The Top 5: Pride Month Reads From India

The Book Cafe had done a post earlier this month on Pride Month Reads talking about five queer literature books from around the world. 

Today, for Pride Month we highlight books from India that talk about diverse queer experiences.

Here are Top 5 LGBTQIA+ Indian books to read and understand different facets of love.

  1. Cobalt Blue by Sachin Kundalkar: Translated from Marathi to English by Jerry Pinto, this novel is divided into two parts and set in Pune, Maharashtra. The novel portrays the fluidity of sexuality through two different’s character’s relationship with the same person.
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  2. Kari by Amruta Patil: This dark and gritty graphic novel is about Kari’s relationship with Mumbai and with Ruth.
    Check out more such books set in Mumbai here.
  3. Talking of Muskaan by Himanjali Sankar:  This YA novel sensitively portrays the stress, trauma and bullying that a school girl goes through because she is not attracted to boys. It is an excellent read for both parents and teens to broach and understand the issues around homosexuality and Article 377.
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  4. The Roof Beneath Their Feet by Geetanjali Shree: Chachcho and Lalna’s budding relationship on the vast, connected and common terrace of Laburnum House is a beautiful story of female friendship and more.
  5. Mitrachi Gosht by Vijay Tendulkar: Translated from Marathi as A Friend’s Story, is a play, also set n Pune, during the pre-Independence era. It is about a love triangle in a college campus. Like Cobalt Blue, it comments on both the heterosexual and homosexual relationships.

Do you have any other queer literature recommendations? Leave your suggestions in the comments below!

 

 

The Top 5: Pride Month Reads

June is celebrated as Pride Month. This particular month was chosen to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City. While the origins of Pride Month definitely lie in America, it is celebrated globally. And this year, it has gotten an online flavour to it because of the COVID 19 pandemic. Several pride parades and celebrations had to be cancelled and go virtual. Instagram, in collaboration with The Queer Muslim Project, has developed a Well Being Guide to help cope during these trying times.

Literature has always provided a space for expression for all communities and LGBTQIA+ is no exception.

So, let’s celebrate Pride Month with The Book Cafe’s The Top 5 Pride Month Reads!

  1. My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness by Nagata Kabi: This moving manga portrays a protagonist’s struggle with her own demons, societal norms and expectations as well as depression. In the course of the story, the protagonist also explores her sexuality, breaking away from her own conditioned notions around sex.  Read my complete review here.
  2. One Last Drink at Guapa by Saleem Haddad: The novel opens on an explosive note. The protagonist, Rasa is caught in bed with his lover, Taymour by Rasa’s grandmother. You might think all hell may break loose now. But the story then unfolds slowly depicting Rasa’s growth and love for Taymour. Intertwined within the story is not just Rasa grappling with his homosexuality but also with the idea of his Arab identity. This is  a must read.
    Read my complete review here.
  3. Funny Boy by Shyam Selvadurai: Set in Sri Lanka, this coming of age novel is about Arije and his different experiences around ideas of masculinity and sexuality are portrayed against the backdrop of the Sri Lankan Civil War.
    Read my complete review here.
  4. Zami by Audre Lorde: This biomythography traces Lorde’s own life experiences right from her childhood. The debilitating poverty she faces later as a black lesbian woman is highlighted along with her political sensibilities. It is a heartfelt and deeply moving memoir of sorts of her life, her community and country. It is also a must read to perceive the challenges and threats faced by the black community.
    Read my complete review here.
  5. Seahorse by Janice Pariat: Inspired or rather a retelling of the Neptune and Pelops relationship, this novel creates nothing less than pure beauty through Nem and Nicholas’ tender, fleeting love affair in Delhi, India. The watery metaphors it elicits as well as the literary and art references are a delight to indulge in. This novel gives one pure, aching bliss.IMG_20200604_193240129.jpg

If you are hungering for more books to read, here are three more recommendations:
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Short Story of the Month: Lavanya and Deepika

Welcome to the seventh short story of the month!

June is Global Pride Month. In 2020, owing to social distancing norms in place across the world, Pride month will be a little different. It will be less parade, and more virtual. Several initiatives have taken up this challenge and tried to create solidarity through various means. 

At The Book Cafe, the short story, Lavanya and Deepika, in focus also has a portrayal of queer characters along with many cool twists!

What is the story about? 

Lavanya and Deepika is written by Shveta Thakrar. It is about the two titular princesses living in a fairy tale kingdom, with their mother, Gulabi.

Their kingdom is attacked and the two princesses must fight to save it. They join forces and their strength: Deepika’s skills with archery and embroidery and Lavanya’s with her spears.

Analysis

The story, like many of Shveta’s other YA writing, has a fairy tale atmosphere. But it has an Indian touch rather than a Grimms’ fairy tale touch.

The story also rejects all kinds of fairy tale conventions such as the damsel in distress trope, beauty as being fair or women characters being witches. It shows sisterly love and bonding between the two protagonists unlike conventional fairy tales that depict the female characters as only scheming against each other. The story portrays that femininity and strength can go together like Deepika’s two skills of embroidery and archery. It also shows a Rani or queen, Gulabi, at the helm of her kingdom managing it with great skill and efficiency, with no need for a king whatsoever.
Continue reading

Quick Reviews: My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness

With pale pink illustrations, My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness by Nagata Kabi, gives a sharp look at how one person deals with the demons in her mind that the world creates and painfully overcomes them.

What is the book about? 

The opening scene of the manga, My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness by Nagata Kabi is like a film since it focuses on an unexpected situation that the female protagonist of this manga is in and then she talks about the scene and how she ended up there.

