Category Archives: LGBT Literature

God in Pink by Hasan Namir

God in Pink by Hasan Namir

Title: God in Pink
Author: Hasan Namir
Publisher: Arsenal Pulp Press
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 140
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 Stars

What does a gay man do in the modern world? Perhaps coming out to himself and his family would be the first step you’d say. But what would a gay man do in Iraq in 2003? Would he have the courage to come out? Would he at all, knowing that it would only mean death for him and nothing else in the world could save him besides marriage to a girl? Would he marry? Or will he choose love and want to run away from his country of birth?

Hasan Namir’s “God in Pink” is a stupendously small book trying to answer these questions through the protagonist Ramy – a young gay Iraqi struggling to find balance between his sexuality, religion and culture. On the other end is Ammar, a sheikh who is a staunch believer of Islam and is tested through and through from the moment he receives an anonymous letter from Ramy asking him for his help.

I will not give away more of the story but yes, this book haunts me – even though I am done reading it. As I was reading it, I was perhaps thankful that I was born in India – where no one is out for my blood for being gay (or not that I know of), but is that enough?

Namir gets all nuances just in place (but that is also because he is gay and that matters because this book is written from the heart, all of it). “God in Pink” to me was way more personal – it made me relive the times I dithered and almost didn’t want to come out. What would life be then? Would it be any different? Oh yeah! I am glad I came out when I did. I think the book is needed by all. We all need to read it – straight or gay people to understand our phobias, fears and the need to always be someone we so aren’t. Hasan Namir can say so much and yet use so little words. The brevity and the rawness of his prose makes this book a stellar read.

P.S: The title is so intelligent and brazen. I loved it.

These Violent Delights by Micah Nemerever

These Violent Delights

Title: These Violent Delights
Author: Micah Nemerever 
Publisher: Harper 
ISBN: 978-0062963635
Genre: Coming of Age, LGBT, Literary 
Pages: 480 
Source: Publisher 
Rating: 5/5 

So this book is really unlike anything I have ever read, and that makes it perhaps even more special. There is violence, loads of it. There is also desire and passion, both in the same measure. There is love, but always scared to be spoken out loud. This book has gutted me to such an extent, that I might not recover from it at least in the next couple of months. It is wickedly delicious, and more. A perfect combination of The Secret History with Lie with Me or even Call Me By Your Name, but more sinister in its approach, more real, and cunning to its core.

The novel takes place in the 1970s in Pittsburgh, and centres around Paul Fleischer and Julian Fromme. They are two freshman students and instantly connect during their first interaction in class. The chemistry is evident. They are poles apart from each other. Paul is shy, a loner, and artistic. Julian is wild (well, in a sense), charismatic to the boot, and wicked to the core (or so it seems). They two develop a great fondness for each other, a friendship that grows more intense each day, finally leading to love that is of catastrophic proportions.

This book had me gasping for breath. Their love is nothing that I have read of in books. It is strange, it breaks and pushes boundary after boundary, it begs for more violence – both physical and emotional, and it won’t stop at anything. The conversations are intellectual and provide fantastic insights into their lives, their families, and all about what it is to be good or moral, and the opposite of that.

Their bond could be called unhealthy, an obsession, a kind of love that destroys everything in its path but you just cannot get enough of it. It doesn’t read like a debut. Nemerever’s writing is never reassuring or comforting – it is brutal and you love that as a reader. It isn’t straightforward. Its turns are atmospheric, and scary, and always tipping the balance one way or the other of the relationship between the two young men, more so given it is set in the 70s, when things were way far more difficult for the queer community. I literally couldn’t stop turning the pages.

These Violent Delights is for me one of the best books read of 2020. I say it with much assurance and confidence. It is dark, humane, ugly, brutal, with a dash of murder as well (oh yes, forgot to mention that), it is full of rage, self-loathing, hate, and inner recesses of the human heart where perhaps compassion resides.

 

A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood

A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood Title: A Single Man
Author: Christopher Isherwood
Publisher: Picador Modern Classics
ISBN: 978-1250239372
Genre: LGBT Classic Fiction, LGBT Fiction,
Pages: 240
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 stars

Literature can save you; they say. Literature heals. Literature mends a broken heart, and literature also hurts. Literature takes a part of you and has the capacity to rip it apart as well. That’s the power of literature too.

 A Single Man is a reread for me. I think I read it again for the fourth time or so. I first read it in 2002 I think or was it 2003? I don’t remember the year. Sometime then, I suppose. Anyway, I then watched the film in 2009 and my heart was a mess. It was a wreck when I read the book and the movie did its bit as well. Of ruining and moving on.

 A Single Man when read in the 30s gives you a totally different perspective of what life might be as you age, and that too for a gay man. It will not be easy. The book set in 1962, tells the story of George – a middle-aged Englishman who is a professor at a Los Angeles university. It is a circadian novel (one that spans through a day), and a very effective one at that.

In all of this, the book takes us through George’s life – sometimes as a gay man, sometimes more than that, sometimes just as a man who is lonely and yearns for company, and at others a man who is almost done with the world and not quite so. Isherwood’s writing is fulfilling, brutal, and very real.

