9 Indian Female Authors in English Fiction

Indian female authors have created their space in the domain of Indian literature. It takes a lot of creative talent to be a writer and weave stories with their words in fiction books. They braid the language in a way that touches the reader’s heart strings. Indian female authors have portrayed the feelings, family dynamics, cultural ethos, socio-economic and political issues through their fiction work. 

Indian female authors for English fiction
Prominent women writers in India and their fiction books in English

Female English novelists like Arundhati Roy and Kiran Desai have made India proud by winning the Booker Prize award. The plethora of Indian female authors include feminist writers, diasporic writers, children’s literature, non-fiction writers, and so on. They have ventured into diverse genres and knowledge areas. 

So if Rabindranath Tagore, Salman Rushdie, Aravind Adiga and Vikram Sheth have brought accolades, then Indian female authors have won hearts too. If we look back to the nineteenth century and early twentieth century, there were Indian female authors and poets like Tarabai Shinde, Toru Dutt, Sarojini Naidu, Laxmibai Tilak and Savitribai Phule. They wrote prose and poetry that tackled social, cultural and political themes.

In contemporary times, writers like Preeti Shenoy, Anuja Chauhan and others mentioned in the article, are top-rated among young adults. Women writers like Jhumpa Lahiri, Anita Desai and Kiran Desai have depicted the stories of Immigrants in their Indian diasporic literature. Let’s dive into the article to know more.

Leading famous female Indian authors for English fiction

Anita Desai: Pioneering, impactful author

Anita Desai: A Pioneering Indian female author
Anita Desai: A Pioneering Indian female author

Indian origin author Anita Desai was nominated thrice for the prestigious Booker Prize. She has written several novels, popular children’s books, drama, non-fiction and short stories as well.

Personal Life

Anita Desai is the daughter of a German immigrant mother and her father was an Indian (Bengali) engineer businessman, in pre-independent India. She was born in 1937 in Mussoorie and studied in prestigious educational institutions in Delhi. 

Author Anita Desai married a computer software businessman cum author, Ashvin Desai, in 1958. She has four children and among them is Kiran Desai, a Booker Prize-winning author. They lived in Mumbai and England. They migrated once again to the USA. Anita Desai started teaching creative writing at the Massachusetts Institute of technology.

Bestselling and award winning fiction books by author
Bestselling Award Winning Fiction Books by women writers in India

Writing style and Awards

The famous author Anita Desai’s books “Clear Light of Dal”, “In Custody”, and “Fasting, Feasting” were nominated for the prestigious Booker Prize. Her best fiction books “Fire on the Mountains” won the Sahitya Akademi Award and “Village by the Sea” won the British Guardian Prize. Her book “In Custody” was adapted for an international Merchant-Ivory movie released by the same name.

Esteemed author Anita Desai received several other awards for her books and fellowship of prestigious societies. Her literary work is used by post-grad students and research scholars for academic study. At a time when India was changing in the 20th century, Anita Desai’s novels gave a boost to a new generation of women to take up writing. Her stories inspired women with their themes of women’s rights and marriage. Her latest book “The Artist of Disappearance” was published in 2011.

ALSO READ: Study abroad and university application guide.

Best fiction books by Anita Desai for adults 

In Custody

Cry, The Peacock

Village By The Sea (for middle grade kids)

Voices In The City

Fire On The Mountain

Clear Light Of Day

Fasting, Feasting

  • Baumgartner’s Bombay
  • The Artist of Disappearance
  • The Zig-Zag Way
  • Diamond Dust

And many more other books.

Kiran Desai: Booker Prize Award-winning Indian female author 

Kiran Desai : An Award-Winning Author
Kiran Desai : An Award-Winning Author (women writers of India)

Personal life

Renowned author Kiran Desai was born in Delhi in 1971. Her mother Anita Desai is a Booker prize-nominated author of several books. Kiran Desai studied at a prominent school in Mumbai before moving to England and then to the USA. In the USA, she studied creative writing at the prestigious Columbia University. She has been settled in the USA for many years now. This makes her an Indian-American women novelist.

Writing style and Awards 

Since Kiran Desai was born in Delhi and raised in Mumbai, she has had an Indian influence in her writings as well. Her bestselling book “Inheritance of Loss” won the Booker Prize in 2006. What’s praiseworthy is that she was the youngest ever female author to receive the Booker Prize at the age of 35.

