The best books featuring multicultural characters and themes

Who am I?

I grew up in a small village in India. The nearest library was in the next town, two bus rides and a long walk away and comprised of one bookshelf, half full, the books with several pages missing. I read and reread those books, making up my own narratives for the missing pages. I suppose this was the crucial first step in my journey to author. I write stories featuring diverse protagonists. In my books, I explore themes of displacement and belonging, how people brought up in different cultures and during different times respond to challenges, how their interactions and reactions are informed by their different upbringings and values.

I wrote...

The Girl in the Painting: A heartbreaking historical novel of family secrets, betrayal and love

By Renita D'Silva,

Book cover of The Girl in the Painting: A heartbreaking historical novel of family secrets, betrayal and love

What is my book about?

In colonial India a young woman finds herself faced with an impossible choice, the consequences of which will echo through the generations…

1928. In British-ruled India, headstrong Sita longs to choose her own path, but her only destiny is a good marriage. After a chance meeting with a Crown Prince leads to a match, her family’s status seems secured and she moves into the palace, where peacocks fill the gardens and tapestries adorn the walls. But royal life is far from simple, and her failure to provide an heir makes her position fragile. Soon Sita is on the brink of losing everything, and the only way to save herself could mean betraying her oldest friend…

The books I picked & why

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The God of Small Things

By Arundhati Roy,

Book cover of The God of Small Things

Why this book?

I read this book while at university and I was wowed by the language, the story, the sheer beauty of it. It covers such disparate themes, makes such important points but never at the expense of the story. Just beautiful. It was the first book I read by an Indian Booker prize winner and it inspired me – I think until then although I had always secretly wanted to be a writer, I never thought I would actually do it. This book made me ask myself, why not? 

The Mother

By Yvvette Edwards,

Book cover of The Mother

Why this book?

This book deals with knife crime and its devastating aftereffects and is told from the point of view of the victim’s mother as she comes to terms with her son’s death. A mother myself, this was a heartbreaking read, very topical and ultimately uplifting. Beautifully written, this is a very powerful book. I think it should be part of the curriculum for teenagers in secondary schools. A truly wonderful book. 

An Elegy for Easterly

By Petina Gappah,

Book cover of An Elegy for Easterly

Why this book?

I loved this masterfully written short story anthology. This book was published in 2009 and I read it soon after but I still remember the stories – they are haunting and thought-provoking. I think this was the first book I read which really brought home to me the challenges faced by the people of Zimbabwe in a changing and uncertain political climate, living their day-to-day lives in a country on the verge of collapse. 

Interpreter of Maladies

By Jhumpa Lahiri,

Book cover of Interpreter of Maladies

Why this book?

I read this sublime short story collection just after I moved to England from India. Saying that these stories of displacement, yearning, loss, love spoke to me is an understatement. I was new to England, missing India which I still thought of as home and while some of the stories brought India back vividly to me, others I could absolutely identify with as they detailed the immigrant experience so beautifully. A book that will always be very close to my heart as I read it and laughed and cried and yearned alongside the characters. 

The Last Warner Woman

By Kei Miller,

Book cover of The Last Warner Woman

Why this book?

Oh, this book was just magical. And the ending – wow! Everything comes together and how. The writing is just beautiful and the story is enchanting. This book transported me and wowed me - truly I wasn’t expecting to love it as much as I did. I cried so much while reading this book – the language is so poetic and lyrical. It is a story about stories and it is a masterpiece in my opinion. 

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