Tag Archives: LGBTQIA

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 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.

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 43 of 2022. Leaving Isn’t the Hardest Thing by Lauren Hough

Leaving Isn't the Hardest Thing by Lauren Hough

Title: Leaving Isn’t the Hardest Thing: Essays Author: Lauren Hough
Publisher: Coronet, Hodder & Stoughton
ISBN: 9781529382525
Genre: Essays, Memoir, LGBTQIA
Pages: 314
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

I was most curious about this book, well, because of the title, and who wouldn’t be right? I mean we have all been there, when it comes to leaving and being left, in whatever form and manner. And rightly so this collection of essays from Hough’s life and observations, brought me to tears, a couple of essays in.

This book is about so many things – about growing up in a cult, about coming of age, about realising you are lesbian and in the military, about being ousted from service because of your identity, about being taught to please men sexually in the cult since you were twelve years old, and struggling with insomnia, PTSD, and mental health issues.

Leaving Isn’t the Hardest Thing is a brutal collection of essays. At times it is real, cringe, heartbreaking even, defining so many points in Hough’s life and in relation to the world, it is funny, making all meaning from the trauma and suffering, and above all relatable.

I found so many pieces that I could emotionally connect with – the time she is gaslighted by her superiors at work, or her first time encountering a gaybourhood (though I found that comfort with friends), and a lot also about hope really.

Hough’s writing is as real as it gets. The reader is not spared the details. There are no solutions, neither Hough asks for them. She tells about her life the way it was, and the way it is. You just cannot turn away from it.

Read 233 of 2021. The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo.

The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo

Title: The Chosen and the Beautiful
Author: Nghi Vo
Publisher: Tordotcom
ISBN: 978-1250784780
Genre: Fantasy, Literary, LGBTQIA+
Pages: 272
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

Nghi Vo’s retelling of “The Great Gatsby” in my opinion is better than the original text. Don’t get me wrong. I loved and still love The Great Gatsby but this refreshing take, which in turn just becomes Vo’s original voice is fantastic, nothing short of spectacular.

Everything is there – the madness, the passion, the love, and it is brilliant, with Jay Gatsby being a bisexual vampire. I mean, WHOA, right? I mean, WTF, isn’t it? But it is what it is and Vo has us enter her world and hold us there from the first page on.

There are black arts added to the story. Nick is no longer a part of it. We have Jordan Baker, a Vietnamese American, an orphan, raised by an American family, telling the tale.

There is queer-phobia and racism that isn’t hidden. Vo has demolished The Great Gatsby and created something new of its rubble. I think this is also quite a homage to the classic. At the same time, it is unique, has a voice of its own, and stands out on every single page.

The Chosen and the Beautiful speaks of class, racism, sexual aggression, and power like the classic did not. It is political and that’s how it should be, in my opinion.

Things are magical and so is the writing. Vo’s descriptions made me turn those pages again and reread just to soak in the language. Jordan’s relationship with Daisy and Tom is another matter altogether. It is fluid, caustic, and extremely toxic.

Vo’s writing is marvellous. You don’t get the time to breathe. You are gasping for air and yet want to turn those pages as quickly as ever.