I’ve been contemplating this for a while and what better time to talk about this than when the Indian Lit Readthon (hosted by me and 3 more blogging friends, if you didn’t know) is going on? This might be more applicable to international/non-English readers but I hope everyone can take away something from this. If I take a look at my ‘Read’ shelf on Goodreads, it is abundantly clear that my reading is almost 99% books written by non-Indian authors. While I have been trying to read diversely from last year, I haven’t actively reached for books published in my own country. In this post, I’d like to outline some reasons as to why and talk about my relationship with Indian literature.
A lot of international bloggers have this issue where English books are not easily available in their countries. While only bestsellers make it to India as well, there is no dearth of books published in India that are written in English (an impact of colonialism, but let’s not get into that now). However, if you’ve been following me for a while, you know that my reading tastes are mostly geared towards middle grade and young adult. I find that Indian authors write a lot more literary ficiton, romance and non-fiction. I don’t think there are many books that have been written exclusively with Indian teens in mind. Part of the problem is that everyone assumes youngsters these days don’t read and hence no demand for YA books. While platforms like Twitter, Instagram and YouTube have stamped out that assumption (at least I’m convinced), the publishing industry has yet to produce a Twilight that will revolutionize books for Indian teens.
Another problem unique to India is that it is so diverse that although several wonderful books may exist in regional languages, one is limited to the books in languages they can read. Translated works are often not available and even if they are, many are done word-to-word and don’t really make much sense that way as the grammar rules of English and Sanskrit-based Indian languages are quite different. Also, some very old classics have gone out of print and are seriously difficult to track down. Having a very poor public library system just makes matters worse.
My third issue is that I use reading as an escape from reality and don’t like to read something that is close to my own experience. I generally don’t reach for books whose blurbs seem like they are describing my life, especially if I’ve heard that it has a sad ending. This is why I had hesitated to pick up Indian books in the past, but I’m slowly coming out of that mindset. Reading about similar experiences as yours can be quite refreshing as I discovered when I read Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag. I feel like I’m finally ready to pick up books by Indian authors and feel a deep connection with the characters whose lives echo mine or those around me. I’m hoping I will have more success stories to report after the Indian Lit Readathon is done!
Lastly, I’m of the opinion that there is a real problem with the Indian book scene right now. Self-publishing has made it easy for even a toddler with sufficient computer skills to publish books and this has meant that there is no dearth of quantity but a definite lack of quality. I have heard from other bloggers that they have often received very poorly edited manuscripts and even been harassed by authors who send their copies for review. Check out this video by popular Indian book blogger Manpreet as she talks about her worst experiences with Indian authors. All this makes me apprehensive to start books by authors who haven’t won awards and I also studiously avoid those on the bestseller lists as they are not always a guarantee of good writing. However, since there seem to be many award-winning authors from India or of Indian origin, I’m sure my TBR will henceforth forever include Indian books.
If you’re an international book blogger or a non-native English speaker, are some of these problems relevant to you as well? Do you actively read literature of your own country or translated works? For native English speakers, what are some problems in the publishing industries of your country? I would love to discuss these with you in the comments section below. If you have a lot to say, feel free to write up a post and include a pingback as I’m curious to know your opinions!