Best fiction books by author Kiran Desai

Her two books include the comical “Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard” and  “Inheritance of Loss”.

“The Inheritance of Loss” is about a resentful judge living in the northeast of India along with his granddaughter and their cook. The cook’s son and several other characters are part of the book. It’s an absorbing story (Booker Prize) with vivid descriptions and several themes throughout the story.

Her book “Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard” won great praise from the media and several notable personalities including famous award-winning author Salman Rushdie. 

The story is realistic and humorous about a boy supposedly born lucky yet does not show any extraordinary progress. Then one day he climbs a guava tree and he is declared a holy man. The events that follow are satirical.

Read till the end and find interesting links for further reading.

Arundhati Roy: Booker Prize-winning author

Arundhati Roy: An Award-Winning Indian Female Authors
Award-Winning Arundhati Roy (women writers in India)

Personal life

Arundhati Roy is a qualified architect with varied interests, especially in the environment, social activism and politics. She was born in Shillong in 1961 and grew up in Kerala. Now she lives in Delhi. Her book “God of Small Things” is partly based on her life in Kerala.

Writing style and Awards

Indian and international critics, as well as readers, have a variety of reviews for “God of Small Things”, her famous fiction novel of all times. It is translated into more than 40 languages. The story in “God of Small Things” is about two siblings growing up in Kerala in the backdrop of casteism, politics, communism, religious lifestyle and much more. 

Many flashbacks are interspersed throughout the book. She uses various literary techniques like metaphors, paradoxes, alliterations, and non-sequential narratives in her writing. Her fiction books reflect women’s rights, political issues, social issues like casteism, and Indianness. Arundhati Roy has also written several non-fiction books on political-social themes that are translated into several languages.

  • National Award for Best Screenplay in “In Which Annie Gives It Those Ones”  (1989). 
  • God of Small Things” won the Booker Prize in 1997
  • Sahitya Akademi Award in 2006
  • Norman Mailer Prize (2011)

Best fiction Books by author Arundhati Roy

Fiction Novels:

God Of Small Things

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness

Non-fiction:

  • Azadi
  • My Seditious Heart

And many other non-fiction books.

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni: New-age versatile author

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni: A Versatile Bestselling Author
Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni: A Versatile Bestselling Author

The bestselling author Chitra Banerjee has written historical fiction, poetry, fantasy, realistic fiction, short stories and anthologies. She writes in her spare time from teaching creative writing at the University in Houston.

Personal life

Indian-American author Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni was born in Kolkata and lived there until she finished her graduation. Then she migrated to the USA for her master’s and PhD in English Literature. She is married to an Indian, Murthy, and has two sons.

Writing style

Much of her work is set in India and the USA yet about South Asian (immigrant) women. But Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is versatile in writing a variety of genres and surprises her loyal readers. Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s writing style is lucid and flowy as she is magical with words. Her storytelling is exceptional.

Award winning books by Indian female authors
Popular and Award winning books by women authors of India

“The Last Queen” is the renowned author’s latest historical fiction novel about the life and indomitable spirit of Rani Jindan, the fearless queen forgotten in popular Indian History. Chitra’s protagonists are mostly women, their choices, decision making and their journey while entering new territory. Some of her books cater to children as well while others cater to young adult readers. 

Awards and Recognition

The Hindu newspaper called her latest book” The Last Queen”, a deeply satisfying literary page-turner with the possibility of being adapted into a movie. Some of Chitra Banerjee’s stories have been adapted into movies and plays. 

Awards

  • American Book Award (1995) for her book “Arranged Marriage” 
  • Shortlisted for the Orange Prize for her book “Mistress of Spices”
  • Her stories have been listed among “Best American Short Stories” and O’Henry Prize

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is a prominent author among female Indian authors in today’s times.

Which of Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s books got adapted for movies?

  • Mistress of Spices
  • Sister of My Heart
  • The Word love (short story)

Chitra Banerjee is active on social media in keeping with the times and connects with her large number of reader fans. She takes on the responsibility of being a responsible part of the Pratham Books emeritus board and on advisory boards of several other NGOs. Her books have been translated into 29 languages and several of her articles published in international magazines. 

