Category Archives: July 2022 Reads

Read 105 of 2022. The Trees by Percival Everett

The Trees by Percival Everett

Title: The Trees
Author: Percival Everett
Publisher: Graywolf Press
ISBN: 978-1644450642
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 312
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

The Trees is one of my most favourite reads of the year. It is mindful, self-aware, empathetic, brutal in its approach toward understanding a world of inequality, and the constant fight to find your place – only because you are the other – because of your skin colour, because of how you look, and how you are already perceived right from birth.

Percival Everett is a writer who also has a huge heart when it comes to using sense of humour as a device in a book about racial redemption, revenge, and then to use macabre humour, to even the slapstick, and to thread it all in with America’s long and horrifying history of lynching people of colour. Only Everett does what he does best and beyond.

There is a lot if intertextuality in Everett’s works – whether it is a writing of a novel in Erasure, or for that matter Everett’s insertion of himself in I am Not Sidney Poitier, this is how he satirizes.  In The Trees, the construction of the detective novel is used at large to drive the point home – to use the usual detective tropes to speak of justice and when do you truly feel it has been served.

I found myself mulling about the idea of vigilante justice and honestly, I didn’t find anything wrong with it – more so when the judicial system is so broken, who then do the “other”, the “discriminated against” rely on? Where does the idea of morality feature then? What can happen when things remain the same, even after decades? It takes a writer such as Everett then to show us the mirror. Of real racism that exists, of the brutality that takes place, of how lynching and shootings are treated by Americans, of how the collective White shame is not being discussed enough. The Trees is a book that will stay with me for a long time – it shows you what you do not want to see, will hold you and not let you go, and ultimately make you think or feel about the world at large.

Read 104 of 2022. Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan

Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan

Title: Small Things Like These
Author: Claire Keegan
Publisher: Faber & Faber Ltd
ISBN: 9780571368686
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 116
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

What a graceful, small novel is this! It is also full of profundity, wisdom, ideas that are constantly at war with each other, and sparse, yet telling what it must in the most succinct manner.

Small Things Like These is set in 1985 in a small Irish town, during Christmas time. It is the story of a man named Bill Furlong and his place in the world. A man who seems content with his life – his wife and five daughters, doing what he does (running a coal and timber business), and yet something is bothering him. His past doesn’t let go – his identity is being questioned by him at every step, and all he knows is that he is a man caught – between the ways of the world, and what he wants to do.

Claire Keegan brings up so much in this small book. So many issues – religion, motherhood, parenthood, of what it’s like to have children and then to worry about them, of a small town and its inhabitants – the way they live, and survive, and hope for more.

The tone of the book is simple – and covering each layer as we go along. The writing is sparse, says what it must – Keegan’s writing is both contemplative and a statement to how it is not only perhaps in a small town but also maybe universally.

The concept of being human is brought out beautifully in this small novel. Of what makes us – our honest, true selves, with all our hypocrisy, our hesitation, and most importantly about wanting to fit in at large with the people around us, often thereby overlooking who we really are.

Through Bill we are introduced to our own incapacities are humans, our own weaknesses, and our own shortcomings. Keegan made me see myself so closely – though the situation is far from similar, and yet seemed so personal on other levels.

Small Things Like These is a novel that is essential reading. Like I said, it says so much and makes you think and feel so much about the way we live, and how we grow to be who we are.

Books and Authors mentioned in Small Things Like These: 

  • Enid Blyton
  • A Christmas Carol
  • Five Go Down to the Sea
  • Five Run Away Together
  • Walter Macken
  • David Copperfield

Read 103 of 2022. Our Colors by Gengoroh Tagame. Translated from the Japanese by Anne Ishii

Our Colors by Gengoroh Tagame

Title: Our Colors
Author: Gengoroh Tagame
Translated from the Japanese by Anne Ishii Publisher: Pantheon
ISBN: 978-1524748562
Genre: Graphic novel, LGBTQIA
Pages: 528
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

I honestly wish I had a book such as Our Colors to read and understand myself better as I was growing up gay. It was not an easy time then, and maybe it isn’t now as well, but there is information, there are other people’s experiences, and I would like to think and believe that people communicate and speak with each other about being gay/queer/alternate or different sexuality/sexual identity a lot more now than what they used to, when I came out in the late 90s.

This book is also about friendship and the nature of empathy more than anything. Yes, it is about a 16-year-old’s coming out journey and it is also about identity confusion, of how the world works, of how it views people who are “different”, and what comes after that, but it is also about love, hope, friendship, and what it takes to be yourself.

