Pride Month Wrap Up

At the end of May I shared my Pride Month TBR and I wanted to give an update on the books I read in June. So, I read five LGBTQIA+ books last month, four of which were from my TBR and one which was a birthday gift from a friend. Here are my summaries of the books and my thoughts on them all spoiler free .

In the Dream House

Carmen Maria Machado

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Genre: Nonfiction
Publication year: 2019

In the Dream House is the first book I read from my TBR and it blew me away. It was an emotional and hard-hitting read with the author Carmen Maria Machado, recounting her experience of being a domestic abuse victim in a same sex relationship. The writing style was unique and encapsulating, and Machado’s voice swept me away in the story of her life. It’s value in raising awareness of abuse in queer relationships cannot be understated and this is one I’d highly recommend for everyone, particularly those interested in LGBTQIA+ topics and rights. You can read my full review for In the Dream House here.

The Passion

Jeanette Winterson

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Genre: Historical Fiction
Publication year: 1987

Reading The Passion was a wonderful experience. I was swept away by Jeanette Winterson’s stunning prose, writing style and storytelling. Despite how short it is in length, I was invested and connected to the characters and story. Set in the Napoleonic Wars, it follows two characters – Henri and Villanelle – whose fates collide leading to an unlikely relationship and journey. The characterisation of Henri and Villanelle was incredible. Winterson was able to establish them so well within 150 pages that I came away feeling a deep affinity to both characters. Their dynamic was authentic, complex and emotional, and anchored the entire story.

It’s very steeped in metaphors, symbolism and thought-provoking prose, so I don’t think a book as complex as this can be fully comprehended or appreciated on one read. I plan to come back to it re-read it at a slower pace, taking the time to sit with the words and fully reflect on the language and meaning. I was so close to rounding this up to 5 stars, but it just lacked that full emotional gut punch that typically leads me to give a full rating. Nonetheless, I loved this book.

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe

Fannie Flagg

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Genre: Historical Fiction
Publication year: 1987

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe is the story of a small fictional town in Alabama called Whistle Stop. It primarily follows Mrs Threadgoode, an elderly lady in a reitrement home, and her daughter-in-law, Evelyn as they develop a close bond and Mrs Threadgoode shared the history of Whistle Stop and its residents. The story spans across decades, weaving together past and present with chapters alternating between the present with Mrs Threadgoode and Evelyn chatting in the retirement home, stories from the past from residents of Whistle Stop and articles from the Whistle Stop newsletter, “The Weems Weekly.”

Thematically, this book explored a lot of things that are of interest to me – family, community, identity, feminism, lesbianism, racism – but unfortunately, I found it difficult to connect to the story or the characters. I appreciated what Fannie Flagg was trying to achieve but it didn’t have the emotional weight it should’ve and was generally a rather underwhelming read as a result.

We Can Do Better Than This: 35 Voices on the Future of LGBTQ+ rights

Amelia Abraham (ed.)

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Genre: Nonfiction
Publication year: 2021

This book was bought for me by a friend as a birthday present and I devored it within two days. With a diverse range of voices from within the LGBTQIA+ community, this anthology of essays is wide-reaching and explored a variety of issues that queer communities are currently facing and have endured throughout history. It’s an intersectional approach to LGBTQIA+ rights with queerness being explored in the context of race, disability, faith, culture and legislation. As with all anthologies, there were some essays that I connected to and enjoyed more than others, but generally the quality was high.

It was a very emotional read and I cried multiple times, but it was also hopeful and empowering. Although there was a lot of representation, I did feel that there could’ve been improvements with this. There was a high proportion of essays written through the lens of being gay, trans and non-binary, but a clear absence of multisexual identities including bisexuals, pansexuals, omnisexuals and polysexuals. There was also only one chapter about asexuality and none about aromanticism. Although ths is a lesser known identity, there are plenty of asexual and/or aromantic public figures and activists that could’ve contributed to the anthology. Nonetheless, I appreciate that with 35 essays there’s limited time and space and overall, it did a brilliant job at capturing the core issues in LGBTQIA+ activism and the diversity of the community.

Ace: What Asexuality Reveals about Desire, Identity and the Meaning of Sex

Angela Chen

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Genre: Nonfiction
Publication year: 2020

This book was a fascinating and insightful read. It’s an journalistic perspective on asexuality within the context of Western society which is rooted in what she coins as “compulsory sexuality”. I wasn’t a big fan of the writing which felt clunky and jumped from one topic to another haphazardly, but Angela Chen opened up very important converations which apply to everyone regardless of sexual orientation. She uses asexuality to question the societal norms and expectations placed on people around sex and relationships, asking why sex is assumed to be such a focal point of all of our lives when for many people (asexual and non-asexual), sex simply isn’t a priority in our lives.

