CM . . .
. Volume XX Number 26. . . .March 7, 2014
God Loves Hair is a lovely collection of short stories from the talented Vivek Shraya, with complementary artwork by Juliana Neufeld. The book’s format is unconventional, and with its unusual shape and the accompanying pictures, it looks more like a picturebook. Shraya’s stories navigate the complexities of sexuality, gender, racial difference, religious belief, and ways of belonging. Each story, though self-contained, works with the next to build a fragmented but steadily progressing narrative of growing up non-conforming in a Canadian-Indian family. The stories are very brief and avoid dancing around sensitive themes such as masturbation, dirty thoughts, cross-dressing, and God. Each tale of growing up, wanting to belong in a community that struggles to accept difference, defies heterosexist assumptions and works to give young readers a rich and nuanced insight into Shraya’s own experience of growing up in a Hindu family in Alberta.
One last story that I would like to mention specifically is “God is Half Man Half Woman.” Shraya’s revelation of gender fluidity is found in the image of Ardhanaraeeshwara, a deity composed of Lord Shiva’s left side and his female consort Parvati’s right side. All the lines that divide what men and women should be and should do begin to blur in the light of this explicit fusion of two gods and two sexes. The moment of insight is both enlightening for the reader, and it is also a beautiful time of character development within the collection.
Rob Bittner is a graduate of the MA in Children’s Literature program at The University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC. He is currently a PhD student in Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.