South-Asian Reading Challenge || May 2020 Theme ‘Dua’ and Books Of The Month + Collaboration With Ramadan Readathon

The world is going through a tough time and we understand everyone is trying to find the light in the midst of this pandemic. Fortunately, Ramadan is here to calm us down and attain some form of peace during the chaos. Considering the immense importance of this month, especially for our Muslim readers, and with May being all about the Asian Heritage, we have decided to focus on what is a large part of any South-Asian identity: spirituality.

The word ‘Dua’ is derived from Arabic, which means ‘invocation’ or ‘summon.’ We chose this theme in celebration of Ramadan that is taking place, roughly from April 23rd to May 23rd, 2020. To us, ‘Dua’ evokes both individual and collective spirituality, re-centering, and hope. The pandemic has significantly impacted Muslim communities around the world. We wanted to further create community around the globe and take time to promote some exciting South Asian-Muslim titles this month, that cover a range of experiences.


Title: The Henna Wars
Author: Adiba Jaigirdar
Publisher: Page Street Kids
Publishing Date: May 12, 2020

Synopsis: When Dimple Met Rishi meets Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda in this rom com about two teen girls with rival henna businesses.

When Nishat comes out to her parents, they say she can be anyone she wants—as long as she isn’t herself. Because Muslim girls aren’t lesbians. Nishat doesn’t want to hide who she is, but she also doesn’t want to lose her relationship with her family. And her life only gets harder once a childhood friend walks back into her life.

Flávia is beautiful and charismatic and Nishat falls for her instantly. But when a school competition invites students to create their own businesses, both Flávia and Nishat choose to do henna, even though Flávia is appropriating Nishat’s culture. Amidst sabotage and school stress, their lives get more tangled—but Nishat can’t quite get rid of her crush on Flávia, and realizes there might be more to her than she realized. 


🎉 Review: The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar — The Nerd Daily
🎉 Cover Reveal And Excerpt: The Henna Wars By Adiba Jaigirdar — Book Riot
🎉 The Henna Wars  — Kirkus Review

Why We Chose this Book

Two henna businesses? A rivalry? An f/f romance? Set in Ireland? We are so excited to read this book and see how Adiba Jaigirdar uplifts identities, creates awareness, and explores cultural specificity, all in between this heart-leaping, rival-to-lover teen romance.


Title: Love from A to Z
Author: S. K. Ali
Publisher: Salaam Reads
Publishing Date: April 30, 2019

Synopsis: A marvel: something you find amazing. Even ordinary-amazing. Like potatoes—because they make French fries happen. Like the perfect fries Adam and his mom used to make together. An oddity: whatever gives you pause. Like the fact that there are hateful people in the world. Like Zayneb’s teacher, who won’t stop reminding the class how “bad” Muslims are.

But Zayneb, the only Muslim in class, isn’t bad. She’s angry. When she gets suspended for confronting her teacher, and he begins investigating her activist friends, Zayneb heads to her aunt’s house in Doha, Qatar, for an early start to spring break.Fueled by the guilt of getting her friends in trouble, she resolves to try out a newer, “nicer” version of herself in a place where no one knows her.Then her path crosses with Adam’s.

Since he got diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in November, Adam’s stopped going to classes, intent, instead, on perfecting the making of things. Intent on keeping the memory of his mom alive for his little sister. Adam’s also intent on keeping his diagnosis a secret from his grieving father.Alone, Adam and Zayneb are playing roles for others, keeping their real thoughts locked away in their journals. Until a marvel and an oddity occurs…

Marvel: Adam and Zayneb meeting. Oddity: Adam and Zayneb meeting. 


🎉 International Children’s Book Day: Books by Muslim authors every child should be reading — The New Arab
🎉 Book Review: Love From A to Z by S.K. Ali — The Young Folks
🎉 ‘Love From A To Z’ By S.K. Ali Is A Spring Break Romance That Tackles Big Issues — Start Reading Now — Bustle


If you talk to almost anyone on Muslim Book Twitter™, you know that this is an instant favorite. S.K. Ali fuses Muslim spirituality, global identities, political awareness, and chronic illness to capture a budding connection between 2 multi-racial Muslim teens. We hope you rave about the ‘marvels & oddities’ in this book, too.

