Book Review: If You See Me, Don’t Say Hi

Book Review: If You See Me, Don’t Say HiIf You See Me, Don't Say Hi
by Neel Patel
on July 10, 2018
Pages: 224
Published by Flatiron Books
Genres: Fiction, LGBTQ, Multicultural, Short Stories
Goodreads

In these eleven sharp, surprising stories, Neel Patel gives voice to our most deeply held stereotypes and then slowly undermines them. His characters, almost all of who are first-generation Indian Americans, subvert our expectations that they will sit quietly by. We meet two brothers caught in an elaborate web of envy and loathing; a young gay man who becomes involved with an older man whose secret he could never guess; three women who almost gleefully throw off the pleasant agreeability society asks of them; and, in the final pair of linked stories, a young couple struggling against the devastating force of community gossip.

If You See Me, Don't Say Hi examines the collisions of old world and new world, small town and big city, traditional beliefs (like arranged marriage) and modern rituals (like Facebook stalking). The men and women in these stories are full of passion, regret, envy, anger, and yearning. They fall in love with the wrong people and betray one another and deal with the accumulation of years of subtle racism. They are utterly compelling. Ranging across the country, Patel’s stories -- empathetic, provocative, twisting, and wryly funny -- introduce a bold new literary voice, one that feels more timely than ever.

My Takeaway Up until around a year ago, I was not a huge fan of short story collections — they’re growing on me though. And when you read a collection such as, If You See Me, Don’t Say Hi you begin to truly appreciate short stories…

Book Review: America for Beginners

Book Review: America for BeginnersAmerica for Beginners
by Leah Franqui
on July 24, 2018
Pages: 320
Published by William Morrow
Genres: Diverse Spines, LGBTQ, Literary Fiction, Multicultural
Goodreads

Pival Sengupta has done something she never expected: she has booked a trip with the First Class India USA Destination Vacation Tour Company. But unlike other upper-class Indians on a foreign holiday, the recently widowed Pival is not interested in sightseeing. She is traveling thousands of miles from Kolkota to New York on a cross-country journey to California, where she hopes to uncover the truth about her beloved son, Rahi. A year ago Rahi devastated his very traditional parents when he told them he was gay. Then, Pival’s husband, Ram, told her that their son had died suddenly—heartbreaking news she still refuses to accept. Now, with Ram gone, she is going to America to find Rahi, alive and whole or dead and gone, and come to terms with her own life.

Arriving in New York, the tour proves to be more complicated than anticipated. Planned by the company’s indefatigable owner, Ronnie Munshi—a hard-working immigrant and entrepreneur hungry for his own taste of the American dream—it is a work of haphazard improvisation. Pival’s guide is the company’s new hire, the guileless and wonderfully resourceful Satya, who has been in America for one year—and has never actually left the five boroughs. For modesty’s sake, Pival and Satya will be accompanied by Rebecca Elliot, an aspiring young actress. Eager for a paying gig, she’s along for the ride, because how hard can a two-week "working" vacation traveling across America be?

Slowly making her way from coast to coast with her unlikely companions, Pival finds that her understanding of her son—and her hopes of a reunion with him—are challenged by her growing knowledge of his adoptive country. As the bonds between this odd trio deepens, Pavil, Satya, and Rebecca learn to see America—and themselves—in different and profound new ways.

My Takeaway “My mother is the reason that I love you, Bhim said simply. She is the reason I know what love is.” Leah Franqui, America for Beginners America for Beginners was a wonderful, quirky and heartwarming novel. And can we just admire the gorgeous book cover for…

Book Review: A Cup of Water Under My Bed

Book Review: A Cup of Water Under My BedA Cup of Water Under My Bed: A Memoir
by Daisy Hernandez
on September 9th 2014
Pages: 185
Published by Beacon Press
Genres: LGBTQ, Memoir, Non-Fiction, Short Stories
Goodreads

A coming-of-age memoir by a Colombian-Cuban woman about shaping lessons from home into a new, queer life  In this lyrical, coming-of-age memoir, Daisy Hernández chronicles what the women in her Cuban-Colombian family taught her about love, money, and race. Her mother warns her about envidia and men who seduce you with pastries, while one tía bemoans that her niece is turning out to be “una india” instead of an American. Another auntie instructs that when two people are close, they are bound to become like uña y mugre, fingernails and dirt, and that no, Daisy’s father is not godless. He’s simply praying to a candy dish that can be traced back to Africa. 

