You Can’t Be Serious, Kal Penn

You Can’t Be Serious is a series of stories from Kal Penn’s idiosyncratic life. It’s about being the grandson of Gandhian freedom fighters, and the son of immigrant parents: people who came to this country with very little and went very far – and whose vision of the American dream probably never included their son working in Hollywood or getting a phone call from Air Force One as he flew with Barack Obama.

Kal reflects on the most exasperating and rewarding moments from his journey so far. He writes about opportunities and racism in the entertainment industry and recounts how he built allies, found encouragement, and dealt with early reminders that he might never fit in. He describes his initially unpromising first date with his now-fiancé Josh and also how he made the terrifying but rewarding decision to take a sabbatical from an acting career to work with Obama at the White House.

Biting through the Skin: An Indian Kitchen in America’s Heartland, Nina Mukerjee Furstenau

At once a traveller’s tale, a memoir, and a cookbook, Biting Through the Skin offers a first-generation immigrant’s perspective on growing up in America’s heartland. The author’s parents brought her from Bengal in northern India to the small town of Pittsburg, Kansas, in 1964. Embracing American culture, the Mukerjee family ate hamburgers and soft-serve ice cream, took a visiting guru out on the lake in their motorboat, and joined the Shriners. Her parents transferred the cultural, spiritual, and family values they had brought with them to their children only behind the closed doors of their home, through the rituals of cooking, serving, and eating Bengali food and making a proper cup of tea.

As a girl and a young woman, Nina travelled to India, and went to college and Peace Corps service in Tunisia. Through her journeys and marriage to an American whose grandparents hailed from Germany and Sweden, she learned that her family was not alone in being a small pocket of culture sheltered from the larger world. Biting through the Skin shows how we maintain our differences and how we come together through what and how we cook and eat.

Why Not Me?, Mindy Kaling

In Why Not Me?, Kaling shares insightful, deeply personal stories about falling in love at work, seeking new friendships in lonely places, and believing that you have a place in Hollywood when you’re constantly reminded that no one looks like you.

In “How to Look Spectacular: A Starlet’s Confessions,” Kaling gives her tongue-in-cheek secrets for surefire on-camera beauty. “Player” tells the story of Kaling being seduced and dumped by a female friend in Los Angeles. In “Unlikely Leading Lady,” she muses on America’s fixation with the weight of actresses. And in “Soup Snakes,” Kaling spills some secrets about her relationship with her ex-boyfriend and close friend, BJ Novak.

Mindy turns the anxieties, the glamour, and the celebrations of her second coming-of-age into a laugh-out-loud funny collection of essays about being in and conquering Hollywood.

My Own Country: A Doctor’s Story, Abraham Verghese

Nestled in the Smoky Mountains of eastern Tennessee, the town of Johnson City had always seemed exempt from the anxieties of modern American life. But when the local hospital treated its first AIDS patient, a crisis that had once seemed an “urban problem” had arrived in the town to stay.

Working in Johnson City was Abraham Verghese, a young Indian doctor specialising in infectious diseases. Dr Verghese became by necessity the local AIDS expert, soon besieged by a shocking number of male and female patients whose stories came to occupy his mind, and even take over his life. Verghese brought a singular perspective to Johnson City: as a doctor unique in his abilities; as an outsider who could talk to people suspicious of local practitioners; and above all, as a writer of grace and compassion who saw that what was happening in this conservative community was both a medical and a spiritual emergency.

Marrying Anita: The Quest for Love in the New India, Anita Jain

After three years of dating, Anita Jain finally got fed up with the New York singles scene. As her Indian parents continued to pressure her to find a mate, Jain couldn't help asking herself the question: is arranged marriage really any worse than Craigslist? Full of romantic chance encounters, nosy relatives, and dozens of potential husbands, Marrying Anita is a refreshingly honest look at our own expectations and the modern search for the perfect mate.

They Called Us Exceptional: And Other Lies That Raised Us, Prachi Gupta

How do we understand ourselves when the story about who we are supposed to be is stronger than our sense of self? What do we stand to gain – and lose – by taking control of our narrative? These questions propel Prachi Gupta’s heartfelt memoir and can feel particularly fraught for immigrants and their children who live under immense pressure to belong in America.

Prachi Gupta’s doctor father and a nurturing mother raised two high-achieving children with one foot in the Indian American community and the other in Pennsylvania’s white suburbia. But their belonging was predicated on a powerful that Asian Americans have perfected the alchemy of middle-class life, raising tight-knit, ambitious families that are immune to hardship. Moulding oneself to fit this perfect image often comes at a steep but hidden cost. In They Called Us Exceptional, Gupta articulates the dissonance, shame, and isolation of being upheld as an American success story while privately navigating traumas invisible to the outside world.

What We Carry, Maya Shanbhag Lang

Maya Shanbhag Lang grew up idolising her brilliant mother, an accomplished physician who immigrated to the US from India and completed her residency all while raising her children and keeping a traditional Indian home. Maya’s mother had always been a source of support – until Maya became a mother herself. Then the parent who had once been so capable and attentive became suddenly and inexplicably unavailable. Struggling to understand this abrupt change while raising her own young child, Maya searches for answers and soon learns that her mother is living with Alzheimer’s.

Unable to remember or keep track of the stories she once told her daughter – stories about her life in India, why she immigrated, and her experience of motherhood – Maya’s mother divulges secrets about her past that force Maya to re-examine their relationship. It becomes clear that Maya never really knew her mother, despite their close bond.

Fault Lines, Meena Alexander

Passionate, fierce, and lyrical, Fault Lines follows one woman’s evolution as a writer at home – and in exile – across continents and cultures. Meena Alexander was born into a privileged childhood in India and grew into a turbulent adolescence in the Sudan, before moving to England and then New York City. With poetic insight and devastating honesty, Alexander explores how trauma and recovery shaped the entire landscape of her memory: of her family, her writing process, and her very self.

Here We Are, Aarti Namdev Shahani

The Shahanis came to Queens – from India, by way of Casablanca – in the 1980s. They were undocumented for a few unsteady years and then, with the arrival of their green cards, they thought they'd made it. This is the story of how they did, and didn’t; the unforeseen obstacles that propelled them into years of disillusionment and heartbreak; and the strength of a family determined to stay together.

Here We Are follows the lives of Aarti, the precocious scholarship kid at one of Manhattan's most elite prep schools, and her dad, the shopkeeper who mistakenly sells watches and calculators to the notorious Cali drug cartel. Together, the two represent the extremes that coexist in the US, even within a single family and truths about immigrants that get lost in the headlines. It isn’t a matter of good or evil; it’s complicated.

Love, Loss, and What We Ate, Padma Lakshmi

Love, Loss, and What We Ate is Lakshmi’s account of her journey from that humble kitchen, ruled by ferocious and unforgettable women, to the judges’ table of Top Chef and beyond. It chronicles the fierce devotion of the remarkable people who shaped her along the way, from her headstrong mother who flouted conservative Indian convention to make a life in New York, to her grandfather– a brilliant engineer with an irrepressible sweet tooth – to the man seemingly wrong for her in every way who proved to be her truest ally.

This is an intimate story of food and family – both the ones we are born to and the ones we create – and their enduring legacies.