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South Asians in the United States
A Guide for Social Workers and Other Helping Professionals
Shreya Bhandari, Editor
ISBN: 978-0-87101-582-2. 2022. Item #5822. 220 pages.
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Currently, about 5.4 million South Asians live in the United States, with family origins in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, and Bhutan. When working with South Asian clients, it is crucial to understand their level of acculturation to the mainstream and the profound impact it has on their stress levels, coping mechanisms, and lived experiences. Hence, an intricate understanding of their immigration history, struggles with the immigration systems, and strong reliance on familial values is extremely important to serve them in a culturally responsive manner.

This unique book debunks the myth of the “model minority,” a term often used to describe South Asians in the United States due to the rapid financial and cultural success of some of the subgroups among South Asians. Instead, the authors have compiled comprehensive evidence-based literature on the prevalence, nature, and types of social issues that South Asians in the United States face, as well as how best to intervene. Beginning with a history of South Asians in the United States, the book explores the immigration patterns, religious diversity, and languages and cultures that shape this community. Using an intersectionality framework, the authors bring together previously fragmented research into this population and explain through case studies the topics particularly relevant to South Asians, including domestic violence, mental health, parenting, gender and sexual orientation, workplace barriers, and aging. Connections are made between intersectionality and postcolonialism, and the impact that various identities have on the health and well-being of this growing population.

When we directly address challenges that South Asians in the United States face at the intersection of age, gender, language, race, immigration, and culture-related barriers, we can decrease their marginalization, suffering, and vulnerability, and we offer understanding, sensitivity, and hope. This book is therefore an urgent call to action for social workers and other helping professionals to combat sources of oppression that have disproportionately affected the South Asian population in the United States—namely, racism, sexism, casteism, homophobia, and xenophobia.

Chapter 1: The History of South Asians in the United States
Shreya Bhandari

Chapter 2: Intersectionality and South Asians in the United States
Shreya Bhandari

Chapter 3: Domestic Violence against Women in the South Asian Community
Shreya Bhandari

Chapter 4: South Asian Mothers in the United States
Stacey Priya Raj, Mukul Khandelwal, and Vaishali V. Raval

Chapter 5: Intersectional Perspectives on the Mental Health of South Asians in the United States
Uma Chandrika Millner, Sameena Azhar, and Vaidehi Jokhakar

Chapter 6: Navigating the Intersections: LGBTQ South Asians in the United States
Gita R. Mehrotra

Chapter 7: Issues Affecting South Asian Older Adults
Nidhi Khosla

Chapter 8: South Asian Immigrant Women in the Workplace: Barriers, Challenges, and Opportunities
Abha Rai, Vithya Murugan, and Leena Rijhwani


About the Editor
About the Contributing Authors
Shreya Bhandari, PhD, LISW, is professor and director of social work, Purdue University Northwest (PNW), in Hammond, Indiana. She is also a licensed clinical social worker with her own private practice. Dr. Bhandari’s research focuses on violence against women, specifically domestic violence. She has worked in the area of domestic violence and mental health for about two decades as a researcher, educator, and practitioner.

Dr. Bhandari earned her MSW from Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai, India, and her PhD in social work from University of Missouri. Prior to joining PNW, she was professor of social work and MASW director at Wright State University, where she played a pivotal role in achieving accreditation for an independent MASW program. She teaches across the social work curriculum both at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Her current research interests include coping strategies and patterns of abuse among rural pregnant women in the United States, including women of South Asian heritage, as well as women in India. She has published over 30 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters and presented her research in various national and international conferences. Her work has appeared in Journal of Interpersonal Violence, Health Care for Women International, and International Social Work. Dr. Bhandari’s research has been funded through the National Science Foundation.
Sameena Azhar, PhD, LCSW, MPH, is assistant professor at the Fordham University Graduate School of Social Service. She is a licensed clinical social worker in the states of California and Illinois. Dr. Azhar’s research focuses on gender, HIV, sex work, and addiction with a particular focus on South Asia. Her research has been funded through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration/Council on Social Work Education’s Minority Fellowship Program, the Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship (Urdu) through the U.S. Department of Education, Ford Foundation, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Vaidehi Jokhakar, MSW, MPH, is a healthcare social worker currently working in cardiology/heart failure. She completed her Master of Public Health degree from Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and MSW degree from Fordham University. Her previous direct service experience has been focused on aging and geriatric healthcare in South Asian populations. Ms. Jokhakar is particularly interested in reducing gaps in mental and physical healthcare in underserved populations.