As a Chinese American, Chen adopted an intersectional perspective of asexuality looking at disability, race and religion and how those characteristics can interact with asexuality. She did a good job at capturing the diversity of the ace spectrum and debunking common myths surrounding asexuality. She also offered some food for thought and provided me with the opportunity to evaluate the ways in which socal norms and compulsory sexuality has impacted me as an asexual woman. However, it wasn’t a particularly mindblowing read since it felt like it was targeted more at non-asexuals as an introduction to the issues that asexuals can and do face. Having said that, asexuality is widely misunderstood, overlooked and stigmatised both in and out of the LGBTQIA+ community so to see books like this being published is essential for raising awareness and building momentum within the ace community.

Overall, I had a great experience reading these books and I’m looking forward to reading the other books that are on my Pride Month TBR but that I didn’t manage to get to in June.

Have you read any of these books or do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!

Stay safe, my lovelies and keep reading.

Pride Flag Book Tag 🏳️‍🌈

In celebration of Pride Month, today I’m going to be doing the Pride Flag Book Tag. This looks like such a creative, fun and colourful tag! I’m excited to do it and to share some of my favourite LGBTQIA+ books with you all that I may not have had the opportunity to speak about until now.

This tag was originally developed by Common Spence on YouTube.

Red – Life

A book with a spirited protagonist totally proud of who they are. Someone who gives you LIFE!

Black Flamingo – Dean Atta

Black Flamingo is a heart-warming story of pride and celebrating who you are. The protagonist Michael goes on a journey of self discovery and although he faces struggles along the way, he remains true to himself and isn’t afraid to stand up and be his most authentic self. His sense of identity and unwillingness to compromise himself based on the judgement or prejudice of others is inspiring.

Orange – Healing

A book that made you, as the reader, find a deeper meaning or catharsis in your own life.

Felix Ever After – Kacen Callender

Felix Ever After is a YA tale about a young trans guy called Felix. He questions his gender and sexuality throughout the story as he attempts to find the labels that best reflect his identity and to understand himself better. His process of exploring his identity and finding himself resonated with me on a personal level and helped me to better understand myself. This book will always be special to me because it was the key to finally opening me up to my own queerness.

Yellow – Sunshine

A book that fills you with so much joy it could brighten even your darkest day.

The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics – Olivia Waite

A wonderful, fluffy and romantic WLW story which gave me all the feels. The dynamic between the two main characters, Lucy and Catherine, is refreshing. Their relationship is honest, passionate and tender. I love that both women have their own dreams and insecurities and that they support and encourage each other to reach their dreams and overcome their insecurities. They develop hugely from meeting each other and reading their journey will never fail to warm my heart.

Green – Nature

A book that is set out of this world — a reality different to our own.

This is How You Lose the Time War – Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

I’ve spoken about this book at least twice in previous posts, but I will never stop talking about it, because it’s so AWESOME. This story is so other-worldly, from the language to the setting and the overall story. Readng this book is like falling into an abstract dream that you feel but cannot quite see or touch. It has the added bonus of a wonderful queer romance which takes the enemies to lovers trope and executes it with breathtaking results.

Blue – Peace

A book where one of the characters finds peace with a difficult truth.

The Passion – Jeanette Winterson

The Passion is a recent read for me but I fell in love with it. One of the main protagonist’s, Villanelle, is a queer young girl who goes on one hell of a journey. She has to come to terms with multiple difficult truths throughout regarding loss and the injustices of the world. Her resillience and determination is admirable and I deeply connected to her character and journey.

Purple – Spirit

A book that deals with LGBT+ themes and religion.

Under the Udala Trees – Chinelo Okparanta

Under the Udala Trees tells the harrowing and emotional experience of Ijeoma’s experience as a gay woman living in Nigeria. Throughout Ijeoma battles against the illegality of homosexually and the conflict between her mother’s Christian faith and her sexuality. It’s not an easy read, but an unforgettable and powerful story nonetheless.

I wanted to share some LGBTQIA+ charities you can donate to in the UK, if you would like to:

This is not an extensive list. If you would like to donate, I would recommend doing your own research to find a charity that aligns with your ethics and does the work that you feel most passionately about.

Happy Pride Month ❤️ 🧡 💛 💚 💙 💜

Stay safe, my lovelies and keep reading.

