Tag Archives: LGBTQIA Reads

Read 71 of 2022. Greenland by David Santos Donaldson.

Greenland by David Santos Donaldson

Title: Greenland
Author: David Santos Donaldson
Publisher: Amistad, HarperCollins
ISBN: 9780063159556
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 336
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

I have just finished reading “Greenland” by David Santos Donaldson, and there is so much unpacking to be done – not only where the book is concerned but also when it comes to my life. As a brown gay man, facing a terrible mid-life crisis, and trying to adjust to the world that’s rapidly changing around him, I couldn’t identify more with Kip, the gay black narrator of the novel.

Kip Starling has decided to rewrite his novel in three weeks by locking himself in the basement. His novel takes him in the mind of Mohammed el Adl, E.M. Forster’s secret lover, who was also a Black queer man like Kip.  This is where it all begins for Kip, or rather unravels. His need to be seen and heard, and then the juxtaposition of his life to that of Mohammed’s – both the other, both trying hard to fit in, both with great education and yet feels not accounting for much, each with white lovers, almost not knowing what to do with them. Each with a burden of their own.

While reading this novel, there were so many times I thought I was reading my life, or at least portions of it. It is funny how art and life get mixed-up sometimes, that you cannot differentiate one from the other.

As Kip navigates to find himself in the process of writing the book, I was doing the same with some parts of my life that felt strangely familiar and ones I could relate to from the book. That’s the power of good storytelling – of how it makes you subconsciously see within.

Kip’s struggles are evident – the way not the world sees him as a queer Black man but the way he sees himself in relation to that. Donaldson takes us to the core of the book with Kip’s psyche – the fact that he was named after Kipling – a writer who has been labelled a colonialist, a jingoist, and a racist, speaks volumes about how Kip would turn out to be. The struggle to understand if he is black enough and how much black – when he starts dating white men, to trying to fit in with the “black community” at college, or even when simply trying to overcome his insecurities, he doubts, he second-guesses, he doesn’t have the confidence to perhaps be black. 

Kip’s life then became mine – the struggle to fit in, to write my book, to understand where I come from, and be accepting of it, but more than anything else to embrace love when it is in my way. More than anything else, as a reader I was immensely drawn to the novel within the novel – when Kip’s and Mohammed’s voices became the same, when they were clearly different, when they both sought refuge in each other, and when they both tried to hide. Donaldson brings out all these elements with an honesty that shocks, surprises, and ultimately makes you surrender to the text. 

Greenland is a book about love, about coming to terms with yourself repeatedly, about knowing when to give up and when to get back up and start all over. It is a book that is tender, full of angst (or at least that’s what I thought as a typical gay man – and proud of it), and about what it takes to be in interracial relationships.

David’s writing is refreshing – at no point did I feel that I was reading something already written, though I am sure there are several books that speak of the LGBTQIA theme, linking it to a novel within a novel, but it shows that David has a fondness for E.M. Forster and that translates sublimely into this text.

The redemptive power of literature is constant – almost in every chapter, as a subtext, moving slowly, seen at times, but reminding the reader that literature can save us and does.

Greenland is a fantastic debut – one that isn’t shy of exploring difficult and complex emotions. It is a grand debut in the sense that it takes it risks and leaves the reader with awe, joy, melancholy, and ultimately with the knowledge that relationships are not easy and take a lot from you.

Read 21 of 2022. Love and Reparation: A Theatrical Response to the Section 377 Litigation in India by Danish Sheikh

Love and Reparation by Danish Sheikh

Title: Love and Reparation: A Theatrical Response to the Section 377 Litigation in India
Author: Danish Sheikh
Publisher: Seagull Books
ISBN: 978-0857427502
Genre: Plays, LGBTQIA
Pages: 164
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

You don’t see a lot of LGBTQIA literature coming out of the sub-continent, even though section 377 has been read down. You just do not. I am not surprised though. But what I was pleasantly surprised by was this text, aptly titled, “Love and Reparation” – a collection of two plays about the decriminalization of queer intimacy that took place on the 6th of September of 2018.

One decision that changed so many lives across the spectrum. From being “criminals” to not being criminals overnight, and to have full sexual agency meant something for most, and yet there was doubt about the future, given how we lived in the past. The future is as uncertain even today, almost four years into the judgement.