Mukul Khandelwal, MA, is a doctoral candidate in the Clinical Psychology program at Xavier University. His research experiences and interests can be categorized into two main themes: help-seeking attitudes and cultural competency, specifically among South Asian groups. He envisions himself working as a health psychologist within an integrated-care setting, providing holistic care to underserved populations.

Nidhi Khosla, PhD, MPH, PGDRM, is associate professor of public health at California State University, East Bay. She has a unique training in behavioral, organizational, and epidemiological research methods as well as field experience in management of health programs and working with communities using participatory, rights-based empowerment approaches. Her research concerns access to care among vulnerable populations and reduction in health disparities. Dr. Khosla received her PhD in Public Health from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and her MPH degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Gita R. Mehrotra, PhD, MSW, is currently associate professor in the School of Social Work at Portland State University. Before entering higher education, she was involved with anti–domestic violence work for more than a decade in a variety of capacities with a focus on Asian and South Asian communities and LGBTQ communities of color. Her current research and teaching interests include safety, identities, and wellness of women and LGBTQ people of color; race and racial justice within social work education; domestic violence in minoritized communities; intersectional theorizing and practice; and critical and feminist theories and methodologies for social work.

Uma Chandrika Millner, PhD, is a licensed psychologist and assistant professor in the Division of Psychology and Applied Therapies at Lesley University. Her research focuses on the vocational development, empowerment, and community integration of diverse individuals living with serious mental health conditions. Dr. Millner has extensive clinical experience working in hospital and community-based mental health settings. She has also served as a collaborator, trainer, and consultant with several local, national, and international organizations and agencies.

Vithya Murugan, PhD, MSW, is assistant professor in the School of Social Work at Saint Louis University, Missouri. She has been a social worker for more than a decade. Her work is dedicated to the study and promotion of women’s health via the elimination of health disparities, including gender-based violence.

Abha Rai, PhD, MSW, is assistant professor at the School of Social Work, Loyola University Chicago (SSW-LUC). She is also the Associate Director at the Center for Immigrant and Refugee Accompaniment at SSW-LUC. Her area of primary research interest relates to culturally responsive ways of engaging with immigrant communities. Specifically, she focuses on the issues of well-being, domestic violence, and the impact of immigration policies on immigrant communities. By utilizing a community-centered research approach, she aims to further social justice while serving communities she engages with.

Stacey Priya Raj, PhD, is clinical psychologist and associate professor at the School of Psychology, Xavier University, in Ohio. She is from Malaysia and is passionate about clinical work and research related to culture, parenting, and pediatric populations.

Vaishali V. Raval, PhD, is professor of psychology and an affiliate of global and intercultural studies at Miami University in Ohio. Her program of research, teaching, and service contributions focuses on mental health in historically underrepresented populations locally and globally with a particular focus on communities within South Asia and on South Asian Americans.

Leena Rijhwani, BS, is a medical student at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Jersey. Her research focuses on addressing the social determinants of health within inpatient settings. Before medical school, she worked with Sakhi for South Asian Women, a New York City–based safe haven for intimate partner violence survivors. Ms. Rijhwani is passionate about cultural competence in healthcare delivery and working with South Asian populations in the United States.
South Asians in the United States is a must-read for helping professionals and social workers. It is painfully obvious from the book that existing literature has not sought to understand in any meaningful way the lives and experiences of this population. Bhandari has undertaken adeptly and intentionally the arduous task of filling this gap in the literature by profiling a people who are at once diverse, complex, and whose population in the United States continues to grow. Among the reasons the book makes such a profound contribution to our understanding of South Asians are (a) the inclusion of emerging scholars as authors giving voice and context to what it means to be a South Asian in the United States, especially in the post-Trump era, (b) the use of a case study approach to shed light and share evidence-based research on various social issues impacting South Asians in America, and (c) the adoption of an intersectionality lens to bring into sharper focus the historic and contemporary dimensions of South Asian identity and well-being in America.

