Category Archives: LGBT Literature

Read 228 of 2021. Jonny Appleseed by Joshua Whitehead

Jonny Appleseed by Joshua Whitehead

Title: Jonny Appleseed
Author: Joshua Whitehead
Publisher: Arsenal Pulp Press
ISBN: 978-1551527253
Genre: LGBTQ+ Literary Fiction, Native American Literature,
Pages: 224
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Jonny Appleseed decides to come back home to his mother after her husband dies. Jonny is a Two-Spirit Inidigiqueer “glitter princess” and has about a week leading up to his journey.  In that week Jonny goes through the entire gamut of emotions – love, hate, loathing, trauma of growing up on the rez – personal and collective, and more than anything about his dreams and aspirations.

What I loved about this book is the focus of course on everything not-colonial, even love, more so love. The book is about Jonny and the women in his life as well – his kokum (grandmother) his friends, his mother, Peggy, and as well as his Tias – the one person from where all the queer loving comes and nestles in his heart and soul. Their interactions with Jonny are also governed by day to day activities – from a meal to a recipe to how the whites try and erase the Native American community. There is so much going on in this short book that at times I just had to shut it and process everything Whitehead was trying to communicate.

Add to this there is technology and how Jonny uses it to facilitate sex work, allowing lonely men to somewhat fetishize his culture and where he comes from, and in all of this there is trauma and pain and healing that Whitehead manages to write about in the most brutal and also sublime manner.

Whitehead’s writing doesn’t cut corners on emotions. He says it the way it is – intense, with racism, sexism, homophobia, and how it impacts indigenous minds, hearts, and souls in addition to what they go through.  All of this is told to us through Jonny. You root for him. You want his life to be better. You want him to meet his mother as soon as possible. You don’t want him to suffer. But he must follow his heart and destiny, and things will happen, but in all of this, there is togetherness, a celebration of love and longing, and how to finally find your roots and identity.

Princess Princess Ever After by Katie O’Neill

Princess Princess Ever After by Katie O'Neill

Title: Princess Princess Ever After Author: Katie O’Neill
Publisher: Oni Press 
ISBN: 978-1620103401
Genre: Graphic Novel, LGBTQIA, Fantasy Comics 
Pages: 56 
Source: Publisher 
Rating: 5/5 

This month started off with a great, short read, a one that warmed my heart big time (well, to put it that way). Princess Princess Ever After is a graphic fairy tale of two princesses saving each other, of them not needing any prince, of a prince who also needs saving, of empathy, and most of all to just be who you were always meant to.

Princess Princess Ever After is a very short graphic novel of love that transcends gender, and above all about what it feels like to come to your own. Amira isn’t here for heteronormativity and she’s learning how to be a hero. She is on the move to save people, riding her pink unicorn. Along the way she meets Sadie, a princess who needs to be saved from the abuse of her sister, and together they will find their way, along with an unlikely prince.

This in short is what this webcomic (now a book) is about. Princess Princess Ever After breaks all boundaries of storytelling, making us see other ways of being, living, and loving. Katie O’Neill breaks patriarchy one page after another. They do it with humour, fun, and lots of heart. Read this book this Pride. Read it anytime actually.

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.