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Austen-Adjacent Titles for Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month*

In Austen's novels, "the East" is an off-stage location where the intrepid Mrs. Croft or the loyal William Price might travel. India, China, and other countries that fall under this broad umbrella form a politically important arena for the empire, but are not somewhere Austen's heroines travel (with the exception of the elder Miss Wynne in "Catherine, or the Bower," whose experience there is far from happy). In recent years, however, there has been a steady stream of adaptations that recontextualize Austen's stories across a range of immigrant and post-colonial settings, from South East Asia to Desi communities in Canada and the United States, thereby updating, refocusing, and revitalizing the tales for new global audiences. The following lists offers a sampling of both book and movie titles - if we missed your favorite, please add it in the comments.

Remember, Jane Austen Books has an online option through which you can obtain the titles below!

Debating Darcy (2022) and Rosewood: a Midsummer Meet Cute (2023) - Sayantani DasGupta
The author of these charming YA adaptations featuring Desi heroines will be a speaker at JASP this year. Stay tuned for a blog exclusively about her books, coming soon!

I Have Found It (Kandukondain Kandukondain) (2000)

The trials and tribulations of the Dashwood sisters are transposed to this Tamil-language extravaganza, complete with lavish dance numbers and costume changes. The film opens with an action sequence in which Major Bala, the Colonel Brandon figure, is wounded in battle; this refocusing makes his story central to the plot in surprising and effective ways. The sisters' plot lines take on additional nuance in the post-colonial context. The Marianne character, Meenakshi, is devoted to Tamil-language music and poetry, giving her enthusiasm a complex political and cultural edge. Sowmya, the Elinor figure in this story, is able to seek employment, and aspires to relocate to California. Stream here.

Bride and Prejudice (2004)

A better-known Bollywood adaptation of Austen, Bride and Prejudice offers a Darcy who is the scion of an American hotel empire. Like I Have Found It, this film explores some of the complexities of post-colonial life in India and questions of immigration (the Mr. Kohli character is more sympathetic than Mr. Collins, caught as he is between cultures). Available to stream on Amazon, Apple+, and other platforms.

Aisha (2010)

This Hindi-language Emma adaptation has a tag line that sums up the take on Austen's novel: "Don't be Cupid!" Young Aisha, like Emma, thinks she is a romantic mastermind and sets out to set up friends and acquaintances. Viewers note that the film owes a debt to Clueless as well as Austen. The clip below shows the makeover montage of Shefali, Aisha's Harriet Smith.

If you crave even more Bollywood Austen, this Jane Austen & Co. article has some suggestions!

Austenistan (2017)

Readers of this blog may be surprised to learn that there is more than one JASP; those initials also designate the Jane Austen Society of Pakistan. This collection of short stories, each beginning with a quotation from an Austen novel, reflect on women's lives in contemporary Pakistan through the intermediary of Austen's writing.

Ayesha at Last (2018) - Uzma Jalaluddin

Setting Pride and Prejudice in the Toronto Desi community is not, perhaps, the most obvious way to update the novel, but Jalaluddin's deft substitution of religious devotion for class status is powerful. The complexity of family relationships translates well to this new setting, and Jalaluddin keeps Austen's humor even as she breaks new ground. Listen to the NPR Story here.

Unmarriageable (2019) - Soniah Kamal

Set in 2000's Pakistan, Alys Binat (Lizzie Bennet) is a school teacher who chafes under the Anglophilia of the elite school at which she teaches, even as she adores Austen, Shakespeare, and other British authors. She and her Darsee (Darcy) have several robust conversations about Indian and Pakistani culture and literature that give this adaptation post-colonial depth. You can hear more in this NPR Story as well as watching the Jane Austen & Co. conversation between Kamal and Sonali Dev here.

Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors (2019), Recipe for Persuasion (2020), Incense and Sensibility (2021), The Emma Project (2022) - Sonali Dev

Dev's series of loose Austen adaptations center the stories around the Raje family, a wealthy and influential Indian-American family in the San Francisco area. Between a new cultural setting, gender flipping key characters, and the modern day concerns of her characters (from running a restaurant to running for office), Dev offers a new spin on Austen's novels. Catch her in conversation with Soniah Kamal, above.

Sansei and Sensibility (2020) - Karen Tei Yamashita

"Sansei" designates third generation Japanese-Americans. The first half of this collection of short stories focuses on sansei communities in Southern California, introducing the reader to concerns and contexts, like the unavoidable shadow of Japanese Internment camps during World War II. With this cultural foundation laid, Yamashita broadens her lens in the "sensibility" half of the book, reworking Austen's plots in this community with a wider cast. Yamashita riffs on many Austen novels in this section; of particular note for JASP 2023 attendees is "Omaki-San," her reworking of Lady Susan, who now spreads her conniving across two countries. In this Esquire interview Yamashita explains why she finds Austen such an appealing source.

Fire Island (2022)

This joyous film, topic of an early JASP 2023 blog, sets Pride and Prejudice in the LGBTQ+ community during the annual bacchanalia of Fire Island. The Bennet sisters are replaced by a group of male friends, and issues of class translate well to the new setting. Writer, producer, and star of the film, Joel Kim Booster (as the Lizzie Bennet of this world) provides a voice over that directly addresses questions of racial and sexual identity.

Bowen Yang (left, Jane) and Joel Kim Booster (Lizzie)

In addition to this bevy of film and fiction, we have more academic approaches as well from the 2021-2022 Jane Austen & Co. series on Asia and the Regency. This article offers a quick round-up of Jane Austen in Japan. Dr. Kimiyo Ogawa will be speaking on "Lady Susan and the Ethics of Care" at JASP 2023. She has previously participated in the Jane Austen & Co. series, offering a talk on Jane Austen's Influence on Japanese Realist Novels. You can find our entire video series on Asia and the Regency here.


*This article from Vox (May 2021) breaks down the shortcomings of this month's unwieldy title, including the incredibly broad range of people lumped together under this banner.


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