We are so excited to announce a collaboration between Ramadan Readathon (RR) and South Asian Reading Challenge (SARC) from April 23rd to the end of May! This collab is focused on centering South Asian-Muslim books and create more conversation around them during the month of Ramadan. This year, Ramadan Readathon is centered around the short story collection Once Upon An Eid, edited by S.K. Ali and Aisha Saeed, with 15 incredible stories by Muslim writers. RR has chosen words to go with each story, that correspond with every other day in Ramadan. SARC & RR are focusing our efforts on the first day of Ramadan (4/23) and the word ‘culture!’ Read an amazing Q/A exchanged between Rumaanah & Samia from SARC and Nadia from Ramadan Readathon now.



South-Asian Reading Challenge || April 2020 Theme ‘Itihasa’ and Books Of The Month + Collaboration With Backlist Bookworms

A quarter of this extremely slow year has passed and we’re already looking back at the good ol’ times in this month’s theme for the South-Asian Reading Challenge. As the saying goes, History is who we are and why we are the way we are.’ and as enthusiasts of POC representation in books, we understand how finding one’s roots is the epitome of finding oneself. So what can be better than reflecting on historical times or being entertained by fictions in ancient settings?

The word ‘itihasa’ is of Sanskrit origin that essentially means history. Though, it was earlier used to refer to religious stories that carried messages and meanings of life. Our main purpose behind deciding this theme was to positively pull away everyone’s attention from the futuristic fictions that can seem too realistic during this pandemic. Maybe looking back to what has already occurred or visiting a world that is set in a historical timeline can make everyone’s reading experience more on the lines of escapism while in isolation.


Title: Mad, Bad & Dangerous To Know
Author: Samira Ahmed
Publisher: Soho Teen
Publishing Date: April 7th, 2020

It’s August in Paris and 17-year-old Khayyam Maquet—American, French, Indian, Muslim—is at a crossroads. This holiday with her professor parents should be a dream trip for the budding art historian. But her maybe-ex-boyfriend is probably ghosting her, she might have just blown her chance at getting into her dream college, and now all she really wants is to be back home in Chicago figuring out her messy life instead of brooding in the City of Light.

Two hundred years before Khayyam’s summer of discontent, Leila is struggling to survive and keep her true love hidden from the Pasha who has “gifted” her with favored status in his harem. In the present day—and with the company of a descendant of Alexandre Dumas—Khayyam begins to connect allusions to an enigmatic 19th-century Muslim woman whose path may have intersected with Alexandre Dumas, Eugène Delacroix, and Lord Byron.

Echoing across centuries, Leila and Khayyam’s lives intertwine, and as one woman’s long-forgotten life is uncovered, another’s is transformed. 


🎉 5 of the Best Romantic Time Travel NovelsBook Riot
🎉 Author’s Note: MAD, BAD & DANGEROUS TO KNOW by Samira AhmedSoho Press
🎉 The First Excerpt of Samira Ahmed’s “Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know” Is an Immersive YA Adventure Story in ParisTeen Vogue

Why We Chose this Book

We at SARC have loved Samira Ahmed’s previous books and her latest promises even more amazing South-Asian rep! We get dual timelines in this one – one set in present day and one in the 1800s. This perfectly resonates with our chosen theme for the month because of its historical aspect. We also believe that it tackles the theme of colonialism with nuance, an important chapter in South Asian history.


Title: The Tiger At Midnight
Author: Swati Teerdhala
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Publishing Date: April 23rd, 2019


A broken bond. A dying land. A cat-and-mouse game that can only end in bloodshed.

Esha lost everything in the royal coup—and as the legendary rebel known as the Viper, she’s made the guilty pay. Now she’s been tasked with her most important mission to date: taking down the ruthless General Hotha.

Kunal has been a soldier since childhood. His uncle, the General, has ensured that Kunal never strays from the path—even as a part of Kunal longs to join the outside world, which has only been growing more volatile.

When Esha and Kunal’s paths cross one fated night, an impossible chain of events unfolds. Both the Viper and the soldier think they’re calling the shots, but they’re not the only players moving the pieces.