Danish Sheikh’s two plays bring out the true nature of how we feel. It is a representation I am glad exists. Both the plays bring forth the intermingling of the personal and the political, with the legal aspects playing a major role. Sheikh writes with so much empathy, yet never straying away from facts. Being a queer person, Danish speaks through these plays – everything that is so personal is out there.

“Contempt” and “Pride” are the two sides of the same coin and it couldn’t be truer. One play examines the before and one the after. Both speak about living with the law and what are the repercussions. I learnt the language of longing and desire pretty late though I knew somehow what it was a lot earlier. I have lived through a time when Section 377 was used by my family to put me in place and I have thankfully (perhaps) also lived to see the day when this section was read down.

Contempt was written as a response to the Suresh Kumar Koushal vs. Naz Foundation judgement in the year 2013, when the Supreme High Court reinstated section 377, overturning the Delhi High Court judgement. Pride was written as a response to the decriminalization of 377 in the year 2018.

I felt deep sense of satisfaction after reading these two plays and yet I also felt this deep sense of loss, of something that is still not complete and needs to be looked at, with one eye on the future. And yet, these plays have provided so much hope and love inside of me for what’s to come. A love that can finally speak out loud.

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.

The Boy in the Cupboard – Written by Harshala Gupte and Illustrated by Priya Dali

The Boy in the Cupboard by Harshala Gupte and Priya Dali

Title: The Boy in the Cupboard
Written by Harshala Gupte
Illustrated by Priya Dali
Publishers: Gaysi Media + Lettori Press
ISBN: 9781638212737
Genre: Children’s Books, LGBTQIA, Diversity
Pages: 24
Source: Publishers
Rating: 5/5

There are very few diverse children books being published in India. Sometimes it becomes very difficult to look for such books – it is as difficult as finding a needle in the haystack. So, I was very glad when Gaysi Media and Lettori Press sent me a copy of their collaborative published work, “The Boy in the Cupboard” – most empathetically written by Harshala Gupte and beautifully illustrated by Priya Dali.

Karan’s favourite place in the whole wide world is his cupboard. If he isn’t at school, he is in his cupboard. Away from the world and the bullies at school. Away, in a place of his own, a place that he visits and prefers to remain there. Until one day his mother finds out about his secret place and wants to know why he is there all day long.

The Boy in the Cupboard is an exquisite and most precious read according to me. It is a book that is needed to be read by every child and adult, and not from the point of view of sexuality but inclusivity, diversity, and how we all need a heart who listens and a shoulder to rest on. The story by Harshala Gupte is so spot-on and simple that it will warm your heart with the turn of every page. Dali’s illustrations are adorable and made me look at them with so much love. All in all, this is a picture book not just for kids, but also for adults – for everyone who has had a tough time fitting in. Read it. Gift it. Cherish it.

The Times I Knew I Was Gay by Eleanor Crewes

The Times I Knew I Was Gay Title: The Times I Knew I Was Gay
Author: Eleanor Crewes
Publisher: Virago Books, Hachette UK
ISBN: 9780349013213
Genre: Graphic Memoir, LGBT Literature
Pages: 308
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

I wish this book was out when I was coming out to my family and friends. I wish this book was out also when I was coming out to my colleagues at my first workplace, and then constantly as I moved jobs. Sometimes I think that for me, my life is a constant coming out process. Coming out so many times that I have probably lost count. Till I wrote a book about it and that was that. But that’s a different story.

The Times I Knew I Was Gay is a graphic memoir by Eleanor Crewes and how she came out to her friends, her brother, and finally to herself about being gay. This book hits you hard in the sense that if you’re on the spectrum, you can so understand how difficult it is to know and yet deny who you are. To know it deep down and keep putting that thought at the back of your head, or at best living two lives – one straight, and the other when you are all alone, when you finally acknowledge being gay out loud, to yourself.

The Times I Knew I Was Gay also makes you see how liberating coming out of the closet can be, and at the same time it also very subtly hints at how it is no one else’s business but yours if you’d like to come out or not. I will never understand why people speculate about someone’s orientation/identity. It will always baffle me why do some people want other people to come out the closet. What’s in it for them? How does it impact their lives?

This graphic memoir on so many levels felt so personal. It made me see my confusion when I came out at 18. It made me see how I was in denial for the longest time, and how I wanted to be someone else, and fit in, even if it meant being straight. The Times I Knew I Was Gay is a warm, personal, charming, and honest account of awkwardness, self-denial, fear of not belonging, and what it takes to come to your own being.