For instance, this depiction of two men who are lovers and living together, is perfect. One might think it is written so simply and yet it conjures so many images:

“Think of two people, living together day after day, year after year, in this small space, standing elbow to elbow cooking at the same small stove, squeezing past each other on the narrow stairs, shaving in front of the same small bathroom mirror, constantly jogging, jostling, bumping against each other’s bodies by mistake or on purpose, sensually, aggressively, awkwardly, impatiently, in rage or in love – think what deep though invisible tracks they must leave, everywhere, behind them!”

A Single Man is a story of two Georges as well. The one who wants to say so much, and the one who doesn’t. The book is full of internal monologues – his life sometime in the past and in the present. I think the time in which the book is set is also so indicative of everything that was homophobic, xenophobic, and yet professing free love to the moon and back.

Isherwood writes as an insider, and yet it always seems he is an outsider looking in – maintaining a perfect balance, a dance almost, with wit intact, and prose that is poignant to the brim. The question of death and life are the core of this most beautifully rendered novel. It addresses bigger issues of loneliness and isolation, seen through the lens of a gay man is purely coincidental. There is also a lot of self-loathing for just being who he is that made my heart go out to George.

A Single Man is a book that needs to be looked at very closely – without bias, and read over and over again to make true sense of what Isherwood wants to tell us – of what it is to be single and left out, in a room full of people – in a world that is too crowded.

Dragman by Steven Appleby

Dragman by Steven ApplebyTitle: Dragman
Author: Steven Appleby
Publisher: Jonathan Cape, Penguin Random House UK
ISBN: 9781787330177
Genre: Graphic Novel
Pages: 336
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

Let me just say this at the very onset: We need more books like Dragman. We need more representation of cross-dressing and for it to not be an anomaly. We need for children and teenagers to know that it is okay to want to dress a certain way and not go by what the world has prescribed for them. I wish I had a book like Dragman in my life when I was growing up.

I think it started when I was eleven or so. The desire to wear women’s clothes, but I wouldn’t dare tell anyone. Heck, I wouldn’t even try on anything. It was just a desire. I wanted to be Hawa Hawaii. I wanted to be Seema from Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja. As I grew up, I wanted to be Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. I so wanted to be all of them. To dress and shine. To be someone else and feel empowered with the hair, the make-up, the clothes, the high-heels, and the confidence that I never had till I was way into my late 20s.

Dragman1

Dragman is about all of this and more. It is not just about a man who feels powerful when he wears women’s clothes. It is also about him not identifying as drag but as trans. It is so much more. It is also about what it means to be a superhero in times such as ours or at any time for that matter.

Dragman2

Within the first one-hundred and twenty-five pages you are transported to another world, with so many layers, it almost stuns the reader into awe and admiration for what’s going on in these pages. But let me not drift.

It does however take some time to get into the book, but once you do, you are hooked. August Crimp can fight crime when he is wearing women’s clothes, with his side-kick Dog Girl. This happened till he got married and had a kid. And now in the world an inventor has developed a device that can remove people’s souls and store them on small disks. People without souls continue living. However, they have no character or personality or perhaps even the will to live. In addition to this, trans women are being targeted by a serial killer.

Dragman3

Colour panels take over the current life, while the past is depicted in black and white. There are also sections of prose that describe violent encounters without any graphics, which helps propel the narrative. In all of this, I found Dragman to be so relevant, of course given the times we live in, and owing to the discrimination toward trans people and how they fight the battle head on. Dragman is a book that is most needed and I know that there will be more books such as this one. The balance of being a superhero and the dilemma of sorts, finally leading to acceptance of being trans is wonderfully depicted and illustrated.

More Trans comics and graphic novels: 

https://markham.bibliocommons.com/list/share/328250817/539938080

 

 

The Clothesline Swing by Ahmad Danny Ramadan

The Clothesline Swing Title: The Clothesline Swing
Author: Ahmad Danny Ramadan
Publisher: The Indigo Press
ISBN: 9781999683368
Genre: Literary Fiction, LGBTQIA Fiction
Pages: 220
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

I do not know how to review this book. I shall try. I hope I do justice to it. This book is everything – heart, soul, passionate, full of life, despair, about the secrets we keep, and how we finally are undone in the end. The Clothesline Swing is inspired by One Thousand and One Nights. It is all sorts of beautiful, and hopeful in brutal times and that’s what we need right now more than ever – to hang on to hope.

The Clothesline Swing is everyone’s story in that sense and yet so specific to place and time. It is the story of two lovers who live away from home, and are anchored to it in all heart and soul. It is the story of a dying Syria and their memories attached to it. One is the storyteller, who keeps life going through fables and stories from their youth to his dying partner. Each night he tells his partner stories of Damascus, of childhood, of leaving home in fear of being persecuted for being homosexuals, of a hard life, and how he met his lover and life thereon. In all of this, there is Death – its all pervasiveness – waiting patiently, listening to stories – night after night.

This book hit me hard – it is brutal and honest and doesn’t shy away from speaking of what gay men go through. The brutality, the violence, the shame, the love, and kindness in places least expected is all there – for all to read. Ahmad Danny Ramadan’s writing doesn’t get maudlin – it doesn’t enter the zone of pity, but it does become joyful after all the struggle. At the same time, it doesn’t take away from the struggle and the immigrant experience. That is another track in the book that shines.

The Clothesline Swing is about forbidden love, about home that is no longer home – or will always be in memory, it is about the stories that keep us alive and make us live one day to the next, it is also about pain and suffering, and love and beauty, and healing – for the characters, the author, and the readers.