These top 10 Tamil reads explores themes that force us to think critically about the complexities of our Tamilness. In collaboration with Tamil Reads, a space for Tamil community building and mentorship through the sharing of Tamil and Eelam Tamil reads, we have created a list of our Top 10 that examines our nuanced identities.
These reads thematically investigates the following including, but not limited to, Tamil Eelam Liberation, Caste annihilation in Tamil Nadu, Tamil cinema, Queer and Trans Tamil identities, Gender, Tamil history and political discourses, ethno-nationalism, Tamil diaspora experiences, scary short stories, and graphic novels. These stories share the living (and lived) experiences of Tamil communities across borders – bridging our peoples while maintaining our unique identifiers.
While creating this list, we considered the accessiblity levels of these reads. We curated reads that are relatively easier to purchase and are suitable to a wide range of reading levels. They span from short stories, to anthologies, to graphic novels, to academic literature. We encourage our readers to read between the lines, think critically of the stories being told and be curious as they explore them. These reads can be intensive, sparking many emotions and thoughts.
Happy Reading Everyone!
EELAM, TAMIL LIBERATION, SRI LANKA
Women Fighters of Liberation Tigers
By Adele Ann Balasingham
Women Fighters of Liberation Tigers, by Adele Balasingham gives an in depth lens on the livelihood and resistance of Tamil women fighters of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Dating back to Tamil women fighters in combat since 1986, these women paved a way for being fierce fighters on the front of a national liberation fighting against state and gender oppression. This book outlines the timeline of Tamil women being integral to the movement, from their work in parliamentary politics and non-violent campaigns. It is their involvement in the armed struggle, using weapons, guerrilla strategies and political tactics that shaped the gendered stereotypes in society drastically. This intensive read also captures the livelihood and human touch to these women. Note, Adele Balasingham being an integral ally to the Tamil Liberation movement does not have mutually exclusive experiences as Tamil women in the liberation. Race and gender politics is important to be critical of when reading this text.
TAMIL SOCIO-POLITICAL, SRI LANKA, INDIA
Tamils and the Nation – India and Sri Lanka Compared
By Madurika Rasaratnam
Madurika Rasaratnam’s book looks at the relationship between politically mobilised ethnic identities and nation-states. A comparative study of the “Tamil question” in India and Sri Lanka, from colonial rule to the contemporary world, this book analyses world politics, nation identities, and the changing dynamics of hegemony and power.
TAMIL EELAM, LIBERATION, FEMINISM, DE-FACTO, LTTE
A Fleeting Moment in My Country: The Last Years of the LTTE Defacto State
This book is an investigation of the last years of conflict in Sri Lanka. An Eelam Tamil author, N. Malathy, provides a critical historical and political lens on the LTTE. Looking into the Tigers as an institution, Malathy explores how gender and caste oppression was eradicated by the LTTE. Based off her experience working with domestic violence and gendered-based violence survivors, Malathy’s voice is both refreshing and critical.
GRAPHIC NOVEL/COMIC, SRI LANKA, DIASPORA, HOMELAND
Vanni: A Family’s Struggle Through the Sri Lankan Conflict
By Benjamin Dix, Illustration By Lindsay Pollock
Vanni, a graphic novel, inspired by personal experiences, follow the lives of a Tamil family as they navigate the conflict between the Sri Lankan state and the Tamil Tigers. A deeply personal story will move you as you travel with the family and experience their struggles of being caught in the cross-fire.
TAMIL NADU HISTORY, COLONISATION, CASTE-BASED DISCRIMINATION
In those Days there was no Coffee: Writings in Cultural History
By A.R. Venkatachalapathy
A.R. Venkatachalapathy is a Tamil author and historian notably for his work on explaining the colonial period of India. In his book, In Those Days There was no Coffee- Writings in Cultural History, Venkatachalapthy shares the world of Tea and coffee entering during colonial Tamil Nadu. The everyday usage of tea and coffee in Tamil Nadu comes with a large historical, cultural and political framework. Exploring colonialism, caste discrimination, Dravidian moments, linguistics, and snippets of historical literary importance throughout Tamil Nadu. This academic read comes with historical posters, images, and advertisements to connect readers with the content.
CASTE-BASED SHORT STORIES, LIVED EXPERIENCES
Black Coffee in a Coconut Shell: Caste as Lived Experience
By Perumal Murugan, Translated By C.S Lakshmi
Caste affects Tamil communities; to their daily routines, work, family life, societal integration, and even dictates how one can drink your coffee or tea. Black Coffee in a Coconut Shell: Caste as a Lived Experience, edited by Perumal Murugan and translated by C.S. Lakshmi, explores 32 stories contributed by individuals sharing their living experiences on the intersections of caste and how it has impacted their day to day living. Exploring themes of hate crimes, broken relationships, death, childhood and the micro-aggressions of caste to drinking tea from crushed plastic cups, or drinking coffee from a coconut shell, this book is a must read.
POETRY, TRANSGENDER RIGHTS
Maranam mattumaa maranam (Is Death the Only Death?)
By Living Smile Vidya
Maranam mattumaa maranam (Is Death the only Death?) is a collection of poems by theatre artiste, transgender rights activist and poet Living Smile Vidya. In a society which denies the fundamental rights of transgender persons, these poems act as a voice speaking out for the needs of the community.
SHORT STORIES, POETRY, QUEER
Vidupattavai is a potpourri of snippets, articles, short stories and poems. Written during the last decade by Gireesh on various platforms, the writings are a reflection of the times, Queer lives, the platforms they were written, and apart from them it stands alone as a personal testimony and expression of a gay individual during these turbulent times. Gireesh questions what the privileged look over and introspects privileges of himself and the Queer community. The book is divided based on various aspects it talks about, like love, desire, cinema, activism, media – including social media – among others.
TAMIL CINEMA, DIASPORA, TAMIL NADU POLITICS, SRI LANKA
Tamil Cinema (Routledge Media, Culture and Social Change in Asia)
By Selvaraj Velayutham
Tamil Cinema has been an integral part of Tamil communities across borders. From songs to unrealistic fight scenes, Tamil films hit a nostalgic chord for different generations. Edited by Selvaraj Velayutham, Tamil Cinema: The Cultural Politics of India’s other Film Industry shares the political, historical and cultural research of Tamil cinema. This academic reading explores important themes of ethnonationalism in India, gender, caste, religion, art, Tamil identities through film, and diaspora relations to the growing industry. This helps readers connect on a critical level beyond cinematic experiences and really dives into what Tamil film means to diverse Tamil communities.
Fiction, Short stories
The Blaft Anthology of Tamil Pulp Fiction (Three Volumes)
By Rakesh Khanna (Editor) Pritham K. Chakravarthy (Translator)
An anthology of short stories, these series delve into the fantastical worlds of mad scientists, desperate housewives, murderous robots, and drug-fueled affairs! Dive into a bouquet of genres and eccentric art work of The Blaft Anthology of Tamil Pulp Fiction!