Best fiction books by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni for young adults

The Forest Of Enchantments

Arranged Marriage

The Last Queen

The Palace Of Illusions

The Mistress Of Spices

Oleander Girl

Sister Of My Heart

Few more books written by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni,

  • One Amazing Thing
  • Sitayan (Hindi)
  • The Unknown Errors Of Our Lives
  • Vine Of Desire
  • Queen Of Dreams
  • Before We Visit The Goddess

Anuja Chauhan: Trendsetting author of YA fiction books

Anuja Chauhan: A Trendsetting Bestseslling Author
Anuja Chauhan: A Trendsetting Bestselling Author (women writers in India)

Contemporary trendsetting author Anuja Chauhan’s fiction books are much sought after by young adults in India. She quit her successful advertising career to pursue her full-time writing career.

Personal Life

Born in 1970, author Anuja Chauhan grew up in several parts of North India where her father was posted in the Indian army. Later she graduated from prestigious national and international educational institutions. She is the youngest among four sisters. Her elder sister Nandini Bajpai is also an author of fiction books for children and young adults.

In her high-flying advertising career, she created several popular catchy phrases for advertisements that people remember after decades. After she quit at the peak of her career, Anuja Chauhan authored several books that have “hit the wickets” at bookshelves. The celebrity author Anuja Chauhan is married to a media head Niret Alva, son of senior politician Margaret Alva. She has three children.

Writing style and Awards

Her books have been adapted into Bollywood movies and television serials. The sprinkling of the new Hinglish lingo in her books is relatable to the new generation. Many critics/famous personalities in India, especially from the film and advertising fraternity have appreciated her work.

Anuja Chauhan is a popular writer among Indian female authors of today’s times as she knows the language and pulse of the young adults. She writes the screenplay for latest Bollywood movies. Author Anuja Chauhan’s name frequently appears in magazines “top of the craft” listicles. The author frequently writes articles in newspapers/magazines, give interviews and gets felicitated. 

Since you are reading about Indian female authors, you might like to read article on Jhumpa Lahiri’s best fiction books for young adults.

Anuja Chauhan’s best fiction books for young adults

The Zoya Factor

Battle of Bittora

Those Pricey Thakur Girls

The House That BJ Built

Baaz

Club You To Death

Anita Nair: Pioneering Indian author 

Anita Nair:  Pioneering Bestselling among Authors
Anita Nair: Pioneering Bestselling Author

Author Anita Nair writes in a variety of genres including,

  • crime fiction,
  • children’s fiction,
  • poetry,
  • short stories,
  • historical fiction,
  • travelogues,
  • plays and
  • essays. 

Personal life

Anita Nair was born in 1966. She grew up in Kerala and Tamilnadu, and now lives in Bangalore. Anita Nair studied English language and literature in college. The author was in an advertising career before taking up writing full-time. She went on to become a promient writer among Indian female authors of best fiction books.

Writing style and Awards

Famous author Anita Nair touches on feminism and other social themes to attempt transformation in women and society through her literature. She has repeatedly tried to promote the cause of women’s rights in her novels.

Amazing bestselling books by Indian female authors
Amazing bestselling books by Indian female authors

She has written many books, so you are bound to see her books whenever you are looking for the best books to read. Some of her stories are available as audiobooks too. Her novels are also read by literature students and research scholars too. Her contribution to the literary world in India fetched her awards.

  •  Kerala Sahitya Akademi award
  • The Hindu Literary Award
  • Arch of Excellence Award in the All-India Achievers conference.

Best Fiction Books for Young Adults by Anita Nair

Ladies Coupe

Watch this video interview of Anita Nair: Writer’s Coupe as a part of “Jaipur Literary Festival 2020” (during Covid-19 times)

Eating Wasp

The Better Man

A Cut Like Wound

Lessons in Forgetting

Malabar Mind

Alphabet Soup for Lovers

Chain of Custody

Living Next Door To Alise (for age 7-14)

Goodnight And God Bless

Satyr: Of The Subway

Who Let Nonu Out? (for age 7-14)

The Puffin Book Of World Myths and Legends (for age 7-14)

Few other books by author Anita Nair,

  • The Lilac House
  • Idris
  • Mistress
  • Magical Indian Myths

Preeti Shenoy: Author of feel-good fiction novels for young adults

Preeti Shenoy: Popular Author of Fiction For Young Adults
Preeti Shenoy: Popular Author of Fiction For Young Adults

Popular author Preeti Shenoy is an author, illustrator, blogger, speaker and observer. She writes poetry and short stories as well. 

