Anything can be funny

Review and spoiler alert for Wow, No Thank You by Samantha Irby.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book. I have not read their other works and didn’t really know what these essays were about. I never expected to have so much in common with Samantha Irby! (I am obviously very flattered). I never thought I would find so much solace in finding a piece of me in this incredibly witty book. But I do and I did. This book is hilarious, I was straight up laughing – real laughing, not just a puff of air. The humor is unexpected and delightful. From the dedication to the acknowledgment, the jokes are non-stop. Some are subtle, just casually strewn in and some quiet elaborate.

This review is not humorous because I am just not a funny person. I like to think I have a good sense of humor but I can’t tell a joke to save my life. Below you will find some serious talk about underlying themes, topics and issues talked about in the book. Don’t get me wrong, I thought the author did a great job with how they tackled chronic health issues, racism and poverty as funnily and poignantly as they did.

It was a very nice change of pace to read about some very serious issues in a dark-humor setting. I learned a lot, laughed even more and cried a little bit. If that doesn’t make a great book, I don’t know what does.

Here’s the thing, I did not grow up poor. Neither was I rich. I grew up in a very typically average middle class family in a third world country. I don’t claim to know the struggles of being an orphan or poor or black in America. That’s not what this is about. My childhood was traumatic, I am fat, I have a chronic illness and extreme anxiety. These are some overarching themes in the book that made me feel seen. This is what representation should look and feel like.

Maybe I am naïve to think everything in the essays is real, I am pretty sure it is – it doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, someone out there (someone as brilliant as Samantha Irby no less) has had these thoughts and feelings even if it is just a part of their imagination. I am not questioning their experiences or claiming they are untrue – I am just saying for me, it doesn’t matter. I am able to relate and appreciate either way.

Let’s talk about some of my favorite essays. If you are short on time but want to read some, these are the essays I would strongly recommend.

Hung up! – from casual straight people racism to gun-toting maga idiots. Honestly, I had not realized how much casual racism exists in American culture and have only recently been educating myself. From nonchalant talk of ‘ghettos’ to curly hair unprofessionalism; from being denied AirBnB reservations to white women marveling at the fact that you can read (in my case, people seem fascinated with how well I speak English. Do you know India was ruled by the British for over two centuries? Like we don’t go to school on elephants). Going from that to scary fascists who might shoot you just for existing.

I was going to say Love and Marriage but since I am picking my favorites, I am going to have to go with Are you familiar with my work? – This is one had me in splits. I am sure it is flattering to be confused with Roxane Gay but pretty sure that would get old real fast.

My absolute favorite is A guide to simple home repairs. I don’t own a home, never have and never will. I refuse to buy real estate for many reasons. Mainly, I would feel nailed down, caged sort of. I prefer being able to up and move to another country as easily as possible, if I wanted to. However, I didn’t even know half the things that goes into owning a home. I am going to print this essay out (credited of course) and give it to people who seem entitled to give me their constant advice about real estate.

Hello, 911? This essay is pretty much my anxiety in written form. There are some different ways that I particularly experience anxiety. Yes, I do the thing where I imagine the worst possible outcome for every situation – but I also continue to validate this when one of those outcomes is true. I mean, it is just simple probability. If I imagined everything that could go wrong, some of it will go wrong at some point. I am learning to unlearn this terrible habit. Most of my day is spent in a flight, fight or freeze state. I am not only constantly second guessing myself but when I do experience moments of self-confidence and do something, I end up obsessing over it for hours. This spike in adrenaline is associated with panic attacks and this is why I just can’t get on rollercoasters or watch scary movies or river rafting – it’s just not fun for me. I am conditioned to or rather, I have conditioned myself to this association. Second hand anxiety is a real thing. I do get anxious for the protagonists in movies or TV shows, for strangers on the road, for fictional characters in books. It definitely is exhausting.

Oh also, I did get this book from the library but I intend on gifting it to one of my friends! I am so glad I stumbled upon this book. I thoroughly enjoyed myself! Have you read anything by Samantha Irby? Are you going to? Let me know!

Of Juxtapositions and Oxymorons

Photo by dylan nolte on Unsplash

Book Review for The Doctor and the Saint: Caste, Race, and Annihilation of Caste by Arundhati Roy and Tales of Nevèrÿon by Samuel R Delaney. As usual, spoiler alert in place for both of these books. If you intend on reading either of the books, stop here, bookmark this page and come back when you are done.

This review is NOT intended to compare the two extremely distinct authors nor the books. This review is my point of view, my thoughts and my opinions alone. You are welcome to click off if anything seems not to your liking.

