2023 South Asia Book Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature

Award Winners

The Moon from Dehradun: A Story of Partition by Shirin Shamsi; illustrated by Tarun Lak (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2022). In 1947, Azra and her family took an unforgettable train ride from Dehradun to Lahore, leaving her home and her beloved doll behind. Throughout her journey, Azra draws hope and resilience as she sees the same moon each night amidst the ever changing landscape. (Grades PK-4)

Thirst by Varsha Bajaj (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2022). Most people in Mumbai live with limited access to water, with frequent shortages. In contrast, the affluent live above, in high-rise buildings with unrestricted water access. This disparity instigates numerous questions for Minni, as she searches for justice to bridge these inequalities. (Grades 5-6)

American Fever by Dur e Aziz Amna (Arcade, 2022). On her first journey away from home, sixteen-year-old Hira experiences many unfamiliar situations, including the threat of tuberculosis. Through it all, Hira faces her own misconceptions about America while dealing with Islamophobia from her new friends and host family in Oregon. (Grades 10-12)

Honor Books

Bharatanatyam in Ballet Shoes by Mahak Jain; illustrated by Anu Chouhan (Annick Press, 2022). A young girl named Paro comes from a family of Bharatanatyam dancers, and feels out of place at her first ballet class. The other students seem more skilled and knowledgeable, and her background in Bharatnatyam seems like an obstacle to becoming a beautiful ballerina. With help from the dance teacher and her mother, Paro and her classmates all come to appreciate and celebrate Bharatanatyam. Beautifully illustrated and rich with historical connections, this book provides representation to South Asians in a space where they are not typically seen or encouraged. (Grades 1-2)

Omar Rising by Aisha Saeed (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2022). Omar Ali receives a scholarship to the distinguished Ghalib Academy Boarding School in Pakistan. He is excited to start school and join clubs and teams, but instead is met with many challenges that he has to overcome in an unfair and unequal educational system. (Grades 5-9)

The People of the Indus and the Birth of Civilization in South Asia by Nikhil Gulati and Jonathan Mark Kenoyer (Penguin Books India, 2022). The People of the Indus is a unique, well-researched approach to the history of a region. The authors transform a historical period into an engaging graphic novel. The reader will willingly visualize their way through this history. (Grades 7-9)

Highly Commended Books

The Katha Chest by Radhiah Chowdhury; illustrated by Lavanya Naidu (Salaam Reads/Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2022). Young Asiyah learns her family history through her grandmother’s chest of richly patterned katha quilts, hand-stitched from layers of repurposed, memory-laden, sari fabric. Asiyah’s tale is accompanied by wordless story panels that reveal their Bengali cultural history. These panels resemble a family photo album, reminiscent of Pattachitra, cloth-based narrative scroll paintings. (Preschool-Grade 3)

Himalaya: The Wonders of the Mountains that Touch the Sky by Soledad Romero Mariño; illustrated by María Beorlegi (Orange Mosquito, 2022). Himalaya, (or jimālaia in Sanskrit), means “abode of snow”  is a rich non-fiction book that provides a factual examination of the Himalayas. Himalaya is focused on a specific area of the mountainous range that runs throughout China, India, and Nepal. With beautifully illustrated representations of the regional cultures, readers can examine the history and legends across the various communities. This book may serve as a wonderful reference book for K-12 educators, and  also provides a source of adventure for readers as part of a classroom library, or can be used as a picture walk with younger readers to explore different areas around the world, featuring positive and historically accurate representations of South Asians. This book provides many opportunities for readers of different ages. (Grades 1-3)

Anisa’s International Day by Reem Faruqi (HarperCollins, 2022). Anisa is a multi-talented girl and is super excited for the upcoming International Day at school. However, every idea that she has is already taken. Will she find something close to her heart and keep her friendships? Anisa’s quest to find something unique takes the reader through a journey immersed in diverse cultures in her classroom and her own. (Grades 3-7)

Meet Me in Mumbai by Sabina Khan (PUSH/Scholastic, 2022). A story about love and family that spans two generations – a connection that brings Ayesha as a visiting graduate student to the US, and Mira, adopted and raised by her moms in the US, to face each other. The narratives reveal how complexities in South Asian cultures about teen relationships, out-of-wedlock pregnancies become more fraught across differences in social class. (Grades 9-12)

All My Rage by Sabaa Tahir (Razorbill, 2022). The story chronicles the lives of Noor and Salahudin, close high school friends who share their Pakistani-American heritage. Their familial challenges unfold as Noor confronts an antagonistic uncle while Salahudin navigates his mother’s illness and father’s alcohol dependency. The novel thoughtfully delves into themes of family ties, trauma, grief, abuse, alcoholism, racism, kindness, forgiveness, and hope. (Grades 9-12)

Contact SABA Award Administrators to learn more, schedule an author visit or event, recommend new titles, or inquire about the committee – saba@southasia.wisc.edu.


South Asia Book Award
Center for South Asia, 203 Ingraham Hall
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