18 July marks the beginning of South Asian Heritage Month. It’s a time to celebrate and commemorate the South Asian culture and communities that exist within Britain today.
To mark the occasion, Parminder Kaur Lally (senior associate at Appleyard Lees and CIPA Council member) shared on LinkedIn a list of her favourite books by writers who are South Asian or have South Asian heritage. We at IP Inclusive felt that her post is a great way to highlight and showcase South Asian culture and history, so we had to share it (thank you, Parminder!). Keep reading to discover Parminder’s list of recommended books as well as the growing list of novels that have been suggested by others who have commented on her post.
Not only can you celebrate South Asian Heritage Month by reading some of the suggested books, but you could also reach out and speak with your colleagues who are of South Asian heritage to discover more about their culture, history and stories. Ultimately, the better we understand others, the more inclusive we become.
What is South Asian Heritage month?
Did you know that roughly 1 in 20 people in Britain have South Asian Heritage? When we say South Asian, we are referring to Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan, the Maldives and Sri Lanka.
South Asian Heritage Month runs from 18 July to 17 August and focuses on celebrating the history and culture of the eight countries mentioned above. The chosen dates for South Asian Heritage month are significant. Firstly, 18 July is when the Indian Independence Act 1947 received royal assent, granting India sovereignty from Britain. Secondly, 17 of August is the date that the official border (Radcliffe Line) between India, West Pakistan and East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) was drawn.
The month aims to commemorate and celebrate South Asian culture and history. South Asian influences can be found all throughout Britain. They exist in our food, clothes, music and even the words we use. For example, the word shampoo has its roots in Hindi. As such, the goal of South Asian Heritage Month is to improve our understanding of the diversity that exists in Britain today as well as our understanding of how South Asia and Britain are intrinsically linked. This is reflected in its motto “celebrate, commemorate, educate”.
The theme for this year’s South Asian Heritage Month is Journeys of Empire. This recognises two important anniversaries: the 75th anniversary of India’s independence as well as the 50th anniversary of the expulsion of Ugandan Asians.
Suggested books to read
One way that you can expand your understanding of South Asian culture and history is to read. Parminder shared on her LinkedIn page a list of some of her favourite books by South Asian authors. She recommends the following:
- Sunny by Sukh Ojla
- The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
- The Buddha of Suburbia by Hanif Kureishi
- A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
- The Startup Wife by Tahmima Anam
- Superior: The Return of Race Science by Angela Saini
- One Point Two Billion by Mahesh Rao
The post generated a lot of interest and has encouraged others to share their own recommendations. So far, the following books have been recommended:
- Family Matters and The White Tiger by Rohinton Mistry
- A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth
- Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
- The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
- A Bend in the River and A House For Mr Biswas by V S Naipaul
- Empireland by Sathnam Sanghera
- The Year of the Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota
- Hashim and Family by Shahnaz Ahsan
- The Black Album by Hanif Kureishi
- The Giant Dark by Sarvat Hasin
- Witness the Night by Kishwar Desai
- Anita and Me and The House of Hidden Mothers by Meera Syal
- Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India by Shashi Tharoor
- Fasting, Feasting by Anita Desai
- Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie (not everyone’s favourite, it appears, but still a classic)
Some books for children
If you want to educate your children on South Asian culture, then why not check out the work of Onjali Q Rauf? Onjali was recommended as a great children’s author by one LinkedIn user. She uses her experiences of racism in childhood as her inspiration for the novels she writes.
A few cookery books were also mentioned in case you fancy reproducing the flavours of South Asia in your kitchen:
- East by Meera Sodha (Parminder’s “family cook book”!)
- Fresh India, also by Meera Sodha
The list goes on…
Equally, if you would like to find even more books to read, then check out Tilted Axis Press. It’s a not-for-profit publishing company that publishes work written mainly by Asian writers. These novels are then translated into English.
If you want to follow the evolving list of novels, you can find Parminder’s post here.
Asian music shows
Parminder also shared on her LinkedIn a great post setting out where you can listen to Asian music shows. In the post, Parminder reflects upon how when she went to university, she missed hearing people who sounded like her. As such, discovering the radio was a game-changer for her.
Parminder listens to the BBC Asian Network and her favourite radio DJs are Bobby Friction and Panjabi Hit Squad. She says that “the radio helps me to stay connected with my heritage and culture”.
Why not try the BBC Asian Network for yourself, to discover some new music and to connect with South Asian culture?
Reach out and learn more
South Asian Heritage Month is a terrific opportunity to speak to your colleagues who are of South Asian heritage. This will allow you to discover more about their culture, language and history as well as enhancing your own understanding of what it truly means to be South Asian in 21st Century Britain.
Also, if you are working within the UK IP sector and have South Asian Heritage, you could consider joining IP & ME (our support community for IP professionals with minority ethnic backgrounds). Here, you can meet, network and share your experiences with other like-minded IP professionals. And IP & ME – like all our other communities – is also open to allies.