Background on why these books and why in this combination. A few years ago, I realized that my reading habits were exclusively housed in the fantasy genre and more so in the YA fantasy genre. I decided that it was time to expand my bookshelf. Ever since, I have been trying to incorporate different genres, authors, countries and eras. It was one of the best decisions of my life. I have learned so much and I can feel my brain expanding covering up some of my blind spots that I would never have had otherwise.

It isn’t easy, however, to branch out of your comfort zone and commit to reading a book that you probably will have no interest in. Luckily, I know myself pretty well and am able to pick out books I know I want to learn from or is a topic I care about. I have had a few duds on the way (looking at you The King of Kahel) but for the most part I have really enjoyed this journey.

I try to pick a book I really want to and a book I really should, to read simultaneously. This way if one of them is not really doing it for me, I can take a break with the other one. It is also fun reading different styles of writing and storytelling at the same time.

Never before have I read two books that are stark contrasts yet vaguely related. I also did not expect to enjoy Delany as much as I did or be disappointed in Roy as much as I was. It was fascinating reading these two books together though. Social commentary hasn’t changed much in the past few decades probably because the world seems to be going backwards rather than becoming more tolerant.

I enjoy Roy’s works – a lot. I devoured The Ministry of Utmost Happiness and can’t get The God of Small Things out of my head even after all these years. I have heard very good things about her non-fiction narrative works. I was very excited to read The Doctor and the Saint. Perhaps my expectations were misplaced, I was hoping for a logical comparison of India’s two greatest leaders during the Freedom movement. Both had very distinct styles of rebellion, different causes and fundamentally different ideologies. Obviously, neither of them are perfect and depending on who you ask, they are going to pick a side. I was prepared for a somewhat biased discourse. Instead, what I got was an all out attack on the Saint and next to no analysis on the Doctor. Don’t get me wrong – my loyalties lie with the Doctor just as Roy. However, I was hoping for an in-depth analysis of how their ideologies affected the Freedom Movement, the impact of their involvement and how it shaped Independent India.

To say I was disappointed is an understatement.

Delaney however, absolutely blew my mind. Something about their writing style is so captivating; I was mesmerized by the world building, invested in the characters all the while very acutely aware of the social commentary. The story telling is amazing and the writer successfully brings all the stories into a full circle – which is no easy feat considering each story is a different part of the world and a different set of characters. At no point does it feel preachy and the commentary is so effortlessly woven into the story telling that it doesn’t feel jarring at all.

It was an absolute pleasure reading my first ever Delaney and you bet I am going to get my hands on some of their other works.

Queer Desi: Out of Line and Offline

SPOILER ALERT: This book is not really a plot based novel, it is a collection of interviews and stories. I am placing this spoiler alert anyway because I will be discussing some aspects of the stories presented. This is a book review for Out of Line and Offline: Queer Mobilizations in ’90s Eastern India by Pawan Dhall.

I have been woefully negligent in my research and own education of the queer movement in India. I would like to fix my blind spots and am actively finding books on the topic of Queer Movement, Gender Identities, LGBTQ+ as defined and existing in Indian History and Mythology. I would like to call these series of books and movie reviews as ‘Queer Desi’.

In the last few years, I have started to come to terms with my own sexuality and identity, what those words mean to me and how I view myself in the spectrum of lgbtq identities. I have always known I was different and didn’t fit in the romantic spectrum and gender norms in place in the Indian society. I was assigned woman at birth and I do identify as a woman however, I was never at home with what was defined as a ‘woman’ in the Indian society. The contradictions made no sense to my hyper logical brain. I was either too fat, too fair, too loud, too stubborn, too complacent, too dependent, too independent, too smart, not smart enough, too strong, too weak, too inquisitive or not enough. I always somehow seemed to miss the mark of what makes a woman. To add to the confusion, my romantic interests were both traditional and not at the same time.

My parents did everything they could to provide my brother and I equal opportunities, they treated us equally and tried to never discriminate based on our genders. However, what your parents want for you can only exist within the four walls of your house. Living in a community culture where family includes everyone from your first cousins to fifth or sixth based on geological proximity, parents lose a large amount of autonomy on how they raise their children. And of course the societal pressure to raise a ‘woman’ and a ‘man’ to fit the definition as imposed by the so called ‘Indian culture’ has it’s own set of problems.

Anyway, I digress. Out of Line and Offline is the first book I have read about anything relating to Queer movement and culture in India. I don’t have anything else to compare it to but I don’t think that matters. Let me discuss the wonderful aspects of the book first.

