Welcome back, everybody! It’s the second post of this month and I’m so honoured to be having Kshoni from A Page Full of Words over at my blog today as she discusses South Asian representation in SFF media. This October, the blog is featuring many voices from the South Asian community, so if you seem to have missed out on the previous posts, check out South Asian Spotlight!
Kshoni is a reader and blogger, who runs the blog, A Page Full of Words. Go check out her blog for some awesome bookish content and if you’re looking for new books to add to your ever-growing TBRs!
South Asian Representation in SFF Media
I’m so pleased to be joining The Erudite Labyrinth for a guest post and a huge thank you to Queenie for inviting me along!
For my guest post, I’d like to talk about representation in science fiction/fantasy, and in particular, South Asian SFF. This is something that is incredibly personal and will probably be one of the most personal things I will write for a blog. It’s not always an easy topic to talk about either, as it’s something that means many different things to different people. While I hope there is something here that resonates with you, it’s absolutely fine if it doesn’t. Everyone’s experiences are different and just as valid.
One of the reasons I’ve chosen to write about this is because of the number of books that are being released at the moment that aren’t inspired medieval Western Europe. I have loved seeing so many new books that are inspired by other histories and cultures and I wish I had the time to read each and every one of them (also, please keep them coming and don’t stop writing them!)
As a kid growing up, there weren’t many SFF books out there with protagonists with names like mine or from a world inspired by South Asia. I had amazing women who became knights as my role models (thank you Tamora Pierce!) and at the time, that was enough. It was enough to know women could be the heroes of their stories, even if they didn’t look like me.
It took a very long time for me to realise how much I needed and wanted to see characters like me in SFF. I remember seeing the latest covers of Sabaa Tahir’s Ember in the Ashes series, with a young woman with brown skin gracing the cover and thinking how beautiful they were. Finally, here was a cover with a young woman who looked like me! And here she was, on the cover of an incredibly popular YA series. It really struck a chord and made me realise how rare it was to see a cover like that.
Fast forward a few more years and Tasha Suri’s Empire of Sand was released. Here was story inspired by the Mughal Empire and a world inspired by Indian history – something I hadn’t seen before, but desperately wanted more of. I loved finding little references to things that were familiar to me and I finally felt like I was part of a group that felt seen and acknowledged. It also resulted in an urge to learn everything I could about the era that inspired the Books of Ambha duology, opening my mind up to a history I wasn’t familiar with at all.
Between these two events (and some other, far more personal reflection) something in my brain kicked into gear and I’m now constantly on the look out now for more South Asian SFF.
Having said that, it makes me so happy to see so many more stories being released (in both YA and adult SFF) that are inspired by South Asia. From Sangu Mandanna’s Celestial Trilogy to Tasha Suri’s works, to recent releases from R.R Virdi (which I really need to get my hands on!) and Akshaya Raman (and so many more that I know I’ve missed) it has been glorious seeing these stories being published and loved by so many. I love the fact that a new generation of people finally get to see themselves in epic stories and being the heroes in them.
What makes it even better is that I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of South Asian inspired SFF. There are so many authors I’ve yet to read and discover, who have all published books over the last few years. Not only that, but there are more books on the way: Kritika H. Rao’s The Surviving Sky and Aparna Verma’s The Phoenix King are due to be released next year (and are two that I’m very much looking forward to).
I wish I could go back and tell my younger self that these books exist (but better late than never right?!) As I’ve got older, representation has come to mean so much – seeing South Asian inspired SFF and being able to celebrate it and recommend it is wonderful. Tamora Pierce may have taught me that women can be heroes too, but it was Sabaa Tahir and Tasha Suri and all of the authors listed above to show me that those protagonists can look like me.
(For further recommendations, Book Riot have 33 must read South Asian books that cover a number of different genres: https://bookriot.com/2022-south-asian-books. Tor.com also have an article with some recommendations: https://www.tor.com/2022/03/28/the-new-wave-of-south-asian-science-fiction-and-fantasy/comment-page-1)
I’m Kshoni (she/her) and unsurprisingly, I’m an avid reader. I run A Page Full of Words, which I only started this year, so it’s still a work in progress! I’m a science-fiction and fantasy reader most of the time, but I am trying to venture outside of the genre. If I’m not reading, I’m either trying to catch up on my ever growing list of things to watch, playing Legend of Zelda or Hades or working on some little craft project.