Personal life

Preeti Shenoy studied at several Kendriya Vidyalayas across India as her father had a transferable job. She consistently won awards in school and college for her writing. Habit of reading books and her love of words attracted her to writing. Growing up, she took to writing articles for popular magazines and newspapers. People liked her writing and soon she graduated to writing novels. Travel and yoga are her passion apart from writing novels.

Writing style and Recognition

Preeti Shenoy’s style of writing is casual, direct, positive and easy. Her contemporary fiction books are based on human relations and romance among other themes. Bestselling author Preeti Shenoy addresses gender equality in her novel “The Rule Breakers”. Preeti Shenoy has been listed among the 100 most influential celebrities in India since 2013 by Forbes.

  • The Indian of The Year Award by the Brands Academy  
  • Business excellence award by New Delhi Management Institute.

Best Books by Contemporary Indian Author Preeti Shenoy

  • A Hundred Little Flames
  • It’s All In The Planets
  • Why We Love The Way We Do 
  • It Happens For A Reason

The Magic Mindset (Non-fiction)

When Love Came Calling

Wakeup, Life Is Calling 

Love A Little Stronger

Tea For Two And A Piece Of Cake

Life Is What You Make It

The Rule Breakers

Anuradha Roy: Award-Winning female novelist

Anuradha Roy: Award-winning Fiction Author
Anuradha Roy (Award-winning women writers in India for Fiction)

Internationally recognised and award-winning author Anuradha Roy has written five novels and is a journalist, potter and editor too. Her essays and review articles have appeared in several prominent magazines and newspapers (Indian Express, The Hindu, Telegraph, Orion, The Economist, Guardian, Tales of Two Planets).

Personal life

Born in 1967, author Anuradha Roy is now settled in Ranikhet with her husband, yet previously she travelled a great deal with her geologist father for field trips all over rural India. When her father’s health deteriorated, they settled in Hyderabad. That’s when as a fourteen-year-old, she sent her short stories to the Indian Express newspaper’s children’s page.

She has studied English Literature at Presidency College and the University of Cambridge. Pottery and animals are her passion apart from writing, in the mountains. Author Anuradha Roy runs a publishing house “Permanent Black” along with her hubby Rukun Advani.

Writing style and Awards

Sometimes events have a roll-on escalating effect on lives. When Anuradha Roy shared a few pages from the manuscript of her first novel “An Atlas of Impossible Longing” with the writer/publisher Christopher MacLehose, he picked it up for publishing.

This novel was later translated into eighteen languages. It has the distinction of being named among “60 Essential English Language Works of Modern Indian Literature” by the International literature magazine World Literature Today. Each of her novels has been shortlisted and won awards, while “The Earthspinner” is her latest novel published in September 2021.

Watch this interview of author Anuradha Roy where she talks about her new book “The Earthspinner” and her thoughts on a variety of other topics.
  • Economist Crossword Book Award 2011 (Novel ~ “The Folded Earth”) 
  • Tata Book Of The Year Award 2018-19 (Novel ~ “All The Lives We Never Lived”)
  • DSC Prize for South Asian Literature  2016 (Novel ~ “Sleeping on Jupiter”) 
  • Man Booker Prize 2015 (Longlisted for novel ~  “Sleeping On Jupiter”) 

And shortlisted for many other awards.

Best Fiction Books by Anuradha Roy

An Atlas of Impossible Longing 

The Folded Earth 

Sleeping on Jupiter

All the Lives We Never Lived

The Earthspinner

Indu Sundaresan: amazing historical fiction author

Indu Sundaresan: Bestselling Author of Historical Fiction
Indu Sundaresan: Bestselling women writers in India of Historical Fiction

Author Indu Sundaresan is a novelist and short-story writer with expertise in writing historical fiction. She has written historical fiction novels that take us back to three generations of the Mughal empire in the 17th century around the time the Taj Mahal was built.

Personal life

Two habits influenced Indu Sundaresan as a child and later ignited a love for writing. Her journey to become a writer began in her childhood when she heard stories with interest every night. Whenever possible her parents took her to visit monuments, forts and palaces and spoke of kings, queens and kingdoms.