Why You Should Read this Book

I would like to applaud the author for doing a wonderful job of inclusion in this set of interviews and stories. There are multiple perspectives packed within this 150-page book, I was blown away by the diversity and range of folks included. I grew up in the 90s and 2000s in India. Although, I was pre-pubescent in the 90s and hadn’t a notion of my identity in the 2000s I do remember several political and cultural movements during the time. I remember the HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns and ads, I have my encounters with several Hijra communities (despite being told in no uncertain words to stay away by my family) and was exposed to a very subconscious understanding of the queer movement. BUT I had no idea the cultural changes and impacts of queer communities fighting for visibility during that era.

The author goes back down their memory lane to people they met during their time at Counsel Club, their interactions and the work that they have done over the years. They have painted a vivid picture of that time and welcomed us into their literary Pensieve (- Harry Potter reference) that I was able to imagine these moments. The writing takes you back to your own experiences as well without alienating you from the story at hand. I really appreciated the clarity of the author on page one explaining what to expect from the book. They clearly state that the book is not going to delve into the reason why a queer movement started in India and that set the tone of the book very nicely.

The recollections and interviews are genuine, profound and authentic in a way that is very difficult to capture. Pawan Dhall has successfully captured the nostalgia and soul of what they were trying to convey. The educational information on various CBOs and NGOs that existed in the 90s and 2000s is invaluable, even if some of them no longer exist. It is important to document the contributions of all communities that have helped us to get where we are today.

Pawan Dhall does not simply talk about the good times. This is what made this book such an eye opening and interesting read. They document the failures, limitations and gaps that existed in the time these movements were being spear headed. They explore the caste issues within the movement and acknowledge the privilege or lack thereof among activists and allies in the queer movements. There is no judgement in the author’s tone and he provides some very interesting questions for the reader to ponder over.

The book Out of Line and Offline is a beautiful piece of work that balances the good, the bad and everything in between wonderfully. There are several sentences and stories that may seem casually written but the depth and meaning behind them is endless. It does a great job of keeping the topic at hand centered and clear. I also really appreciated the scope of the book – it didn’t lose itself trying to cover movements all over the nation (though there are mentions of them obviously).

For my first venture into literary queer culture and movement in India, this was a wonderful introduction. The book is chockfull of references and further readings which is very helpful for someone like me.

Why You Should Avoid this Book

You should NOT. There is no reason. Read this book. It is only 150-pages and just by reading this book, educating yourself on the goings on of queer movements in India, you are contributing yourself. Step one is educating yourself.

Could Anything be Better in the Book? Yes, I thought it was bit jarring when the author jumps stories and interviews. Perhaps it was an artistic or story telling choice, I personally felt it could have been edited differently. Not at all a deterrer by any means. One other thing that did bother me, though it could just be the print I have, but there are a few places where pictures are inserted halfway through a sentence. I love the pictures, I just wish they had been strategically placed at the end of paragraphs though.

My Own Experience

In the late 2000s and early 2010s, I started to be exposed to and understand the terms and aspects of the LGBTQ+ community. I was deeply moved by (in my opinion) Queer Queen Falguni Pathak. I didn’t have the terms ‘gay’ or ‘lesbian’ (I do not identify as either) in my vocabulary but I knew that Falguni Pathak showed to me a way of being a woman that I had not known was possible. Her little love stories though supposedly heteronormative always put center stage on the relationship between her and the heroine. The guy seemed like an after-thought, either showing up almost at the end of the video or just appearing for a few minutes (if even). The position Falguni Pathak placed herself in these videos was that of a silent friend who always had your back, constantly available to provide advice and support, edging the heroine towards a more socially accepted relationship all while she herself quietly endures the pangs of unrequited love with a smile. This obviously is what my teenage queer brain interpreted at the time. I related to Falguni Pathak on so many levels.

I wish I had known about some of these CBOs and NGOs as I was growing up, perhaps the pain and loneliness could have been elevated in some respect. But now, being actively a part of the LGBTQ+ community, interacting with some wonderful people I have met and being a resource myself, I would like to think elevates that pain and loneliness I had felt in the past.

Have you read the book? Are you going to read the book? Let me know! The artwork featured here is my own, feel free to check out my Instagram for more.

The OG Emo

SPOILER ALERT: Spoiler Alert in place for The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Do classics need spoiler alerts?

I am a sucker for star crossed lovers and romantic era stories. I thoroughly enjoy the classics. Wuthering Heights is my all time favorite novel very closely followed by Little Women. Frankenstein was chilling and Dracula genuinely scared me. Three of the four books I just mentioned were written by women and maybe I am biased. Werther is not going to make my list of top ten and least of its problems is the misogyny. It may be obvious to point out that a novel written in the late 1770s is misogynistic but I feel a need to mention it to maintain a holistic review.

