Welcome to this edition of The Hindu on Books Newsletter.
In August 2020, Mark Gevisser published his book, The pink line (HarperCollins), which follows protagonists from nine countries around the world, including India, to tell how LGBT rights have become one of the new frontiers of human rights around the world. His first trip was to India in 2012, when Section 377 was still relevant, he discovered that the campaign to decriminalize homosexuality had changed society in many ways. He recalls interacting with “LGBT affinity groups”, attending pride marches and meeting gay figures in India’s entertainment industry, all “a marker of modernity, to be part of the global village”. Gevisser has returned to India several times and followed how the debate has shifted towards transgender rights. He begins the book in India, and ends it there too: “telling the story of an amazing group of third-gender people Kothis in a fishing village in Tamil Nadu – struggling to be true to themselves while staying within their family and community. But as Gevisser and other women’s rights columnists have written, as same-sex marriage and gender transition are now celebrated in some parts of the world, laws criminalizing homosexuality and gender nonconformity have been reinforced in others. This makes it a great opportunity to read a variety of books, both fiction and non-fiction, on issues of sexuality and gender identity throughout Pride Month, and throughout the year. also. Don’t miss anything about the Vietnamese-American poet and writer Ocean Vuong ( On Earth, we are briefly beautiful) or Marie Renault ( The Persian Boy); the poignant autobiographical fiction of Booker Prize winner Douglas Stuart ( Shuggie bath and Young Mungo) to name just a handful. Penguin released filmmaker Onir’s memoir this month, I am Onir and I am gayincluding the first film My brother Nikhil broke new ground in LGBT representation in films. Aniruddha Mahale Get Out: The Gay Man’s Guide to Getting Out and Dating (Harper) is also coming out this week – it traces the long journey of gay men in India.
In the journals, there were the political memoirs of Gita Ramaswamy, a pair of graphic tales that deliver pointed commentary on the times, two Tamil classics made accessible to a wider readership through superb translations and more.
Books of the week
At Gita Ramaswamy’s Earth Weapon Caste Woman (Navayana) is the story of a Tamil Brahmin woman who strives to rid herself of the privileges of her caste and rebels against its oppression throughout her life. It is the story of an educated, middle-class intellectual who becomes absorbed in the Naxalite movement during the emergency, only to discover that “the possibility of democratic functioning in such a deeply hierarchical party was bleak.” In her review, Meena Kandasamy says it’s the story of an empowered woman deeply uncomfortable with the blind, Anglo-centric approaches of 1980s feminist groups. “But at the heart of the book is the most important story of all: its decade-long association with the historic and successful wage struggle waged by the landless Dalits of Ibrahimpatnam.” Kandasamy writes that memoirs “avoid all trace of docility; it’s a fierce critique of what’s wrong with the Indian left, what ails the justice system and why the poor can’t get justice. It’s a celebration of how grassroots organizing and struggle can change the status quo. Engaging in his work, reflecting on these stories will also provide the necessary course correction for the politics of resistance today.
At Gita Ramaswamy’s Earth Weapon Caste Woman review: Voice of a Revolutionary
Two recently released volumes – Longform 2022: a collection of graphic storiesedited by Pinaki De, Debkumar Mitra, Sarbajit Sen and Sekhar Mukherjee (Penguin) and Panchali: the dice game, by Sibaji Bandyopadhyay, illustrated by Sankha Banerjee (Penguin) – deliver a pointed commentary on the era although the stories they tell are very different. In his review, Jaideep Unudurti says Panchali, an adaptation of the mahabharata, is full of visual inventiveness, like a jewel-encrusted foot descending down a page or rhinos fleeing a burning forest. The graphic stories in Long Form 2022 take into consideration the pandemic trauma of the past two years, but the editors point out in the introduction that these are also “times when artists bring out the best in themselves”. Contemporary upheavals inspire a “rich tapestry” of graphic narratives by Indian and foreign artists and writers in Long form 2022.
review of Panchali: the dice game & Long Form 2022: Imagining the apocalypse
by Kalki Partiban Kanavupublished in the 1940s and considered to be one of the first historical novels in Tamil, was translated into English by Nandini Vijayaraghavan ( The Dream of Parthiban, Ratna Books). Meeran’s stories (Ratna Books), by Thoppil Mohammed Meeran, translated by Prabha Sridevan, is a contemporary classic. Both are now accessible to a wider audience through superb translations, says reviewer Hema Ramanathan. Whereas Parthiban’s Dream is a swashbuckling story of a young prince keeping alive his father’s dream of establishing a glorious kingdom, the 18 short stories in Meeran’s stories were selected from three anthologies and showcase the range and sensibility of award-winning Sahitya Akademi. Both of these books, says the reviewer, are must-reads.
review of Parthiban’s Dream & Meeran’s stories: The prince and the poor
Moshe Bar | Photo credit: R Rajesh
In his latest book, Mindwandering: How It Can Improve Your Mood and Boost Your Creativity, Moshe Bar, an award-winning neuroscientist, writes about the fuzzy mind. In an interview with Divya Gandhi, he says that everything familiar should not be overlooked and the noisy brain can be harnessed to enhance creative thinking. “Some things, like the stories your daughter brings home from kindergarten, or a beautiful flower, deserve our full attention every time we meet.” When asked if there were evolutionary benefits to mind wandering, he replied, “Yes. Simply put, there is good mind wandering and there is bad mind wandering. I strongly recommend periods of free mental wandering, without the guilt that modern society so often associates with it. Mind wandering can be a total waste of time, or a source of creativity and exploration, and it all depends on our state of mind.
Neuroscientist Moshe Bar’s New Book Explains How We Can Harness Our Loud, Fuzzy Brains
Rajiv Dogra, a former ambassador, takes readers on a journey through the future battlefields of the world and presents a geopolitical argument on the great powers and their choices. It examines questions like whether a nuclear war is imminent or whether there will be many small battles before a big war in Wartime: the world in danger (Rupa).
At a time when trust and truth are hard to come by and public figures blatantly deceive us by abusing what looks like evidence, Frederick Shauer, a legal theorist, offers correctives, building on centuries of inquiry into the nature of evidence in Evidence: Uses of Evidence in Law, Politics, and Everything Else (Harvard University Press/Harper).
In more than 15 fascinating stories, The King Who Turned into a Serpent and Other Fascinating Stories from Indian Mythology (Hachette) by Sudha Madhavan takes young readers to the kingdoms, courts, palaces and battlefields of the glorious kings who shaped our epics and legends.
Gurdev is among a group of refugees traveling to eastern Pakistan after Priya Hajela’s partition Tailor for ladies (Harper). Like everyone around him, he struggles to survive in a world where so much has changed. Will Gourdev be successful in his new women’s clothing business?