Pride Month TBR

June is Pride Month 🏳️‍🌈 and every June I compile a TBR of LGBTQIA+ books. I don’t usually do TBR’s because I’m such a huge mood reader that I find them impossible to stick to, but Pride Month is the only exception. I love devoting a whole month to reading books about queer stories and voices. I won’t read every book on this TBR since there’s 17 books in total. I’ll simple pick what I fancy and add any I don’t finish to my ongoing TBR. I’m excited about all of the books on this TBR and can’t wait to read them. I’m particularly looking forward to reading own voices queer books.

Lesbian

Gay


Bisexual

Transgender

Asexual

Non Binary

Stay safe, my lovelies and keep reading.

Queerness and bisexuality: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo – Book Analysis

Book analyses are essays which closely and critically examine specific characters, relationships, topics or themes in a book.

Spoilers

You can find a full spoiler-free review of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo here.

Content warning: Discussions of biphobia, homophobia and sexual assault.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (TSHOEH) has multiple queer characters including the main protagonist and title character, Evelyn Hugo, who is an openly bisexual woman. Evenlyn has multiple romantic and sexual relationships with men and one serious long-term relationship with Ceila, a lesbian, whom she considers to be the love of her life. Evelyn’s character and her identity as a bisexual woman is going to be the focus of this post.

Queer representation in books has vastly improved in recent years, but there’s still a long way to go. It’s practically impossible to accidentally stumble upon a book with queer characters; it’s something that readers usually have to actively look for. Finding representations of bisexuality can pose even more challenges due to the high levels of bi-erasure both in and out of the queer community and across all mediums. Despite bisexuals representing over half of the LGBT+ community, its an identity that continues to be misunderstood and erased. Therefore, the power of having an explictly bisexual character with Evelyn saying the words, “I am bisexual” cannot be understated. It provides validation for bisexual readers and the significance of representation – of seeing ourselves reflected in what we read – is huge.

I’m bisexual. Don’t ignore half of me so you can fit me into a box, Monique. Don’t do that.

As a straight woman, Taylor Jenkins Reid (TJR) cannot always capture the complexity and first-hand experience of what it means to be queer, but she generally pulls it off well. Evelyn’s internalised biphobia, struggle to accept and understand her queerness and fear of being outed is particularly striking.

Maybe if I’d spent my whole life fighting off feelings for women, then I might have had a template for it. But I didn’t. I was taught to like men, and I had found – albeit temporarily – love and lust with a man. The fact that I wanted to be around Ceila all the time, the fact that I cared enough that I valued her happiness over my own, the fact that I liked to think about that moment when she stood in front of me without her shirt on – now, you put those pieces together and you say, one plus one equals I’m in love with a woman. But back then, at least for me, I didn’t have that equation. And if you don’t even realize that there’s a formula to be working with, how the hell are you supposed to find the answer?

Evelyn’s struggle to understand her sexuality and her feelings towards Ceila is a direct consequence of her attraction to and relationships with men. When the world in which we live is so binaried, often the only choices we believe we have are gay or straight. Evelyn is initially unable to recognise that her feelings for Ceila go beyond friendship and even when she does, her intense internalised biphobia prevents her from truly being able to accept it. This manifests itself whenever she’s faced with the possibilty of being outed and Evelyn immediately goes on the defensive.

Even when Ceila is insistent that she and Evelyn should be open about their relationship and to hell with the consequences, Evelyn is adamant that they can’t go public. It’s a recurring argument for the couple with Ceila tiring of having to hide and Evelyn insisting it’s necessary for their safety. In fact, when Evelyn is almost outed by a Hollywood newspaper, she takes the drastic action of eloping with a rock-star who she doesn’t even know which has a hugely traumatic outcome.

We’d tell the truth about our lives, and they’d bury us. We could end up in prison or in a mental hospital. Do you get that? We could be committed. […] The world is ugly, and no one wants to give anyone the benefit of the doubt about anything. When we lose our work and our reputations, when we lose our friends, and, eventually, what money we have, we will be destitute.

Evelyn’s fear of being outed and the consequences of that are very real for her and always at the forefront of her mind. She’s not just afraid of losing Ceila, but their careers, their money and everything they have worked to build for themselves. This fear is informed by the endless battle Evelyn has with internalised homophobia and biphobia.

Homosexuals were misfits. And while I didn’t think that made them bad people – after all, I loved Harry like a brother – I wasn’t ready to be one of them.

On the one hand, Evelyn embraces her love for Ceila and insists that it’s right; that it’s the world that’s wrong for not understanding or accepting them, but internally she feels turmoil over her relationship with Ceila. She never seems able to put the pieces together to make it work and ultimately sabotages her relationship with Ceila. What I struggled with most with the way this is written is that Evelyn’s reasoning for wanting to hide her bisexuality and relationship with Ceila is framed by TJR as being because she was fame and money hungry.