Tagame’s explores the friendship of between Mr. Amamiya and Sora with so much grace, maturity, and emotion that I couldn’t help but also weep in some places. It was in a sense, that cathartic for me. Sometimes I wonder what would it be like had my father and I spoke about me being gay? How would have that turned out for me? What would it be like to speak with an older gay man as I was growing up? And that’s precisely what technology enables today – the freedom to speak with someone who has been there, but with caution.

Sora could be any teenager but he isn’t. There is something about him that Tagame shows the reader – the way he views the world in colours, of how he categorizes people that way as well, and how his emotions are also connected all with colours. It is beautiful how the entire manga is in black and white, and yet I could picture colour whenever Tagame mentioned it in the text.

The translation of the text by Anne Ishii is sparse, beautiful, and to the point. It is right in beat with Tagame’s illustrations and story-telling. Our Colors is a beautiful book that I encourage everyone to read, cis-het or not. It is wonderful and might even teach you how to view the world differently.

Read 102 of 2022. The Inconceivable Idea of the Sun by Anil Menon

The Inconceivable Idea of the Sun

Title: The Inconceivable Idea of the Sun Author: Anil Menon
Publisher: Hachette India
ISBN: 9789391028602
Genre: Short Stories
Pages: 280
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

Let me just begin by saying that my mind was completely blown by this collection of wondrous, fantastical, and most unique short stories I’ve read in a while. Anil Menon’s writing is all over the place (in a very good way), and you enjoy it from the very start.

I love how each story has a beating, alive, and full heart. Menon doesn’t overlook emotions in favour of craft or the story. Each story gets its due – some more than the others, but nonetheless the setting, the characters, and the way the prose moves between surrealism and reality of the situations is what makes the reader’s jaw drop and be in awe of the writing.

I absolutely loved the title story – of a couple in the process of reorganising their home library, realizes how that impacts their reality – a story so refreshing, odd, and yet hugely satisfying. There is so much going on in this collection of short stories – there are robots, there is a Ramayan retelling unlike anything I have read before, there is betrayal, there are ancient languages, there is so much technology yet sort of mixed with the old and the medieval, and extremely playful. There is philosophy, there is a lot of wit, and of course SFF shines when it has to.

Anil Menon’s writing hits you in the face – like something good – out of the blue – something that you cannot quite put your finger on and yet you cannot stop turning the pages. Overall, I just think everyone must read this book and enjoy it to its fullest. Approach it with an open mind and enjoy the ride!

Read 101 of 2022. Time is a Mother by Ocean Vuong

Time is a Mother by Ocean Vuong

Title: Time is a Mother
Author: Ocean Vuong
Publisher: Jonathan Cape, Penguin Random House UK
ISBN: 9781787333840
Genre: Poetry, LGBTQIA
Pages: 112
Source: Publisher
Rating: 2/5

I tried very hard to like this book. I tried very hard to make sense of it even but couldn’t. Maybe this book isn’t meant for me, but I shall speak about what worked for me and what did not.

Let me go back a little in time and recall the moment I finished reading “Night Sky with Exit Wounds”, and the rush and sheer melancholic feeling that came over me like a huge wave. That I still remember. I remember the anguish and the pain of the poems that I could comprehend, and they hit me so hard.

I think to a large extent I also connected with his novel, “On Earth We Are Briefly Gorgeous” – and all that it had to say about relationships, about mothers and sons, about being queer and your relationship with the one person whose validation means the most to you (your mother, of course). And yet somehow, I couldn’t feel all of this and more while reading, “Time is a Mother”.

“Time is a Mother” is a collection of poems in four parts, that mainly focuses on grief – in the wake of Vuong’s mother’s death, of loneliness, of being queer, of making sense of the world through one’s different phases of life, and ultimately it is also about acceptance, grieving, and moving on.

The poems are heartbreaking (well, some of them for me were outstanding), and also lean toward prose style but I just didn’t get this collection, like maybe I should have. Maybe at the end of the day, this book wasn’t meant for this reader.

It has some beautiful lines – this collection but on their own. They sadly do not culminate into something as beautiful overall when it comes to the complete poem. For instance, a poem “Amazon History of a Former Nail Salon Worker” just didn’t make sense to me, and I tried so hard to look for the profundity but couldn’t. Some of the poems that did work for me were, “Not Even”, “Reasons for Staying”, and “Woodworking at the End of the World” – maybe because they made so much sense to me in all their fragility, tenderness, and in celebrating differences.

Time is a Mother was a read I was so eager to read this year, and yet it just did not live up to Night Sky with Exit Wounds. It was just space and space and more blank space with a lot of words and sentences I couldn’t make sense of.