As the bonds that hold their land in order break down and the sins of the past meet the promise of a new future, both the soldier and the rebel must decide where their loyalties lie: with the lives they’ve killed to hold on to or with the love that’s made them dream of something more. 


🎉 50 YA Books That Should Be Added to Your 2019 TBR ASAPBook Riot
🎉 50 of Our Most Anticipated YA Fantasy Books of 2019B&N Teen
🎉 ‘The Tiger At Midnight’ By Swati Teerdhala Is A YA Fantasy Perfect For Fans Of Sabaa Tahir & You Can Start Reading It NowBustle


What’s better than an enemies-to-lovers YA fantasy? One inspired by ancient India and Hindu mythology, of course! With an enthusiastic recommendation from both the creators of SARC, this book is gorgeous inside and out. The setting matches our theme for the month and we think it will be a very apt pick for you to add to your SARC TBR.

We are so excited to announce a collaboration that we have planned for this month of spring! After quite some time of discussing and pondering, we are ecstatic to be inspired by the aim of Backlist Bookworms: read more backlist books. Lili and Vicky, the creators of this book club are amazing bloggers too and are definitely enthusiastic about recommending more diverse backlist titles.

The Backlist Bookworms Book Club is an online Twitter book club hosted by Lili and Vicky. Every month we pick one book published from last year or earlier to chat about together. It’s a way we make sure to shine the spotlight on already released books.


💬 A Twitter chat discussing the importance of representation, South-Asian backlist titles, and the need to pick up more backlist books.
📚 A quick post where Backlist Bookworms recommend some of the best South-Asian backlist titles and walk us back through some of their own favourite picks for the book club.
🎉 The creators, Lili & Vicky, take over SARC’s Instagram and Twitter for a day to flaunt the amazing content they have lined up.
📣 Mini interviews where the creators of South-Asian Reading Challenge & Backlist Bookworms answer fun and difficult questions for those who ask.

📚 We have three major lists planned this month, from all the anticipated south-asian books lined up for release this summer to the best historical fiction & non-fiction recommendations for those who wish to read more desi books. A perfect list for readers while they are social distancing, we will be compiling all the comfort reads with south-asian representation that can help you calm down and relax during this pandemic.

🔔 New features are lined up for this April. One translated book will be recommended by one of our hosts so you can have more languages in your south-asian reading lists. We are also happy to shine a spotlight over one desi creator every month, a book blogger, bookstagrammer, and/or booktuber.

💬 Twitter chats around our previous books of the month, i.e., March’s backlist title: The Serpent’s Secret by Sayantani Dasgupta and the new release: We Are Totally Normal by Rahul Kanakia. If you have read these books and would be excited to discuss the stories and your reading experience with other readers, make sure to keep an eye out. And if you haven’t read these, think about the fun upcoming Twitter chat as motivation!

📷 For our followers and fellow readers on Instagram, we have a Bookstagram Challenge that can help you inspire you throughout the month by giving you ideas as prompts every day this April. While some prompts are great to increase your engagement on the platform, some can definitely push you as a content creator. Choose what you wish to take inspiration from and began clicking!



Interview With Nandini Bajpai || Asking 8 Questions Upon The Release Of A Desi-American YA Contemporary Romance: A Match Made In Mehendi

A Match Made in Mehendi is a YA Contemporary Romance by Nandini Bajpai that highlights the story of an Indian-American teenage girl, Simi, who wants to bring the art of matchmaking to a digital platform and figure out her own dreams and matches along the way. Today, I’m lucky to have Nandini Bajpai answer some curiosity-filled questions of mine as a token to celebrate the release of this lovely YA romance story of a brown girl.


A House Of Rage And Sorrow by Sangu Mandanna — The Sequel Of AN INDIAN Mythology Inspired Fantasy Set In Space

A House of Rage and Sorrow is a stunning sequel to a stunning YA Indian mythology inspired Sci-Fi Fantasy, A Spark of White Fire. It continues Esmae’s story after the tragic and unexpected ending of the first installment. From family dynamics to individual power building, and from revenge to love, this sequel brings more emotions—and consequently, more tears—to the plate. It breaks any barrier, if one even existed, between gods and mortals in the most surprising manner possible.