jo's Reviews > Blue Boy

Blue Boy by Rakesh Satyal
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's review
Dec 08, 2009

it was amazing
bookshelves: kids, queer, im-emigration-post-colonial, south-asian-diaspora, books-i-teach
Read from August 07 to 17, 2011

rakesh satyal has written a brilliant, delightful, heartbreaking/heart-lifting story of the coming of age of a 12-year-old queer indian-ohioan (second generation: the parents immigrated to the US as adults) boy. kiran is a beautifully drawn character. original, thoughtful, playful and super-smart, he deals with his difference (racial, sexual) and his status as an outcast with the aplomb, dignity, and life-joy of someone with tremendous faith in his vision of himself. in this vision kiran is simply fabulous. he is beautiful, brilliant, skillful, modest, accepting, and kind. he is also a little divine. he is the god of his self-contained world.

then, at some point, this vision is horribly shaken. and then, later, it's put back together again, and it's a thing of beauty.

what keeps kiran together -- solid and for the most part happy -- are his family and his religion, the two single worst enemies of queer kids in a lot of western-centric YA and adult queer narratives, fictional and otherwise. the evolution of his family's feeling toward him constitutes the core of the novel so i won't spoil it. as for religion, kiran finds in flamboyant (in his eyes, i know nothing about hinduism), romantic, blue-skinned krishna a fabulous object of identification. the divinity is not only an example to emulate but a guardian and a protector.

through identification with krishna, kiran manages to navigate his gender troubles. krishna loves a beautiful, absolutely special girl. kiran loves girls too: he wants to be like them! what a perfect match! he must certainly be krishna’s reincarnation!

satyal is a skillful enough writer not to let kiran’s perfect world be crushed from the outside. the attacks come from the inside – where kiran has to navigate the tricky combination of fantasy/reality/self-deception that sustains him. as reality rocks his world like an earthquake, kiran has to resort to great inner strength to keep it standing. it is the depiction of kiran’s strength, and of the sources of it, that is the genius of this sweet and funny book.
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05/25 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-8 of 8) (8 new)

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Jennifer (aka EM) what a lovely review, jo!

message 2: by jo (new) - rated it 5 stars

jo thanks, jen. i thought about recommending this book to you (like, you know, in the "i recommend to" box?) but then felt insecure.


message 3: by Kathrina (new) - added it

Kathrina This looks like a must-read to me. Thanks!

Jennifer (aka EM) jo wrote: "thanks, jen. i thought about recommending this book to you (like, you know, in the "i recommend to" box?) but then felt insecure.


oh, no need to second guess that with me - I love all book recommendations (it just sometimes takes me forever to act on them). The only thing that makes me nervous about reading this one is the YA angle - I just haven't read much in that genre, and it scares me a bit for some reason. That fear is probably based on a bunch of bad assumptions....

message 5: by jo (last edited Aug 19, 2011 07:50AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

jo i, too, don't much go for YA literature (check my shelves haha) but this is not a YA book. i know bc it's not filed in the library as such. i also know because it's long, contains very explicit and rather rough sex scenes, and has a grasp of issues you don't find in YA literature. let's just say this is as much a YA book as Incredibly Loud and Extremely Close is.

ETA: "grasp of issues" is wrong. YA literature deals with incredibly complex issues. i meant that the approach to these issues may not be YA-ish. but what do i know? still, when i was a teenager i would totally have gotten the book. i wouldn't have gotten it the way i get it now, but i would have gotten it just fine. man i really don't know what counts as YA. i'll shut up.

Jennifer (aka EM) Perfect - I was actually thinking of that very one as a comparison point - that's as far as I go into YA lit, if that would even be considered YA lit. (haha - "not filed in library as such").

Are you teaching this one?

message 7: by jo (new) - rated it 5 stars

jo would love to, but there's only so much literature one can teach in a class whose title begins with "popular representations," much as one would like to haha. i'm teaching Funny Boy instead. i want to touch on diasporas.

message 8: by jo (new) - rated it 5 stars

jo ETA in comment #5 above.

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