Now that I don’t have her, and I have more money than I could ever use in ths lifetime, and my name is cemented in Hollywood history, and I know how hollow it is, I am kicking myself for every single second I chose it over loving her proudly.

This completely invalidates Evelyn’s very real and justified feelings about coming out publicly. She doesn’t want to lose her career or money, that’s obviously a factor, but it’s so much more than that. Evelyn is genuinely afraid of what might happen to her and Ceila if they come out. The scene that really highlighted this for me was her reaction to the Stonewall riots.

I started crying when I realized those men were willing to fight for a dream I had never even allowed myself to envision. A world where we could be ourselves, without fear and without shame. Those men were braver and more hopeful than I was. There were simply no other words for it.

I knew it was imperative that I hide, yet I did not believe I should have to. But accepting that something is true isn’t the same as thinking that it is just.

Evelyn doesn’t hide out of selfishness or a desire for money or to protect her Hollywood career, she hides out of fear and because she believes it’s necessary for her safety and the safety of the woman she loves. She feels that she must make certain sacrifices in her relationship with Ceila to live a life free of discrimination, hate and danger.

I was under no illusions about how much it has cost Ceila and me to be together and it was gong to continue to cost us more. It was like a tax on being happy. The world was going to take fifty percent of my happiness. But I could keep the other fifty percent.

The one aspect of bi-erasure and biphobia that is handled very well is that which Evelyn faces from Ceila. It’s the type of prejudice and discrimination that bisexual women sometimes face from gay women. Ceila, like society, believes that there is only gay and straight and she projects her own identity and feelings onto Evelyn, even when Evelyn makes it clear that she’s not gay.

I hated being called a lesbian. Not because I thought there was anything wrong with loving a woman, mind you. No, I’d come to terms with that a long time ago. But Ceila only saw things in black and white. She liked women and only women. I liked her. And so she often denied the rest of me. She liked to ignore the fact that I had truly loved Don Adler once. She liked to ignore the fact that I had made love to men and enjoyed it. She liked to ignore it until the very moment she decided to be threatened by it. That seemed to be her pattern. I was a lesbian when she loved me and a straight woman when she hated me.

For me, this quote really captures the complexity of the tension that sometimes exists between gay and bisexual women. Ceila deeply loves Evelyn, but resents her attraction and past relationships with men. As a gay woman, she cannot relate to or completely understand Evelyn’s ability to be with men as well as women. She projects lesbianism onto Evelyn because it makes her feel more safe and secure in their relationship. This speaks to a very common aspect of biphobia – the assumption that a bisexual woman in a relationship with a woman will always inevitably leave her for a man. Despite Evelyn reassuring Ceila that she loves her deeply and is committed to her completely, Ceila’s insecurities get the better of her on occasion. It’s not to say that Ceila doesn’t have reason to feel the way she does, since Evelyn continues to have affairs with men whilst they are together and in the time they are apart, which brings me nicely onto my next point.

Although many aspects of Evelyn’s sexuality are well-written, the portrayal of her as a sexual woman and her ongoing sexual relationships with men plays into the negative stereotypes associated with bisexuals. Evelyn is an attractive, sexy woman and from a young age she willingly uses sex to her advantage. Her choice to sleep with Mick Riva is one that she makes out of desperation to hide her true sexuality and relationship with Ceila but may unwillingly contribute to biphobic narratives. Generally, Evelyn’s persistent sexual relationships with men insinuate that even when she’s in love with a woman and in a committed relationship with her, she cannot resist the lure of a man. This feeds into biphobic rhetoric about infidelity, promiscuity and the overbearing “straightness” of bi women. This is addressed by TJR with the following quote from Evelyn:

There’s a difference between sexuality and sex. I used sex to get what I wanted. Sex is just an act. Sexuality is a sincere expression of desire and pleasure. That I always kept for Ceila. […] Being bisexual didn’t make me disloyal. One has nothing to do with the other. Nor did it mean Ceila could only fulfill half of my needs.

This demonstrates some awareness from TJR that she was perhaps contributing to biphobic rhetoric in her depiction of Evelyn’s sexuality, so it’s important that she addressed that. Nonetheless, Evelyn’s insistence in Chapter 46 that it’s her selfishness and desire for fame that negatively impacted her relationship with Ceila is only half of the story. It feels lke a very purposeful attempt by TJR to take a backwards step and deny the significance of the consequences of Evelyn’s struggles with her sexuality and queer identity on her relationship with Ceila. Evelyn admits that her downfall is using sex to get what she wanted even when she had other options at her disposal, but there’s no acknowledgement that a large part of why she continued to use sex in this way is because she couldn’t accept her bisexuality.