I really enjoyed Goethe’s writing style, I am definitely open to reading other books by him. I wasn’t too upset by the plot either. Considering it was the first of its kind, the plot has been very well paced and comes along quiet well. What I didn’t enjoy is the character of Werther himself. The first half Werther is at least tolerable but the second half Werther is insufferable. He is nothing but a creepy, whiny stalker. His infatuation with Lotte is sudden and obsessive. Though Lotte’s personality and beauty are described in great detail, she comes across as nothing but ditzy. Albert is there.

I liked the descriptions of nature – the linden trees, the mountains, the suicidal ideation but was put off by all the Christianity. I was impressed by the observations of class behaviors especially because it was written in a time before class was even a thing. Werther’s isolation makes you sympathetic until he starts ranting about how all the people around him are foolish. He seemed extremely pretentious for someone with a low self-esteem. His suicidal ideation is very characteristic of the Romantic era and I think the Werther mania that followed the publication of the book emerged from this ideation.

To summarize – Albert is no Edgar, Lotte is no Cathy and Werther is no Heathcliff.

Fat is not a bad word

Spoiler Alert: This is a review for Roxane Gay’s Hunger. There may be spoilers.

A lot has been said about Roxane Gay’s memoir, a lot of praise and a lot of acclaim. All of it is more than justified. I have been a huge fan of her writing since I read Bad Feminist. Hunger is on an entirely different level. Her writing is raw, you feel her pain and her journey. It makes you uncomfortable, sad, empathetic, empowered and also vulnerable all at the same time.

One of the most important things I think the book deals with is the result of trauma over several years. We always hear about these ‘success’ stories – how so and so went through this horrible event and are now healthy, how they survived and put the past behind them. We hear about the immediate effects of trauma. We rarely hear about how trauma breaks you, the very different destructive ways that it effects you. We rarely talk about trauma being carried into adulthood, being triggered several years later, about the phantom pain that is both constant and absent.

I know she wrote this book to tell her story. Learning her story has helped me so much in dealing with my own truths. To know that there is someone out there who may have experienced some of what you are experiencing provides an unknown type of support. It gives you a new perspective when you read someone put your thoughts to words – reading her thoughts about her self esteem, her self image shook me out of my spiral. She put to words the thoughts my brain and my soul spout everyday, and to hear them from somebody else’s mouth made me realize how badly I was treating myself.

I fall under the category of someone that is “forty, fifty pounds overweight”. Yes, I have not had her experiences first hand, but I was able to relate to: her relationship with food; her struggles of sharing space in this world; her wanting to be invisible, but also wanting to occupy space; and her being a feminist, yet not entirely being able to shed the pressures of societal expectations. I understand how my weight is a ‘family problem’, how the concern from loved ones only turns into more baggage you carry.

We as women have hard enough of a time being comfortable in our bodies – add to that the constant expectations from society, family, self can be debilitating. I am thankful for Roxane Gay, I am thankful she told her story, I am thankful I am able to read it and I am thankful for her thoughts that influence so many girls and women out there – me included.

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Books I could re-read forever

Kicking off with books I could re-read forever. This is definitely a long list and so I am limiting myself to 10 books; also, because I recycled this idea from a post from last year found at That Artsy reader Girl Top Ten Tuesday – Books I could re-read forever.

To avoid making this a ridiculously long post, I will try to reign in my excitement and stick to a paragraph per book (except for the first one).

Every book is a new world. I have lived and died many times over, in many worlds

Collage created using TurboCollage software from www.TurboCollage.com

My top ten – used the TurboCollage Lite app

Looking back at the books I have read brought back a lot of fond memories. Without further ado, here are my Top Ten Books I Could Re-read Forever.
SPOILER ALERT: I have tried to not give away too much about the plot. I accidentally might have and so this is a cautionary spoiler alert.

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Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

On top of this list is definitely Harry Potter. I could and have re-read the entire series many times. I even own the audio books. I listen to them when I have trouble falling asleep. Harry Potter, honestly, is my go-to series. I read it when I am sad, happy, angry, whenever. I am from the generation that grew up reading the books. My mom bought me my first one when I was twelve and I immediately fell in love.

A lot of my life revolves around Harry Potter, to be honest. It is not only my security blanket but I weirdly draw strength from Harry’s world. I know in my heart, no matter what happens, nobody can take this away from me. This series represents so much more to me than just books; it has been a ray of light in my darkest hour. I can always count on losing myself for at least a few hours with Harry, leaving all my troubles behind.

