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Book Review: Surrender Your Sons by Adam Sass

Coming out and acceptance are two harsh realities, which are part of every queer person’s life. On one hand there is the mountain of guilt and foreboding that wears one down, for hiding their true self. On the other, the fear of losing their loved ones if they come out. Lucky are those who find love and acceptance once they do take the plunge. For a vast majority, coming out opens a floodgate of torture – both physical and mental.

So, it is not surprising that Connor Major’s religious mother shunned her son when he came out to her. His phone and laptop was confiscated. He was grounded. He is enrolled into the ‘Meals on Wheels’ programme run by the local church, and is under constant surveillance. But all hell breaks loose when Connor’s mother has him kidnapped and sent away to Nightlight Ministries, a conversion therapy camp that “changes” queer children back to “normal”.

And Connor is not alone. There are many other young queer children, who are fighting with the odd and cruel realities of life at the ‘conversion’ camp. At Nightlight, everyone has something to hide, from the campers to the supervisors, and even the director. Connor is resolute – he must escape from this place, along with the other kidnapped children, but first he must expose the secrets.

Without any shred of doubt, this book is as dark as it can get. Conversion therapy and persecution of queer people is not an easy subject to write on. But there is hope in the form of Connor – the protagonist. He is a complex personality, whose character arc evolves as the story progresses. He is brave, strong, resolute, and full of hope. He also helps other campers in need, and wants to rescue them.

And not just Connor, we have been provided a background for several other campers – their back stories and experiences at the camp. Their time at the camp have shaped them, and continue to dictate their life choices. More importantly, for a hard and dark narrative as this one, the pace makes it a worthwhile read, without getting boring. The element of thrill and suspense makes it more endearing.

Most importantly, ‘Surrender Your Sons’ initiates a conversation about conversion therapy, which parents the world over must engage with. We all need to let people be themselves – and not force them to fit in the mould of the society. Love is love. And no one must be persecuted for who they choose to love.

My Rating: 4/5 stars

DISCLAIMER: All Images Used In This Post Have Their Respective Copyrights

Book Review: ‘So Now You Know – A Memoir of Growing Up Gay in India’ by Vivek Tejuja

“So when did you realise you are gay?”

“Who plays the role of woman when you do it?”

“Hi. You from? Your pic please. Do you have place?”

Aren’t we all tired of these same old clichéd questions, that keep coming our way, whether we like them or not? Don’t we all have those moments when we just want to simply scream ‘STFU’ from the rooftop and move on with life? Haven’t we all been through times when all we wanted was to hookup badly, and felt a deep sense of void grip us during the act?

If your answers to all those questions have been ‘yes’ – Congratulations. You are gay, and you know it.

Reading through ‘So Now You Know – A Memoir of Growing Up Gay in India’ by Vivek Tejuja, one could not help wondering how similar, yet different, our lives have been. Growing up in a joint family, being bullied in school, hetero-normative relatives who took it upon themselves to scare effeminism out of you, finding solace in books, the random hook-ups while longing for that one true love to come in your life, the penchant for opening up to those you love, the dejection when your friends become distant when they discover you are different – we have all been through life.

Vivek’s book took me back in time – having a crush on Dino Morea or Milind Soman and not having anyone to share it with, the straight friend in school whose company you found solace in, but he never reciprocated the feelings, trying to convince myself I can have feelings for girls – and lying about having a crush on a classmate to friends, the online chatrooms where strangers became acquaintances, blind dates, awkward hook-ups, insatiable urge to get into the pants of a hot ‘straight’ guy at the pub, falling for the guy who would ultimately let you down – been there done that.

His writing is so conversational that I almost felt like we were actually sitting by the sea at some coffee shop and discussing our lives. Vivek’s book is cathartic to an extent, too. It makes you look back in time and admit to the mistakes you could have rectified, or the sweet nothings you could cling on to.

Vivek came out to his family. I haven’t (well, my friends, colleagues and some of my cousins know). I never understood the deal with ‘coming out’. But then again, to not be able to share your ‘self’ with the people who matter makes life elusive and intangible. One cannot empathise enough with him, for not being able to share his ‘truth’ with his father – man to man.

Identities and stereotypes don’t define who we are. But they exist, may be for a reason. Sexuality is hardly the identity to label someone by. But in this world it sticks to your existence. It is our choice whether we want to live by it. In this endless search for life and love, we must first come to terms with ourselves. And Vivek surely has lived his life on his own terms.

‘So Now You Know’ connects with you on a personal level; the honesty behind the words give meaning to the feelings left unsaid. With so little ‘queer literature’ in India, I am sure this book will inspire many to come forward and share their stories. May be then we would truly be emancipated and inclusive.

My Rating: 4/5 stars

DISCLAIMER: All Images Used In This Post Have Their Respective Copyrights

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