors, or other aesthetic and intellectual reasons, history not only gives us much rich, complex material but lives and breathes in the shadows always.
As a younger reader, I was drawn to historical and near-historical works for, possibly, the same reasons that their writers were compelled to write them. Growing older, I’ve begun to see my existence as a short chapter in a long-running, endless narrative. Perhaps my sense of identity has gotten more interwoven with a communal past now that I have accumulated enough of a personal past. Placing myself in time, in relation to both my genetic and cultural ancestors, has also become a fascinating way to see my present more clearly.
Of course, no writer or reader can avoid being deeply concerned about the many serious problems within our contemporary societies. 2021 has thrown a lot more of these at us. So this is not to say that we cannot write about or make sense of the present in its own context. But, perhaps, we need some temporal distance to process its flood-like, 24/7 surging in more meaningful ways, to move away from the almost-instantaneous amygdala-driven responses to slower cortex-driven ones.
A lot of the books featured this year have explored this sense of distance in diverse, even experimental, ways. As you can see in the highlights video, this year has included more than twice as many genres as last year and more than three times as many books across ten different channels. These numbers don’t include all the new and notable books mentioned in the monthly #DesiBooksReco roundups or #FiveDesiFaves selections or the upcoming #DesiBooksReview features. Also, this #DesiBookstack does not include the #DesiLitBiz channel, which has featured ten inspiring publishing industry professionals or organizations and four thought-provoking community questions.
Whether you’re looking to travel back to pre-Partition Punjab or understand how post-Partition India got divided into states, to explore the history of a divided America or how our diasporas span continents and cultures, to read past the usual slum or immigrant tropes and glossy tourist brochures, you’ll find many such here.
Next year, we’ll engage the Desi Books community more proactively to help us create this end-of-year list. For now, we’ll share their #FiveDesiFaves for 2021.
Thank you for helping to raise the tide of South Asian literature. Here’s hoping 2022 will bring more such books to smartly unravel our past and gently enlighten our present and future.
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