Last month I met with Chitra
for a L Word Night. Now I haven't watched the show before that night, but no one needs to know that. Anyway thanks to that night and Chitra, I left with three books all with queer themes, two from India and one from Lebanon.
Bareed Mista3jil is a collection with writing from lesbian, bisexual and trans women from Lebanon. There are a lot of stories, I'm not sure if I should call them stories even though it is difficult to tell with ones were based on lived experiences, or which ones were fiction. Not that I think that matters, because I took all the writing in Bareed Mista3jil as non-fiction. The writing covers a variety of themes, coming out, religion, family, community, class etc.
Close, Too Close is an anthology of queer erotica from South Asia. I loved all the stories in this anthology more or less equally (though I'll make an exception for that story with the oral sex scene in a morgue :S) but my favourite were "The Marriage of Somavat and Sumedha" by Devdutt Pattanaik, "The Half Day" by Daobi, "Perfume" by D'Lo, "Dreams and Desire in Srinagar" by Michael Malik and "Pity that Blush" by Annie Dykstra.
"The Marriage of Somavat and Sumedha" is a sweet story about two orphans who grew together as best friends Somavat and Sumedha. They come up with a plan to disguise as a bride and groom in order to get a cow from the queen of Vallabhi who gives cows to newly married couples because they want to get brides themselves. On their way back home, they go to a cave and basically have sex. It turned weird when the paragraph written from the cow's perspective came up. But that's what makes the story awesome, there was the cow and the forest goddess Aranyani who do their part in creating this seductive atmosphere around Somavat and Sumedha, they watch as the friends cross that line. It was a sweet (and obviously hot) read.
As for "The Half Day", I mean it has food and at the end of the story is a recipe for rajma chawal (the Punjabi way) which I now have to try sometime in the future. It's about Mannat's half day Saturday, while she's cooking rajma chawal she remembers that she doesn't have dahi and runs to the cornershop to get some when she bumps into a one-night stand whose name she's forgotten. Anyway the one-night stand, Manpreet comes knocking at Mannat's door later that night, not to cause a scene from Mannat forgetting her name but because "bitches get me wet". I've read that one a couple of times.
"Dreams and Desire in Srinagar" by Michael Malik is an interesting one, about a gay man visiting Srinagar to see Mahmood, his lover but also Shahid a young man who he met when he first went to Srinagar. There may be some desire between Shahid and our narrator but the young man is straight, that doesn't stop our narrator from dreaming about this desire. Ugh there were so many good stories, the one about the woman who couldn't have sex without drinking alcohol and her girlfriend's frustration with this, or Chicu's "Soliloquy". I have to check out these writers to see if what else they've written.
Then there was Facing the Mirror edited by Ashwini Shukthankar, very similar to Bareed Mista3jil, in that it is another collection of writing from lesbian and trans women. I usually take the books I'm reading around with me, so that I can read them when there's a free moment at work or elsewhere. Anyway I didn't realise until a colleague was staring strangely at the book on my desk and then giving me looks that there was "Lesbian Writing from India" boldly written on the cover of this book. (She later went on to make a "joke" about how lesbian masseuses must enjoy their job).
I admittedly skipped a few stories here, it'll be a good anthology to have in my library so that I can return to it but sadly this isn't my copy. From the stories I read (I skipped the poems), the three that stood out were "The Letter" by Kanchana Natajaran, "Yo no soy Mexicana...!" by Extranjero and Lesbians in Indian Texts and Contexts by Mina Kumar. The latter is more of an essay that I particulary liked it for the historical analysis and Extranjero's story...well it has an interracial relationship between the protagonist (who is Indian, speaks Spanish and gets called Mexican a lot) and the (Black) woman who cuts her hair, I can't remember any names from this story. As for "The Letter", a woman receives a letter from her former lover asking her to run away with her, and through flashback we get to know how they met as neighbours and how they separated.
I remember going through several books last month, and it took me a while to do a mental inventory. I have been reading Cara d'Bastian's urban fiction series set in Singapore. I stopped after the third volume because there's only two more left and I need to know if there'll be more before continuing. I don't want to catch up and then be stuck waiting. I am now reading D.O. Fagunwa's "Forest of a Thousand Daemons" and have a lot to say on Yoruba hunter sagas but that's another post for another day.