Tag Archives: LGBTQ+

Swimming in the Dark: A love letter

Swimming in the Dark by Tomasz Jedrowski

SWIMMING IN THE DARK was incandescent!! It is perfect for fans of #callmebyyourname and #aristotleanddante and also #redwhiteandroyalblue ! It was also my last read of February and my second 5⭐ read of the month!

The book is a beautiful and evocative story set in the early 1980s Poland. As such, the political scenario is quite an intricate part of the narrative and it also shapes the thoughts and actions of the characters. The story is told by Ludwik Glowacki a Polish man living in America. The whole novel is actually him reminiscing about his past, and more so, as if writing it for his former lover Janusz. Janusz is addressed in the second person and it really made me remember Call Me By Your Name. Ludwik’s story starts from when he was of 9 years of age and met and fell in love with his neighbour Beniek, a Jewish boy, to his early 20s romance with Janusz.

Check it out on Goodreads!

The book’s central themes include Ludwik’s realisation of his sexuality, the way he deals with it, especially in a society where this is frowned upon, and thus, the aspect of shame associated with it; discovery of his selfhood as well as the tumultuous political times of Poland wrought with various trials for the people.

Check it out on Amazon!

Swimming in the Dark
Swimming in the Dark

There is a beautiful sense of the bittersweet that envelops Jedrowski’s writing. I am entirely in love with it and am looking forward to a follow up to this fantastic debut. The way the author has portrayed the conflicting feelings that Ludwik has for Janusz because of their differing political ideologies etc, is also great. With such a lyrical prose and tragic undertones, this was a truly unique read, that will leave it’s warmth with me, like a dying hearth of fire, for a really long time.

Tied Hearts: Lust, Love, Longing and Rajveer, by Vikram Singh, 2018

Title: Tied Hearts: Lust, Love, Longing and Rajveer

Author: Vikram Singh

Publisher: Partridge Publishing India

Genre: LGBTQ+ / Romance/ Contemporary

Format: Paperback

Language: English

No. of pages: 200

Synopsis:

After Veer begs a handsome stranger to give him a lift to the Gateway of India in Mumbai on New Years Eve, he inadvertently leaves his cell phone in the mans car. Moments after the clock strikes midnight, Veer calls his phone and is relieved when the driver answers. After they agree to meet the next day, neither has any idea that fate has just intervened in both of their lives. Veer is a graduate student pursuing his MBA. Raj is a native of Amritsar. Although the two men are vastly different in terms of their family backgrounds, values, thought processes, and beliefs, it is not long before they fall in love. Still, no matter how hard he tries, Veer cannot shrug the apprehension that haunts him from within. No one has a simple love story and neither do they. But when one of the men takes the other for granted, their bond is jeopardized. Will anything or anyone be able to save it before it is too late? In this romance, two Indians intertwined in a web of forbidden love must attempt to overcome several obstacles in order to move forward in their relationship. 

My review:

I received a review copy from the author in return for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Tied Hearts was an enjoyable read. With a gradual and steady buildup, the author is able to portray that love is love. Writing about a homosexual love story is not easy in India – after all, like the character Ranjit from Mahesh Dattani’s On a Muggy Night in Mumbai, it is impossible to be both “Indian and gay”. I applaud the author for daring to write on this still precarious topic.

The plot has been well constructed and the characterization on point. The romance between Veer and Raj is just like any other romance with a heterosexual couple and the author simply wants to say that it does not matter if a boy loves a girl or if he even loves another boy, but that their love is what matters. Love does not see any race, colour, creed or gender. A person’s sexuality is in no way a factor to determine who he/she falls in love with.

The social constructs surrounding the two men are very realistic thus making this story more relatable. With mentions of their differing family backgrounds, values, thought processes, and beliefs, the author brings in various aspects of a person’s life that determine the way he acts in society and his personality.

The concept of the ‘forbidden’ is seen in this book as well as the concept of the ‘other’, and the poet does this through the two protagonists – Veer and Raj, who just because of their ‘not-normal’ lifestyle, normal implying the majority of the heterosexual subjects in the book. I think this work was really well done.

Verdict:

I really enjoyed reading this book. I rate it a 4/5 stars.

About the reviewer:

Nayanika Saikia, is one of the foremost book reviewers from the North-east and Assam, and is also an admin for the official India bookstagram page on Instagram. She publishes her own reviews and recommendations for poetry, fiction, non-fiction etc. on her bookstagram account @pretty_little_bibliophile which won the NorthEast Creator Awards 2018, as well as in daily newspapers, online magazines etc.  She can be contacted at nayanikasaikia98@gmail.com .

Lord of the Butterflies, by Andrea Gibson, 2018

Title: Lord of the Butterflies

Author: Andrea Gibson

Publisher: Button Poetry

Genre: Poetry/LGBTQIA

Format: Netgalley e-ARC

Language: English

No. of pages: 86

Synopsis:

Andrea Gibson’s latest collection is a masterful showcase from the poet whose writing and performances have captured the hearts of millions. With artful and nuanced looks at gender, romance, loss, and family, Lord of the Butterflies is a new peak in Gibson’s career. Each emotion here is deft and delicate, resting inside of imagery heavy enough to sink the heart, while giving the body wings to soar.

