After buying and reading several books by South Asian authors (specifically Indian and Pakistani), it became apparent that the arch is a common motif. It’s definitely eye-catching, though maybe a bit overused? In the case of A Torch Against the Night, it’s more incidental than a deliberate evocation of an aesthetic associated with South Asia.
Climbing the Stairs by Padma Venkatraman – YA, historical fiction
Set against the background of India’s independence movement, Climbing the Stairs tells the story of Vidya, who has ambitions to attend university. Her move to her grandfather’s house means living by their restrictive rules where the men and women are segregated in the household. However, she breaks the rules by spending her days in the second-floor library and comes to know Raman, who lives in the house as well and nurtures and respects her intellectual curiosity. Then her brother does the unthinkable, and her world is turned upside down.
Song of the Cuckoo Bird by Amulya Malladi – Literary fiction, historical fiction
Spanning decades from the mid 20th century to the early 200s, this book begins when Kokila is engaged at a young age to a stranger. Given the chance, she decides to back out of the marriage and remain at the local ashram (monastery) instead. This decision sets the course for the rest of her life living among a complex family of women who share in their statuses as outcasts. Note: The story is set in a Telugu-speaking area in India. (Trigger/content warnings noted in my review linked above)
The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni – Literary fiction, retelling
This one is still on my TBR. It’s a retelling of the Mahabharata, which is one of the two major Sanskrit epics, the other being the Ramayana. In this retelling, the story is narrated from the perspective of Panchaali, who has five husbands, the Pandavas brothers, who are out to reclaim a birthright that was stolen from them. Aside from telling a tale of war and strife, it explores Panchaali’s relationship with her mother-in-law, a complicated friendship, and her secret attraction to a man who is forbidden.
A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir – YA, fantasy
In this second installment to An Ember in the Ashes, Laia and Elias are on the run together and on a quest to free Laia’s brother from the highest security prison of the Martial Empire. With pursuers on their heel and a near-impossible mission before them, it will take all of their strength and their wits to prevail. (Notes: Author is Muslim Pakistani American; some of the cultures/fantasy elements in the book are based on Middle Eastern/North African cultures)
Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed – YA, contemporary
Naila’s parents have given her a lot of freedom to do as she wants, but the one thing they are adamant about is that she cannot date. When they find out that she has been seeing Saif in secret, they respond by hauling her off to Pakistan, supposedly to get her to reconnect with their heritage. Soon, Naila realizes what her parents intend for her–an arranged marriage to a stranger–and finds herself trapped and desperate to escape.