The month of June is celebrated as Pride month all over the world, and for us readers, this comes as an opportunity to explore works of and by the community, in a first-step effort to being responsible allies. With this in mind, here is a list of a few books on the topic by Indian writers, both fiction and non-fiction, that are worth adding to your #tbr:
My Father’s Garden tells its readers the story of the young unnamed narrator in three parts: lover, friend, father, and his disillusionment with all the three.
As a young medical student, he falls in love with Sameer who is not ready for a life of commitment and ends up breaking the narrator’s heart. As he moves forward in life he makes a new friend in a small town but this friendship also ends in disillusionment.
The last part takes the narrative back home where he sees how his father has changed so much and ruminates on the turns the lives of his father and his own have taken. Even though it deals with many other themes apart from the narrator’s homosexuality, My Father’s Garden should definitely be on your list of pride books that you must read.
Originally written in Kannada, Mohanaswamy is a collection of 10 short stories that present before us the problems and the social stigma that comes with being gay.
Through his protagonist, whose long time lover has left him for a woman, Vasudhendra tells his readers of the dilemmas and the questions of identity and conformity that Mohanaswamy faces on a daily basis. We see him as he struggles to make sense of himself and his sexuality in a society where he is not readily accepted. A realistic collection that marked the coming out of Vasudhendra himself, this is one of the most well known books on the topic.
The Scent of God is the story of a young student, Anirvan, who is studying in a monastery and dreams of becoming a monk.
And yet when he finds himself drawn to a fellow student, he realises that things are not as they seem inside as well as outside the monastery. And with passions that are neither recognised nor accepted in the setting in which he has spent most of his life, what will be the price the lovers need to pay to be together? This novel raises such uncomfortable questions even as it narrates a poignant story.
Straight to Normal is the autobiography of Sharif D Ragnekar where he details his struggles and confusions of life as a gay man.
From his childhood and teenage struggles with schools, family life and health, he also describes his vulnerability, confusion and questions when he realised he was attracted to men and how coming to terms with his own sexuality was a struggle. He gives an account of the struggles till his life at present and does so in a direct, engaging and simple way that is bound to resonate with the reader.
Kari is a graphic novel, illustrated by Amruta Patil. Kari tells the story of Kari, an angst-ridden girl of 21, who lives in a smog-city.
The book begins with the attempted suicide of Kari and Ruth, where both are miraculously unharmed but end up separating from each other. But Kari’s life isn’t the same afer the incident and through the story and anger of Kari, Patil gives voice to the angst and anxiety of so many like her who have to live in a heterosexual society where a lesbian woman is seen as an aberration – even in the “progressive” metros. With its layered narrative and breath-taking art, Kari is a must read, and a valuable addition to the theme of pride in Indian literature.
Cobalt Blue is one of the most talked about contemporary novels that situates homosexuality in the domestic space. When a new tenant comes to their house, both Tanay and Anuja fall for him.
He too has dalliance with them both, until he elopes with Anuja, and Tanay realises that his lover was not his alone. As he remembers him and how he changed Tanay’s life, we see the clandestine grieving that he has to do – in keeping with the clandestine nature of their relationship, quite unlike the open grieving of his sister. A novel that will touch your heart, Cobalt Blue should go high up on that tbr.
Set against the backdrop 1992 riots in Mumbai, The Boyfriend is the story of Yudi, a gay journalist who finds himself worrying about the well-being of a stranger he had casual sex with.
Fate makes their path cross again and again, yet neither is able to find lasting solace with the other. They keep drifting apart and coming together, afraid of societal pressures yet driven by instincts. A novel which gives a glimpse into the difficulties of such closeted relationships in early 90s, this novel is worth exploring.
Memory of Light is set in the pre-independence era and tells the love story of the courtesan Chapla Bai and the poet Nafees Bai.
Smitten with each other, they both decide to spend their lives together and exchange love letters through poets. But Chapla Bai is from Kashi and Nafees Bai is from Lucknow, and they must return to their worlds sooner or later. And then comes the test for love. Set in a world where same sex relationships are not a taboo, this historical novel is a fresh take on love.
A Gift of Goddess Lakshmi is the biography of Manobi Bandopadhyay, the first third-gender person to be selected as the principal of a college in Bengal.
She lays it bare in this book where she begins her birth and upbringing as a boy and tells of her arduous journey of transitioning to a woman. She also recounts the struggle of her pursuing her academic interests and achieving this coveted position. This book is worth your time and should be read by all.
Same sex Love in India brings a large number of writings on same sex love from a long time period, multiple languages and various traditions.
It is a definitive guide that gives the reader a glimpse into the rich heritage of pride (not just) in Indian literature that has been produced – and consumed – in India over a long historical period. This collection was also a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award.
One of the few Indian YA novels dealing with the themes of homosexuality, Talking Of Muskaan is the story of Muskaan, as seen from the perspective of her three friends.
Muskaan is battling for her life after having attempted suicide because of pressures and rejections she has faced due to her sexuality. The three different narrative voices give three different perspectives to her story. A short yet poignant book, this is a book that should be read by young adults as well as their caregivers, and become the beginning point of meaningful conversations on the topic.