Library Services


Celebrating South Asian Heritage Month

28 July 2022

We asked members of the UCL community to recommend books to celebrate South Asian Heritage Month.

Library user looking at an item, standing amongst book shelves

We were looking for books that celebrate and commemorate the histories and cultures of the South Asian community in all its diversity in the UK and around the world. 

This year's theme is Journeys of Empire, which reflects two major anniversaries taking place in 2022: 

  • 75th anniversary of the independence of India, Partition, and the creation of East and West Pakistan.
  • 50th anniversary of the expulsion of Ugandan Asians by Idi Amin.

We received many suggestions, including several books that we already hold in the library’s collections. We are also very keen to receive recommendations for books which we don't currently hold to enhance our collections.  

Have you read them all? What are we missing? Join us on Twitter or Instagram or share your own recommendations through our form. 

Your recommendations

Asians in Britain 400 Years of History by Rozina Visram

Rozina Visram's history begins in 1600 with the founding of the East India Company and the arrival of Indian servants, lascars (seamen) and ayahs (nannies) to Britain and concludes with the contributions they made during the Second World War. It reveals the hostilities, prejudices and racism that South Asians suffered, particularly after the acceptance of eugenics in the 19th century.

Nazlin Bhimani

Postcolonialism by Tariq Jazeel

This book provides commentary on postcolonialism in relation to social, economic and cultural geographies. It explores the efforts of migrant communities to make a new home in liberal democracies like the United Kingdom.

Abida Siddiqua

Striking Women: Struggles & Strategies of South Asian Women Workers from Grunwick to Gate Gourmet by Sundari Anitha & Ruth Pearson

It is a fantastic book that highlights the inspiring history of south Asian women's struggles in Britain. It not only looks at how the gendered, racialised and classed experiences of these women shaped them, but also how they shaped their own struggles and the face of Britain today.

Zenobia: Shooting Star of Palmyra by Nathanael Andrade

Zenobia was a powerful Syrian queen who broke free of Roman hegemony in the East and created a large empire. I have not read this book yet, but I plan to treat myself over March.

Finding a Voice: Asian Women in Britain by Amrit Wilson

This is a deeply personal (and revolutionary!) book that presents the struggles and experiences of South Asian women, in the workplace, in society, and in the home, through their own point-of-view.

Cracking India by Bapsi Sidhwa

Bapsi Sidhwa is one of my favourite South Asian novelists. Cracking India is a stunningly beautiful novel about the partition of India told through the eyes of a 4 year old Parsee child - Lenny - living in Lahore. Lahore becomes part of Pakistan during the course of the novel and you witness the violence and destruction and all that came with partition through Lenny’s religiously neutral and innocent eyes. It was one of the books I fell in love with growing up as a British Asian curious about my cultural history.

Roopal Desai

Anita and me by Meera Syal

With great warmth and humour, Meera Syal brings to life a quirky and spirited upbringing of a south Asian family in the fictional English village of Tollington in the 1970s. It follows the life of Meena Kumar, the daughter of Indian immigrants, as she attempts to define her personal identity, marked by her Indian background and the small English town she grows up in.

Abida Siddiqua

VIRIAH: 1.3 million (13 lakh) Indians were shipped as indentured laborers to sugarcane plantations in British colonies to replace slaves. My great-grandfather was one of them. This is his story by Krishna Gubili

The indentured labour system is a lesser known but still iniquitous aspect of the British Empire that deserves greater recognition. Additionally, these labourers and their descendants have made significant contributions to Trinidad and Guyana, being highly influential upon the politics, economy, culture (literature, art, music, cuisine) of each country.

Viriah would complement Coolie woman by Gaiutra Bahadur (already held by UCL).

Christopher Josiffe

Halfway Tree by Roy Brummell

Novel set in colonial British Guiana, incorporating folklore, religion, inter-ethnic relations (opens with two neighbours/friends, Indo- and Afro-Guyanese respectively). Its Guyana-born author interviewed several elders for research.

Christopher Josiffe

Biksu by Raj Kumari

Graphic novel in Chotanagpuri diction of Hindi.

Himanshi Pandey

Sultana's Sisters: Gender, Genre, and Genealogy in South Asian Muslim Women's Writing by Haris Qadeer and P. K. Yasser Arafath

I think it is one of the first books to deal with Muslim women from South Asia. It has interesting chapters on the early women writers to contemporary ones.

M Hussain

The Long Partition and the Making of South Asia by Vazira Fazila-Yacoobali Zamindar

Vazira Fazila-Yacoobali Zamindar examines the long, contentious, and ambivalent process of drawing political boundaries and making distinct nation-states in the midst of this historic chaos and juxtaposes the experiences of ordinary people against the bureaucratic interventions of both postcolonial states.

Beth Metz

Empireland: How Imperialism has shaped modern Britain by Sathnam Sangheera

The British Empire ran for centuries and covered nearly a quarter of the Earth's total landmass at its peak - it is fundamental to understanding our society and attitudes as a nation, and yet we seem unwilling to engage with, or acknowledge, the depth of its impact. This fascinating and moving examination of the legacies of Empire starts with the author's own experience as the UK-born child of an immigrant Punjabi family growing up in the West Midlands, and expands into an enthralling and densely-packed exploration of Empire, its many contradictions and ambiguities, and its enduring influence on modern Britain.

Katie Grocott Murdoch

Coastal Shrines and Transnational Maritime Networks across India and Southeast Asia by Himanshu Prabba Ray

Entrancing and compelling account of the relationship between seascapes and land, and the importance of people and communities, in epic narratives of change and resilience.

Tim Williams

The Greek Experience of India by Richard Stoneman

A fascinating historical study of the early links between Greeks and Indians, as a result of empire and trade. There are some amazing ancient journeys of empire made by people from South Asia who impacted Mediterranean cultures in startling and important ways.

Simon Bralee

Citizen Refugee: Forging the Indian Nation after Partition by Uditi Sen

From the publisher's website:

"This innovative study explores the interface between nation-building and refugee rehabilitation in post-partition India. These rich case studies dramatically expand our understanding of popular politics and everyday citizenship in post-partition India."

Beth Metz

I won't let you go: selected poems by Rabindranath Tagore 

An important poet with strong links to Bloomsbury. Simply love these lines: 

But we have this faith - that a lifetime's bliss
will appear any minute, with a smile upon its lips.

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in UCL Library, Culture, Collections and Open Science

Photo of Steps to Progress exhibit in UCL Main Library
Library, Culture, Collections and Open Science are dedicated to supporting Equality, Diversity and Inclusion for our users and staff. We have produced a Library Equality, Diversity and Inclusion implementation plan, enhanced CPD opportunities for staff, and developed a set of race equality pledges for the department.

More information

More information on events nationally can be found on the South Asian Heritage website.