The past couple of decades have seen a staggering proliferation of modern queer writing, cutting across genres—memoirs, novels, essays, poetry, ethnographies, short stories and graphic narratives. To celebrate pride month and make sure that the stories of the queer community are heard, we have compiled 5 LGBTQIA+ books that will help you understand, relate to or empathise with ‘queer’ life in India, and they range from fiction to autobiographies.
These lessons helped me understand what was truly important and how I could strive towards positivity even in difficult times. It allowed me to open my heart to beauty and hope, and appreciate and be grateful for everything in my life.
1. WE GIVE OUR LIVES MEANING BY HELPING OTHERS FROM CHARLOTTE’S WEB
In E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web, we meet the wisest spider to ever spin her way across the pages of a children’s book (sorry, Miss Spider). Charlotte rescues Wilbur from certain death by spinning messages about him in her webs. She tells Wilbur, “A spider’s life can’t help being something of a mess, with all this trapping and eating flies. By helping you, perhaps I was trying to life up my life a trifle.” Spoiler alert, at the end of the book Charlotte dies, but is immortalized through her children and their children after that, as Wilbur continues to recount the story of Charlotte’s brilliance and generosity.
She tells Wilbur, “A spider’s life can’t help being something of a mess, with all this trapping and eating flies. By helping you, perhaps I was trying to life up my life a trifle.”
2. NEVER ALLOW ANYBODY TO IMPOSE LIMITATIONS ON YOUR OWN ABILITIES FROM THE SECRET GARDEN
In Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden, the petulant Mary Lennox finds happiness in the beauty of the Secret Garden and resolves to share that with her newfound cousin, Colin. Colin has been treated as physically disabled his entire life, but Mary is certain that his weakness is purely psychological. Through persistent practice, Mary teaches Colin to walk. All the adults are shocked when they learn that Colin can run and play like any other child. This valuable lesson taught us that we must never allow limitations to confine our abilities, even if those limitations have been set by those who love us most.
This valuable lesson taught us that we must never allow limitations to confine our abilities, even if those limitations have been set by those who love us most.
3. KNOWLEDGE IS THE MOST POWERFUL WEAPON FROM MATILDA
Roald Dahl’s stories so often revolve around children who are smarter than the worlds they inhabit, and in Matilda, we meet the quintessential example of this theme. Despite Matilda’s superhuman wit, she is constantly bullied and belittled by her family. Her passion for reading sustains her and eventually becomes her best weapon. Indeed, as the narrator says, “All the reading she had done had given her a view of life that they had never seen.” Matilda learns to deftly manipulate the cruel, ignorant adults around her. We bet all bookworms finished “Matilda” wondering just how many books they’d have to read before they too could levitate their teacher’s chalk.
Indeed, as the narrator says, “All the reading she had done had given her a view of life that they had never seen.”
4. APPRECIATE EVERY SINGLE MOMENT YOU’VE BEEN GIVEN FROM THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH
In Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth, we meet Milo, a catatonically apathetic youth, who receives a miniature tollbooth and a map of “The Lands Beyond.” Thus begins his pun-tacular adventure through whimsical locales like the “Island of Conclusions” (to which one must never, ever jump). Most importantly, Milo’s watchdog friend, Tock, teaches Milo never to take a single moment for granted, warning him, “It’s bad enough wasting time without killing it.” The next day, Milo tries to return to this magical land but cannot — It turns out Milo had always been surrounded by plenty of happiness and beauty; he just needed to learn how to appreciate it.
“Tock, teaches Milo never to take a single moment for granted, warning him, “It’s bad enough wasting time without killing it.”
5. EVERYDAY IS AN ADVENTURE FROM THE FAMOUS FIVE
Every time Enid Blyton’s Famous Five go together, there would be something new to discover, to explore, to hunt, and the five never got tired of that. Life’s like that; it could take you to an unexpected place or a situation. Make each day count and live life to the fullest. Always be ready to explore different possibilities and get out of your comfort zone every now and then.
Make each day count and live life to the fullest. Always be ready to explore different possibilities and get out of your comfort zone every now and then.
Kids who spend their childhoods surrounded by books tend to grow up and continue to love books. And when you think about it, it just makes sense. The things you read as a child stick with you, even if you don’t think about them that often. And even if nothing else, books teach us empathy. Instil an early love of books and writing in your children by enrolling them in our children’s workshops taught by Mohit Parikh today!
Written by Rheea Mukherjee
Rheea Rodrigues Mukherjee is the author of The Body Myth (Unnamed Press /Penguin India 2019) which was shortlisted for the Tata Literature Live First Book Award. Her work has been published and featured in Scroll.in, Southern Humanities Review, Los Angeles Times, Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, Vogue India, Out of Print, TBLM, and Bengal Lights, among others. She co-founded Bangalore Writers Workshop in 2012 and currently co-runs Write Leela Write, a Design and Content Laboratory in Bangalore, India. Rheea has an MFA in creative writing from California College of the Arts.