My review:

I received a review copy from Netgalley in return for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

I LOVED this collection! Lord of the Butterflies deals with issues such as homosexuality, being a transgender person, dealing with this as a child, and accepting this about oneself; bullying, rebellion; familial love, family drama; depression, substance abuse, acceptance, homophobia, suicide, and the hurt and pain associated with it; violence, war, and more dun violence as well as white supremacy and the will to stay alive.

The poet uses beautiful lyrical lines that just drive the knife deeper into the heart, so to speak – because all of the poems are so poignant and meaningful and relatable in today’s context, that you cannot help but be sucked in, to the magic. Crying while reading a fiction book is pretty common for me, but I even cried while reading these poems for myself.

The poem I absolutely loved was ‘Orlando’, followed by ‘Boomerang Valentine’, ‘Thankstaking’, ‘America Wakes in the Middle of the Night’, ‘White Feminism [Noun]’, ‘Tincture’, ‘America Relaoding’, ‘Depression [Verb]’, ‘Give Her’, ‘Until We Act’, ‘Fight for Love’, ‘Letter to the Editor’, ‘Living Proof’, ‘First Love’ and ‘Daytime, Somewhere’.

Verdict:

One of the best poetry collection I have ever read, I rate Lord of the Butterflies a solid 5/5!

About the reviewer:

Nayanika Saikia, is one of the foremost book reviewers from the North-east and Assam, and is also an admin for the official India bookstagram page on Instagram. She publishes her own reviews and recommendations for poetry, fiction, non-fiction etc. on her bookstagram account @pretty_little_bibliophile which won the NorthEast Creator Awards 2018, as well as in daily newspapers, online magazines etc.  She can be contacted at nayanikasaikia98@gmail.com .

Lean Days, Manish Gaekwad, 2018


“I am okay sleeping with someone who does not read books as long as they are not defiant about it.”
– Manish Gaekwad, Lean Days

Publishers: HarperCollins Publishers
Synopsis:
Fed up with his tedious desk job, a young man decides to quit on an impulse. He wants to write a novel but doesn’t think he has a story to tell. So the would-be writer, who was raised in a kotha, sets out to travel, hoping to arrive somewhere: at a destination, at a story.
But it’s not just about arriving. What about the journey? The joy and pain of trudging through the country without a plan, or a map? If his aim is to write, who will document his search for inspiration, and for love?
Lean Days is the story of an artist’s voyage through the country, mixing history with imagination, and finding people and places whose stories he can tell along with his own. It is a book of journeys without an end in sight, about the yearning for romance and succumbing to the temptations of the flesh.
The plot
The story is about a gay man travelling across India with the aim to find inspiration for his novel. Can be classified as an autobiography, epistolary novel as well as a novel of manners. It’s a journey through multiple cities along with a myriad of cultures, customs, foods and religions of the people. It is an exceptional journey mostly as the character explores facets of his own individuality including his sexuality, of the fear of rejection, openness, trust etc.
Throughout this journey from one city to another, and through the haze of memories associated with that particular place, he not only gets closer to his inner desires but he also discovers his inner self.
It is a really inflective book in the sense that it forces us to introspect about our own views and expectations of love, sexuality etc. Being gay in India is not easy especially in the times the author portrayed. As the protagonist travels from one place to another, he also collects some souvenirs like a comb in Hampi, a book in Srinagar, and so on. His journey begins from Bangalore, where he relives his days spent in the old Indian Coffee House, now shifted to a more modern setting, and continues with Hyderabad, Delhi, Ajmer, Srinagar, then Ladakh, Chandigarh, Manali, Lucknow, Kathmandu, Lumbini, Banaras, Calcutta and finally, to where the writer actually belongs to, i.e., Bombay. The themes of sexuality, self-discovery, love, lust and also the whole concept of self was worth reading about and shed quite the light on matters that need to be discussed more.
The writing style
I am really impressed with the writing style of the author- Lean Days is truly an ongoing autobiography done right. He has beautifully captured the thoughts and fears of a regular Indian man who has to be defiantly secretive of his feelings in a mostly homophobic India. This is the sort of book that needs to be read more in the community and moreover, to be written about and I’m happy to see this ongoing change in the current generation- the willingness to be respecting of all people despite their varying sexualities and behaviours. The overall writing style is quite simple, albeit very realistic and to the point. The pace that the author has adopted for the book is also very great as the protagonist travels from one city to another- sometimes happily, sometimes not, and sometimes in between.

The characters
I could really relate to the nameless protagonist throughout the book. The other characters are well created with a believable as well as relatability. They are all flawed and display varying shades of grey- thus making them more human and real in a fictionalized story.

Cover
The cover was kept minimalistic and I admit I was truly very attracted to the cover in the beginning. The background to the neon pink “Lean Days” truly gave the kotha vibes.

Verdict
I rate this book a 4/5 stars keeping in mind the characters, the plotline as well as the themes covered. It was an exciting journey.
Note: Thanks to the publishers from Harper Collins India and the author for giving me the opportunity to read and write an honest review in exchange for a copy of this book.
Amazon Link for the Book: https://www.amazon.in/Lean-Days-Manish-Gaekwad-ebook/dp/B079VY663G/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1528966200&sr=1-1&keywords=lean+days