One of the best ways to know more about the LGBTQIA+ community is to read books about them. When you involve yourself in understanding their worldview, you become a better ally. So, here’s a list of books on and by the LGBTQIA+ community of India that will widen your horizon. Their stories, too, are worth talking about.
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The Exiles tells the story of love and loss between three people – A wife, a husband, and his lover. What’s beautiful about this book is that the reader gets to know each one’s perspective on how their relationships turn out to be. The story is set in three different places – Kenya, India, and finally, LA. The characters promise an emotional ride; something that the author has intentionally done. You will learn more about a person’s desires, and the world they build around them. What one views as tragic, other views as an escape.
Loving Women captures the stories of ten working-class women living in North India. We all have a stereotypical, Westernised image of a lesbian. Maya breaks that myth and shows us the ground reality. She talks about different narratives of people who come with no strand of privilege. With the hope to include all lesbian women in the women’s movement, Maya attempts to tell a story that has never been acknowledged.
Amruta Patil, a graphic novelist, gives us a beautiful piece of art with her book, Kari. The story is helmed by a lesbian protagonist, Kari, who shows what it means to live as a homosexual in a highly heterosexual environment. We see Kari living a life of internal turmoil as she navigates her world through the one set by society. Kari’s longing to be with the love of her life, Ruth, and the heterosexual experiences that choke the life out of her is what this graphic novel explores.
The Truth About Me is an autobiography of A. Revathi, a transsexual woman who is an activist for the Hijra community. Revathi was assigned a male gender at birth, but she never associated with it. Growing up, she was constantly bullied for her feminine nature, which eventually forced her to leave home. She became a part of the Hijra community and resorted to sex work to make a living. The Truth About Me is the story of her fight for the rights of trans people, and the hardships she had to go through to survive as a transsexual woman.
Siddharth and Sudhir meet for the first time in a room in Pune’s Engineering College Hostel. They soon build a tight-knit friendship that changes their lives forever. While you may think that this is a very typical homosexual romantic novel, it explores a lot more about living the homosexual life. It’s funny, witty, and does not shy away from the truth.
Anirvan is a young student who is a part of an elite boarding school run by a Hindu monastic order. He aspires to live a life of a monk but finds himself attracted to another student. Living in a strict atmosphere where discipline overrules everything, Anirvan is torn between worlds. The harsh life around him, the world within the four walls of the monastery, and his notion of love together form a whirlwind of emotions. The Scent of God speaks of emotions and reality.
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What does it mean to be Queer and Muslim? Samra explores this intersectionality in her memoir. Her story of questioning norms and trying to find her true identity will make you want to read this book.
Trying to Grow is Firdaus’s first novel. It tells the story of Daryus Kotwal (aka Brit) who is born with osteogenesis imperfecta that leaves him dependent on a wheelchair. Surrounded by an overprotective family, Brit tries to find his own voice in the chaos. We also see his love life culminate over the chapters where he finds himself confused between his neighbour Cyrus, and his girlfriend Amy. Disability and sexuality are the two overarching topics explored. We see it through the eyes of Brit who discovers his own sexuality, his ambitions while living with a disability.
Indra’s The Devourers takes place in contemporary Kolkata. A stranger who claims he is ‘Half-warewolf’ requests the protagonist Alok, a History professor, to transcribe a series of manuscripts. Mesmerised by the stranger’s bizarre request, Alok takes up the work. The novel delves into a story written in the manuscripts. It talks about two people, a werewolf named Fenrir and a young woman named Cyrah. Before you read this novel, mind you, it is full of ‘ethical confrontations’ and you will question the protagonist’s and Fenrir’s actions throughout the novel. It isn’t for the weak-hearted, but it is one that will keep you engaged throughout.
So Now You Know is a 150-page beautiful memoir of growing up gay in ’90s Mumbai. Reading this book will make you feel like Tejuja is narrating a breezy story to you. Vivek Tejuja grew up in a time where Chat Rooms were the talk of the town. In an interview, Tejuja shared, “Growing up in the ’90s was an alienating experience. You’d either be categorised as pansy or be constantly bullied. Acceptance was a word that didn’t exist for the queer in those years.” Gay clubs and dating apps were unknown concepts back then. It is in this era, Tejuja had to hold on to his identity as he navigated through the heteronormativity around him. This memoir is as honest as it can get.
Here’s our list of LGBTQIA+ books that you must read. If you have any suggestions, let us know in the comments below. Also, let us know your favourite LGBTQIA+ books you’ve read so far.