I am a nerd, I own it, I love it, it’s who I am. Sci-fi and fantasy stories are mostly what I live for. I am not usually a big fan of non-fiction. However, I am trying to expand my horizons. This is why I joined the Read Harder challenge, it forces me to step out of my comfort zone. Reading non-fiction isn’t technically ‘stepping out’ of my comfort zone. I will read pretty much anything but I tend to stick to sci-fi, fantasy, murder mysteries and thrillers. I can’t resist a good story.

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Tiger Hills by Sarita Mandanna

I found this book by complete fluke. I had no idea what to expect – I don’t judge a book by it’s cover. This book blew me away. I will be honest, I wasn’t stoked by her writing style as much as I was about her story-telling. The story spans a few generations and is so beautifully told that it evokes emotions you normally wouldn’t feel for fictional characters. The most interesting thing I found about this book, however, was how my perspective changed when I read the book at different phases of my life. As I grew older, it wasn’t just about an epic romance; it was also about the fate of rape victims in India, of rape itself and how no one can ever predict how what life may throw at you next.

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The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury

Oh! How I love this book. This is one of those ‘food for thought’ books all while being one of the most intriguing stories I have read. It’s fascinating how all the different short stories come together and are connected while being seemingly disconnected. I would describe this as the Black Mirror of books. It is also kind of a cheat to add this to this list because you can always pick and choose only a select short stories to read without having to read the entire book. Of all the short stories in this book, my favorite is ‘The Exiles’. It gave me the chills.

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The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

This was the best book I read in all of 2017. I read 17 books and this one easily takes the cake. Her writing style is so unique, I literally have no words to express how much I enjoyed it. I will try because this is a blog post about books. I visited Kerala when I was in undergrad and have a lot of malayali friends. I spent four years surrounded by their rich culture. Reading this book, somehow, brought back all my memories from that time. I will say this, I did not enjoy the end. She added a little bit of an ‘after story’ to the novel and I could have done without it. It seemed to me she added that part only for the sake of increasing her sales and it was definitely disappointing. Apart from that, this book was a delight. I will read this again except the last part.

On a side note – her latest book Ministry of Utmost Happiness seemed dull in comparison. If you plan on reading this book, I would suggest reading Ministry of Utmost Happiness before this one because it will not live up to it’s predecessor.

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Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Enough has been said about this classic by a lot of people. There is nothing I can say to add on to that. This is my favorite classic of all classic literature. I am a sucker for epic tragic romances, what can I say?

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Geek Love by Katherine Dunn

My love for Geek Love is a mysterious one. I have never been able to understand what exactly it is about this book that I love. I guess it classifies as a tragic romance but it is so much more than that. Frankly, her writing style isn’t outstanding, the story itself isn’t new and the characters aren’t special but put all that together and you have this amazing, haunting read. I have thought long and hard about why this book is so appealing to me. I really think it might just be that I picked this one up when I had been feeling like an outsider. It was a time in my life I did not think I belonged anywhere. I am definitely not comparing myself to carnival folk, I do understand their struggles are great. I think at that time in my life I was able to relate to their feeling of discrimination and abandonment.

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Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

How can I call myself a nerd and not include Lord of the Rings in this list? This series is here on it’s own merit, though, not just because I am a nerd. I don’t think I need to say anything about them. If you haven’t read it, it is the gospel of fantasy books everywhere. I have never read any other book that is so immersed in it’s world and so detailed. I also strongly believe this is the only book-to-film adaptation that does any justice to the story (extended version of course).

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A Pocket Full of Rye by Agatha Christie

I enjoy a murder mystery more than the average Joe. Agatha Christie is my favorite thriller genre author. Her mysteries are so well thought out. I would say, the one problem people usually face while reading her books is that there’s a lot of detail about the setting. She can easily spend three pages describing a room. Now, that is not everybody’s cup of tea. It doesn’t bother me that much. In fact I enjoy it, it helps make my imagination that much more accurate and clear. Why this book in particular, you may ask. This was my first ever Agatha Christie book. It has sentimental value. I do prefer the plot of ‘Cards on the Table’ but in my opinion, this is the mystery you can read over and over again without ever losing interest.

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Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Five words – it is a feminist classic. Bonus – there is also a tragic romance.

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Tell Me Your Dreams – Sidney Sheldon

Before you judge me, hear me out. This is a guilty pleasure. I picked up Sidney Sheldon during my mid-teens. I must have read over half of everything he has ever written. This is the pizza of books. Is it good for you? No. Is it entertaining? Oh, definitely. I could re-read this book a million times because who doesn’t love pizza?


I hope you have enjoyed my list of books I would re-read forever. Please feel free to leave a comment if you have read any of these books or if you think I would enjoy some books that you have read.

Check out my Goodreads for books I am currently reading.