Altaf Husain, PhD, MSW
Associate Professor
School of Social Work
Howard University
Washington, DC


South Asians in the United States: A Guide for Social Workers and Other Helping Professionals offers an extensive glimpse into the myriad realities confronting the South Asian community. Using an intersectional approach, the authors delineate the complex realities of demographics, geography, and social structure that unite as well as differentiate South Asian immigrants in the United States. For those professionals seeking to work in more culturally affirming ways to address the many unmet needs in this community, this is the anthology.

Sujata Warrier, PhD
Chief Strategy Officer
Battered Women’s Justice Project
Minneapolis, MN


The South Asians are no longer a neophyte community in the United States. Yet, the general view of this population is still sketchy at best and stereotyped at worst. In South Asians in the United States: A Guide for Social Workers and Other Helping Professionals, Shreya Bhandari challenges the popular notion that the community is monolithic and a “model minority,” and offers an intersectional and complex perspective on the community. The strength of an edited book is the wide range of topics it can cover, and this book is no exception. It provides evidence-based information on varied sociocultural as well as structural issues that are currently affecting the community, such as gender-based violence, mental health, aging, child-rearing practices, women and work, same-sex relationships, as well as racism and inadequate healthcare. Importantly, a brief history of South Asian migration to the United States anchors the chapters. The book is written with social workers, clinical practitioners, and other helping professionals in mind, and thus each chapter includes a case study, its intersectional analysis, and intervention options. South Asians in the United States is sure to enhance the knowledge base and skill level of practitioners and others who are interested in engaging with this diverse and politically emerging powerful community.

Shamita Das Dasgupta, PhD
Cofounder, Manavi
New Brunswick, NJ
Editor, A Patchwork Shawl: Chronicles of South Asian Women in America
Editor, Body Evidence: Intimate Violence against South Asian Women in America


This is a well-researched and timely book edited by Shreya Bhandari that documents the diverse lives of South Asians in the United States. The book debunks the “model minority” myth and delineates their challenges and privileges using case studies about parenting, mental health, domestic violence, aging, employment, and sexual orientation. From these case studies, which animate this book, the reader gets a glimpse of the social problems that South Asians face, the context in which they seek help, and insights into evidence-based strategies to address these problems. To effectively serve people of South Asian origin, the book directs helping professionals to understand their subcultures and power hierarchies that intersect and result in their vulnerabilities and privileges. While this book is a great read for anyone of South Asian origin, it is a must-read for social work and health professionals interested in working with South Asian populations.

Shanta Pandey, PhD
Boston College School of Social Work
Chestnut Hill, MA


Domestic violence is a public health crisis that impacts all communities, but there are unique barriers that South Asian survivors face, often preventing them from achieving safety and independence. In chapter 3, “Domestic Violence against Women in the South Asian Community,” Bhandari provides comprehensive and accessible information on these cultural nuances. Additionally, she highlights unique types of abuse that may not be obvious to mainstream service providers. Readers of this book, especially those in helping professions, will leave more knowledgeable about the dynamics and the solutions to this crisis, leading to more culturally responsive services for survivors from all backgrounds.

Rachna Khare
Executive Director
Daya Houston
Houston, TX


This seminal book is a collection of scholarly research highlighting the myriad social issues among South Asians living in the United States. A unique contribution to South Asian scholarship, Bhandari’s book makes practical recommendations for social workers and other helping professionals who work with South Asian populations in this country. The book goes over and beyond the exploration of social problems and highlights the intersectionality and lived experiences of the culturally and ethnically diverse communities of South Asians. This book is a collection of contemporary research with nuanced and critical analysis leading to culturally responsive interventions, hence well suited for social work students, educators, researchers, and practitioners.

Sharvari Karandikar, PhD
President of South Asian Social Work Educators Association
Associate Professor
College of Social Work, the Ohio State University
Columbus, OH

To hear an interview with the book’s editor, Shreya Bhandari, listen to the podcast or watch the interview below!

Earn 5.5 CEUs for reading this title! For more information, visit the Social Work Online CE Institute.