These lessons—rooted in women’s experiences of migration, colonization, y cariño—define in evocative detail what it means to grow up female in an immigrant home. In one story, Daisy sets out to defy the dictates of race and class that preoccupy her mother and tías, but dating women and transmen, and coming to identify as bisexual, leads her to unexpected questions. In another piece, NAFTA shuts local factories in her hometown on the outskirts of New York City, and she begins translating unemployment forms for her parents, moving between English and Spanish, as well as private and collective fears. In prose that is both memoir and commentary, Daisy reflects on reporting for the New York Times as the paper is rocked by the biggest plagiarism scandal in its history and plunged into debates about the role of race in the newsroom.

A heartfelt exploration of family, identity, and language, A Cup of Water Under My Bed is ultimately a daughter’s story of finding herself and her community, and of creating a new, queer life.

My Takeaway “Generally speaking, gay people come out of the closet, straight people walk around the closet, and bisexuals have to be told to look for the closet. We are too preoccupied with shifting.” Daisy Hernández, A Cup of Water Under My Bed A Cup of Water Under My…

Book Review: The 57 Bus

Book Review: The 57 BusThe 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime That Changed Their Lives
by Dashka Slater
on October 17th 2017
Pages: 320
Published by Farrar Straus Giroux
Genres: LGBTQ, Non-Fiction, Young Adult
Goodreads

One teenager in a skirt. One teenager with a lighter. One moment that changes both of their lives forever.

If it weren't for the 57 bus, Sasha and Richard never would have met. Both were high school students from Oakland, California, one of the most diverse cities in the country, but they inhabited different worlds. Sasha, a white teen, lived in the middle-class foothills and attended a small private school. Richard, a black teen, lived in the crime-plagued flatlands and attended a large public one. Each day, their paths overlapped for a mere eight minutes. But one afternoon on the bus ride home from school, a single reckless act left Sasha severely burned, and Richard charged with two hate crimes and facing life imprisonment. The case garnered international attention, thrusting both teenagers into the spotlight.

My Takeaway “Never let your obstacles become more important than your goal.” Dashka Slater, The 57 Bus Sasha, a white agender (identifies as neither male nor female) was a high school student riding the 57 Bus, when Richard, a black teen from a different school, set Sasha’s skirt…

Book Review: Marriage of a Thousand Lies

Book Review: Marriage of a Thousand LiesMarriage of a Thousand Lies
by S.J. Sindu
on June 13th 2017
Pages: 288
Published by Soho Press
Genres: Fiction, LGBTQ, Multicultural
Goodreads

Lucky and her husband, Krishna, are gay. They present an illusion of marital bliss to their conservative Sri Lankan–American families, while each dates on the side. It’s not ideal, but for Lucky, it seems to be working. She goes out dancing, she drinks a bit, she makes ends meet by doing digital art on commission. But when Lucky’s grandmother has a nasty fall, Lucky returns to her childhood home and unexpectedly reconnects with her former best friend and first lover, Nisha, who is preparing for her own arranged wedding with a man she’s never met.

As the connection between the two women is rekindled, Lucky tries to save Nisha from entering a marriage based on a lie. But does Nisha really want to be saved? And after a decade’s worth of lying, can Lucky break free of her own circumstances and build a new life? Is she willing to walk away from all that she values about her parents and community to live in a new truth? As Lucky—an outsider no matter what choices she makes—is pushed to the breaking point, Marriage of a Thousand Lies offers a vivid exploration of a life lived at a complex intersection of race, sexuality, and nationality. The result is a profoundly American debut novel shot through with humor and loss, a story of love, family, and the truths that define us all.

My Takeaway  “Let me tell you something about being brown like me: your story is already written for you. Your free will, your love, your failure, all of it scratched into the cosmos before you’re ever born. My mother calls it fate, the story written on your…