Desi love stories for cold winter nights

Novels written by and for brown women where no one takes off their hijab

Three recommendations to cozy up with when it’s below freezing.
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A new wave of lockdowns means more time spent at home—both a boring situation and a privilege I’ve come to appreciate immensely. This lockdown, I’m determined to do something other than binge Netflix shows and order too much takeout.

I’m reading as many books I can get my hands on where brown women fall in love—with men, women, life, family, and food. So stay tuned for another round-up of some of my new favourite stories.

Serena Singh Flips the Script by Sonya Lalli

Taking on the #girlboss trope typically reserved for white women, Lalli tells the story of Serena Singh, a fiercely independent advertising executive coming to terms with adulthood. While Serena envisions a future without marriage or children, the women she loves are starting traditional families and leaving her behind.

While Lalli relies heavily on tired tropes like women as work rivals and overbearing desi parents, she does so in a refreshing and honest way. Even though she’s high-powered and non-committal, Serena isn’t portrayed as a cold or distant working woman. The novel follows her journey as she re-evaluates what she wants out of her friendships and family ties.

A very quick read that leaves no loose ends, Serena Singh Flips the Script is the perfect pick-me-up. It’s warm and bright, making it an antidote for the cold and windy days ahead.

Hana Khan Carries On by Uzma Jalaluddin

For fans of You’ve Got Mail or biryani, Hana Khan Carries On is the classic enemies-to-lovers trope brought to life in the fictional Toronto neighbourhood of Golden Crescent. In this novel, a family restaurant goes head-to-head against a corporate-backed entrepreneur threatening to gentrify a diverse Muslim community.

The crown jewel of this novel is Hana’s narration. She tackles everything from subtle racism in her journalism internship to uncovering a long-lost relative's outrageous and empowering past. As she balances maintaining accessibility for non-Muslim readers with finally telling the often-ignored stories of Toronto Muslims, Jalaluddin delivers a lighthearted and politically-relevant tale.

Readers will also be excited to hear like I was, that a film adaptation of Hana Khan Carries On produced by Mindy Kaling is currently in development—something so perfect it might push me to get an Amazon Prime subscription.

Recipe for Persuasion by Sonali Dev

A retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion with a twist, Recipe for Persuasion is the second in Dev’s The Rajes series, though you can read it as a standalone novel if that’s more your vibe. The story follows Chef Ashna Raje, a struggling restauranteur with a secret love for soccer, as she reconnects with the love of her teenaged life, her estranged mother, and herself.

I’ll be the first to say this novel, as with the entire Rajes series, isn’t for everyone. While much of the book plays out like a classic rom-com that brings together Ashna and her high school boyfriend Rico Silva, Dev tackles heavy issues like marital rape, India’s caste system, and mental illness. Fortunately, she does so with grace and compassion.

Recipe for Persuasion is intense, heartwarming, and hilarious all at once. Dev jumps effortlessly between voices to deliver something for everyone. She gives you food, an apt analysis of the patriarchy, and loads of drama—you just have to be willing to listen.

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