A fighter pilot with the Indian Air Force, Indu Sundaresan’s father was great at telling her stories. She has lived in different parts of the country at the Air Force base colonies during her growing up years. As years rolled on, she migrated to the USA for graduate studies. There she completed two masters degrees in Economics and Operations Research. Indu Sundaresan now lives in Seattle, USA, with her husband and daughter.

Initial writing

But she realised her true calling lay in writing, so she began writing short stories for magazines. Her initial novels were never published because she says she was practising creating stories.

Later she went on to write six novels that received love and appreciation from readers. In an interview, Indu Sundaresan says that she wasn’t great at history back in her school days because history was full of dates and nothing about people’s lives. 

Awards

She writes her historical fiction after a lot of research reading manuscripts, following bibliographies, travellers tales and various scholarly books. This research is necessary so her writing matches with events and the period. If you are interested to read further, then google “InduSundaresan – A Remarkable Author of Historical Fiction ” written by Dr C. Pradgna, available on questjournals[dot]org.

Awards came with time, the “Light of India: Excellence in Literature” award, and the “Washington State Book Award”. Her novels are translated into 23 languages and her novel “The Twentieth Wife” got adapted into a 42 episode television series featuring on Netflix by the name “Siyaasat”.

Best Historical Fiction Books by author Indu Sundaresan

Her “Taj Trilogy” series is an elaborate 3 part historical fiction series about Mehrunissa, Shah Jahan, Princess Jahanara, Taj Mahal and the Mughal dynasty of the 17th century. The three novels in this series are 

The Twentieth Wife

The Feast of Roses

Shadow Princess

The Splendor Of Silence” by Indu Sundaresan, is a fictional story about a princely state in pre-independent India.

“In The Convent Of Little Flowers“(Collection of short stories) by Indu Sundaresan

The Mountain Of Light

“The Mountain Of Light” by Indu Sundaresan is set in the 19th century. Its about the period when India’s Kohinoor diamond was taken away. So if you are intrigued by the story of Kohinoor diamond then you should consider reading this book.

There are several authors, yet these are some more leading names of Indian female authors.

  • Sarojini Naidu
  • Toru Dutt (Translator and Poet in British India)
  • Shashi Deshpande
  • Mahashweta Devi
  • Kamala Suraiya
  • Meena Kandasamy
  • Amrita Pritam
  • Mamoni Raison Goswami
  • Namita Gokhale
  • Nayantara Sahgal
  • Bharati Mukherjee
  • Sushmita Banerjee
  • Urvashi Butalia
  • Kiran Manral
  • Kamala
  • Markandaya
  • Savi Sharma
  • Geeta Hariharan
  • Meghna Pant
  • Rashmi Bansal
  • Manju Kapur
  • Mridula Koshy
  • Paro Anand
  • Romila Thapar
  • C.S. Laxmi
  • Kamala Bhasin
  • Jhumpa Lahiri
  • Sudha Murthy
  • Anjum Hassan
  • Ismat Chugtai
  • Shobha De
  • Nikita Lalwani
  • Twinkle Khanna
  • Rupi Kaur
  • Sujata Massey
  • Devika Rangachari
  • Prema Raghavan
  • Manreet Sodhi Someshwar
  • Subhadra Sen Gupta
  • Suchitra Vijayan
  • Shivani Sibal
  • Koral Dasgupta
  • Tara Kaushal
  • Parinda Joshi
  • Rujuta Diwekar (health and nutrition)
  • Bapsi Sidhwa
  • Shobhan Bantwal
  • Anjali Banerjee

If you are interested to find more information about these women writers in India, here are some links.

Further reading:

  1. Research on The Fiction of Anita Nair from a feminist viewpoint. 
  2. Interview of Author Anita Nair in the Indian Express.
  3. Telegraph India article on Anuja Chauhan: Pushing the envelope.
  4. Research paper on The novels of Anita Desai and her vision.
  5. Novels of Anita Desai from viewpoint of studying Character and Conflict.
  6. A research paper on FEMINIST CONSCIOUSNESS IN THE FICTION OF INDU SUNDARESAN. 
  7. Read this interesting interview of author Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni.

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