Next page though, we see the ghosts that haunted her in the past ten years that led her to that opening situation: ghosts that we may all face such as not knowing where to go, not having a “something I belong to”, to much more serious ones such as self harm, eating disorders and depression.

Continue reading

Quick Reviews: I Hear the Sunspot

I Hear the Sunspot by Yuki Fumino is one of the sweetest and most beautiful story on queer love between two boys who are poles apart.

What is the book about?

The manga, I Hear the Sunspot, is a beautiful blossoming story of how two school boys meet each other and slowly, tentatively, hesitatingly fall for each other. One is Kouhei, quiet and composed, and the other is Sagawa Taichi, who is the exact opposite: loud, boisterous and ready to pick a fight!

Kouhei has a hearing disability which makes his college life difficult as it does not help him socialise easily and in turn leads to him being labelled as being aloof.

Intrigued? Read more!

Quick Reviews: Funny Boy

Funny Boy: A Novel in Six Stories by Shyam Selvadurai is just that!
It is a collection of short stories that are interlinked with each other and that is what ironically makes it a novel. The six short stories seem episodic but that is deceptive and it is actually quite a fun exercise to connect the dots in each vignette as if you are putting together a jigsaw puzzle.

Keep on Reading!

Carry On

When the author’s name itself reminds me of something inexplicably happy and definitely of unicorns, how can Rainbow Rowell disappoint with her book, Carry On.

“Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home,” said J.K.Rowling famously at the premiere of the last film of the Harry Potter series.

While Watford may not be Hogwarts and may not be the home most hardcore Harry Potter fans would prefer, it is faintly reminiscent of it with its castle like structure and the choosing of roommates procedure. The characters such as the Mage and even that goatherd could have easily been inspired by the HP series.

Carry on may smell like a fan fiction but also manages to weave its own enganging story revolving around Simon Snow, an orphan who is prophesized to be the Chosen One to destroy the most oddly named villain, Humdrum.

He is surrounded by the usual cast of friends, who help him in his trials, and enemies. But there is a catch, his nemesis, Baz, is his roommate and they are both hopelessly in love with each other.

Do I smell a Draco Harry fan fiction?

Probably not. Though I never shipped those two and do not think they could have really fallen for each other, the two in Carry On are quite a contradictory fit. One sassy and sharp while the other clumsy and caring. Take a guess who is who!

They both hate each other but one cannot exist without the other’s constant opposition.

Apart from their secretive romance, most of the novel takes us through Simon Snow’s other friends such as Penelope and Agatha, how he and Baz come together to sort the mystery of Baz’s kidnapping and eventually the gang fights the Humdrum.

So do they come together romantically though or does their mutual hatred overcome them, would be your question I suppose?

Well read and find out!!!

Carry On is definitely a great book to pick if you love fantasy and are in a desperate need to read something that is not mind bogglingly dense and difficult. It is quite a fun and light read.

And by the end of it you will be humming to yourself these lines from Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody:

Carry on, carry on as if nothing really matters.

Which actually resonates quite well with the title and the meaning through that title emphasised in the book at the end.

Happy reading!!

If you have read this one, let me know in the comments below what you thought of it!

P.S. Have you read any of her other novels? What did you think about them? Comment below!

One Last Drink at Guapa

One Last Drink at Guapa intertwines two very sensitive themes or ideas: homosexuality and the Arab identity. In a nutshell, the novel is about a man named Rasa, living in an unnamed, presumably a Middle Eastern or a predominantly Islamic nation, who gets caught by his grandmother in bed with his lover, Taymour. Taking place within the short span of just 24 hours, the novel looks at Rasa’s present dilemma of being caught and how to continue the relationship with Taymour, takes the reader through flashbacks into Rasa’s past including his time as a student in America; and brings us back to the present which seems as fraught with complications as the past.

The readers view the events in the story through Rasa’s eyes. We see his predicament as a young teen trying to search for the right word in either Arabic or English to encapsulate his homosexual identity. We see later in America how him being bilingual further alienates. We see how as an adult, he navigates the mix of his grandmother’s hegemonic rules along with the new ideas his education gives him. We see how Rasa’s own individuality is overshadowed by the Muslim stereotype and how he traverses that mix as well being both Arab and gay in both America as well as his home country. We see him being forced to confront this new sense of the Other which before was simply the normal way of life for him.

Along with Rasa’s own individual turmoil, we see the political upheavals raging within his own country. This adds another layer to the novel where challenging sexual norms are meshed with challenging oppressive political regimes as well.

Apart from Rasa, other interesting characters that feature in the novel are his lover, Taymour, who eventually succumbs to the pressures of society and settles down for a heterosexual marriage; and his fiercely principled grandmother who controlled a lot of how Rasa’s family functioned. A close friend of Rasa is Maj, who is an activist by day and a colourful cross dresser by night and performs at a bar named, Guapa, where Rasa and his gang spend most of their nights reveling away. There are plethora of other characters you meet along the way as well.

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The ending is most interesting as it ends not only on an ambiguous note but also on a hopeful, poignant note where the characters seem to accept that living their life and living in their country will be rife with problems and stress but they are going to soldier on and stay true to themselves and their beliefs. While it is difficult to often stand by your own, it is heartening to see a book ending on such a positive note where the characters are not simply scrambling away to America or other such dream country to end their woes.

The novel therefore gives the readers a unique glimpse into Arab gay culture: something hitherto not as well known in popular literature thanks to the stereotypical Muslim equals terrorist image that colours popular imagination.

Available on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.in/One-Last-Drink-at-Guapa/dp/9385755099

See more reviews here:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34234646-one-last-drink-at-guapa?rating=2