When one thinks of Pride Month, we understandably visualize the rainbow. But symbolism is only the tip of the iceberg. Through stories both fiction and nonfiction, we are able to best empathise with and see the nuances that shade the seven colours of the flag.
Celebrate Pride with our list of recommendations. Keep scrolling to find your perfect queer read!
I Am Onir and I Am Gay by Onir with Irene Dhar Malik
The award-winning filmmaker Onir, whose directorial debut, My Brother Nikhil (2005), broke new ground in LGBT representation on the Indian silver screen, opens up fully for the first time. From his childhood days in Bhutan to when he was a young man with no connections in the Hindi film industry who dreamt big and fought to carve a niche for himself, Onir takes the reader through his struggles and triumphs to offer an intimate glimpse of his fascinating journey to success.
I Am Onir and I Am Gay is a raw, eloquent and inspiring memoir about confronting and transcending frontiers. Written with his sister Irene Dhar Malik, this emotionally gritty and unabashedly honest personal story is a pathbreaking narrative of hope, love and the pursuit of dreams.
Hungry Humans by Karichan Kunju
This translation of the groundbreaking Tamil novel Pasitha Manidam, first published in 1978, offers deep insight into the conservative and caste-conscious temple town of Kumbakonam, viewed here with dispassionately cold clarity as a society that utterly fails its own.
Ganesan returns, after four decades, to the town of his childhood, filled with memories of love and loneliness, of youthful beauty and the ravages of age and misfortune, of the promise of talent and its slow destruction. Seeking treatment for leprosy, he must also come to terms with his past: his exploitation at the hands of older men, his growing consciousness of desire and his own sexual identity, his steady disavowal of Brahminical morality and his slowly degenerating body. Sudha G. Tilak deftly builds upon Karichan Kunju’s prose to expose this world, raw, real, without frills or artifice.
Tell Me How To Be by Neel Patel
Renu Amin always seemed perfect: doting husband, beautiful house, healthy sons. But as the one-year anniversary of her husband’s death approaches, Renu is binge-watching soap operas and simmering with old resentments. She can’t stop wondering if, thirty-five years ago, she chose the wrong life. In Los Angeles, her son, Akash, has everything he ever wanted, but as he tries to kickstart his songwriting career and commit to his boyfriend, he is haunted by the painful memories he fled a decade ago. When his mother tells him she is selling the family home, Akash returns to Illinois, hoping to finally say goodbye and move on.
By turns irreverent and tender, filled with the beats of ’90s R&B, Tell Me How to Be is about our earliest betrayals and the cost of reconciliation. But most of all, it is the love story of a mother and son each trying to figure out how to be in the world.
Eleven Ways To Love: Essays
People have been telling their love stories for thousands of years. It is the greatest common human experience. And yet, love stories coach us to believe that love is selective, somehow, that it can be boxed in and easily defined. This is a collection of eleven remarkable essays that widen the frame of reference: transgender romance; body image issues; race relations; disability; polyamory; class differences; queer love; long distance; caste; loneliness; the single life; the bad boy syndrome . . . and so much more.
Pieced together with a dash of poetry and a whole lot of love, featuring a multiplicity of voices and a cast of unlikely heroes and heroines, this is a book of essays that show us, with empathy, humour and wisdom, that there is no such thing as the love that dare not speak its name.
Shikhandi, and Other Tales They Don’t Tell You by Devdutt Pattanaik
Queerness isn’t only modern, Western or sexual, says mythologist Devdutt Pattanaik. From Shikhandi, who became a man to satisfy her wife; Mahadeva, who became a woman to deliver a devotee’s child; Chudala, who became a man to enlighten her husband; Samavan, who became the wife of his male friend and many more.
Playful and touching—and sometimes disturbing—these stories when compared with tales of the Mesopotamian Gilgamesh, the Greek Ganymede, the biblical Sodom or the Chinese ‘cut sleeve’ Emperor reveal the unique Indian way of making sense of queerness. Devdutt Pattanaik’s new book builds on profound ideas that our ancestors shared but which we have rarely inherited.
Red Lipstick: The Men in My Life by Laxmi Narayan Tripathi
The first inklings and stirrings of lust that Laxmi remembers came from noticing big, strong arms, the hint of a guy’s moustache over his lips, billboards that advertised men’s underwear. Laxmi found this puzzling initially. Was there a woman inside him who couldn’t really express herself because of some last-minute mix-up that god did at the time of his birth? Struggling with such existential questions, Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, eminent transgender activist, awakens to her true self: She is Laxmi, a hijra.
In this fascinating narrative Laxmi unravels her heart to tell the stories of the men-creators, preservers, lovers, benefactors, and abusers-in her life. Racy, unapologetic, dark and exceptionally honest, these stories open a window to a brave new world.
Besharam by Priya Alika Elias
Besharam is a book on young Indian women and how to be one, written from the author’s personal experience in several countries. It dissects the many things that were never explained to us and the immense expectations placed on us. It breaks down the taboos around sex and love and dating in a world that’s changing with extraordinary rapidity. Like an encyclopedia or a really good big sister, Besharam teaches young Indian women something that they almost never hear: it’s okay to put ourselves first and not feel guilty for it.
Part memoir, part manual, Besharam serves up ambitious feminism for the modern Indian woman.
A Gift of Goddess Lakshmi by Manobi Bandopadhyay
When a boy was born in the Bandhopadhyay family, all rejoiced. A son had been born after two girls and finally, the conservative father could boast about having sired a son. However, it wasn’t long before the little boy began to feel inadequate in his own body and began questioning his own identity: Why did he constantly feel like he was a girl even when he had male parts? Why was he attracted to boys in a way that girls are? What could he do to stop feeling so incomplete?
With unflinching honesty and deep understanding, Manobi tells the moving story of her transformation from a man to a woman; how she did not just define her own identity, but also inspired her entire community.
An Unsuitable Boy by Karan Johar
Karan Johar is synonymous with success, panache, quick wit, and outspokenness, which sometimes inadvertently creates controversy and makes headlines.
But who is the man behind the icon that we all know? Baring all for the first time in his autobiography, An Unsuitable Boy, KJo talks about the ever-changing face of Indian cinema, challenges and learnings, as well as friendships and rivalries in the industry.
Honest, heart-warming and insightful, An Unsuitable Boy is both the story of the life of an exceptional filmmaker at the peak of his powers and of an equally extraordinary human being who shows you how to survive and succeed in life.
Love Bi The Way by Bhaavna Arora
Rihana is a painter who is trying to find inspiration in love. Zara is a businesswoman trying to make a niche for her company in a male-dominated world. Rihana is fire, Zara is ice; Rihana is openly sensual, while Zara is more cautious with her heart-they are opposites that attract. They are different people bound together by their house, called Cupid, and their pet golden retriever, Tiger.
But Rihana finds herself a string of sexy men, while Zara emerges out of her shell and meets an actual prince who sweeps her off her feet. Can these relationships last? And what road will they take when love happens bi the way? As both of them navigate their fulfilling careers and try to leave behind troubled pasts, they find solace in each other.