I broke Ceila’s heart because I spent half my time loving her and the other half hiding how much I loved her.

This quote is taps into the true reasons for Evelyn’s actions and the hurt she causes Ceila – it’s because she never truly allows herself to love Ceila unreservedly, proudly and without shame. She’s unable to reconcile her love for Ceila with her bisexuality and uses sex with men as a form of self harm. This beckons to a very important and very real issue that bisexual women face of being at higher risk of sexual abuse, assault and harassment than straight women. In this regard, Evelyn’s experiences of poverty, domestic abuse and sexual assault are representative of the tragic experiences bisexual women face.

Therefore, despite the depiction of bisexuality in TSHOEH being flawed and sometimes contributing to biphobic rhetoric, it captures the core of a lot of the struggles bisexual women may face. It tackles the risks of poverty, domestic abuse and sexual assault that bisexual women face at disproportionate rates compared to straight women and actively addresses biphobia and bi-erasure. Many queer women, myself included, can see pieces of themselves reflected in Evelyn and that is important for so many reasons. Like Evelyn, many bisexuals today still do not have the formula to understand their attractions and sexual identity. Binaries continue to dominate our society and our understandings of sexuality and reading a book like this and finding a character like Evelyn might just help other queer readers to understand and/or accept their identity and live freely and proudly in a way that Evelyn was unable to.

Stay safe, my lovelies and keep reading.

5 LGBTQIA+ book recommendations for LGBT History Month

In celebration of LGBT History Month (UK) 🏳️‍🌈, I wanted to share 5 LGBTQIA+ book recommendations. LBGT History Month is celebrated every February as a dedication to the abolishment of Section 28 in 2003. Section 28 prohibited the “promotion of homosexuality” and legalised discrimination against LGBTQIA+ individuals and groups. The fight for LGBT rights is ongoing and being both LGBT and an educational professional myself, LGBT-inclusive education in particular, is a cause that’s close to my heart. I’d urge everybody to read more about the cause and do anything you can to support it.

Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta

Set in 1960s Nigeria amidst the civil war, Under the Udala Trees follows Ijeoma in this coming of age tale. Ijeoma struggles to navigate life as a gay woman in a country where same sex relationships are illegal and extreme violence is brought against anyone found to be engaging in homosexuality. This is a hard-hitting and emotional story which explores the conflict between being LGBT and true to yourself whilst also battling against discrimination and misunderstanding based on religious and societal beliefs and values.

Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu

Carmilla follows Laura and her father who welcome Carmilla into their lives after she has a carriage accident outside their home. Isolated and alone, Laura quickly strikes up an intimate relationship with Carmilla, until strange occurrences begin to take place leading Laura to question who and what Carmilla is. This novella is a fantastic exploration of lesbian eroticism and groundbreaking for the time in which it was written (1872). It’s the lesbian gothic story I never knew I needed.

Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender

Felix Ever After is a YA book which tells the story of a young trans man (FTM) as he fights against online transphobic attacks, navigates love and relationships and tries to get a place at an art college of his dreams. Although there’s some upsetting content, it’s primarily a story of identity, love and acceptance; of being true to who you are and accepting the love you deserve. This book is special to me because it helped me to be proud of who I am.

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo

At this point I think this book has been spoken about in almost every bookish corner of the internet and for good reason. Girl, Woman, Other seamlessly weaves together the lives of twelve black female characters many of whom are queer. Each character feels authentic and fleshed out and so many hard-hitting topics are covered. It’s a truly breathtaking example of feminist fiction and few other books I’ve read have ever depicted female characters in such a vivid way.

The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite

This book rescued me from a slump over Christmas-time and I’m very grateful for that. It’s a WLM romance set in Regency England and one of the few romances that I’ve read that I truly enjoyed. Not only was the relationship between Lucy and Catherine very authentic and well-developed, but the social commentary was interesting. I loved that Olivia Waite created Lucy as a stereotypically un-feminine woman and Catherine a stereotypically feminine woman but completely shattered all of those stereotypes. It’s a tad steamy in places, which isn’t usually to my tastes, but the romance, tenderness and trust between the characters completely sold me on their relationship.

There we have my 5 LGBTQIA+ book recommendations in celebration of LGBT History Month 🏳️‍🌈. Have you ready any of these books or do you plan to read them? Let me know in the comments!

Stay safe, my lovelies and keep reading.


The Death of Vivek Oji – Book Review

✨ Spoiler Free ✨

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Genre: Contemporary/Literary Fiction
Publication year: 2020
Audience: 18+
Content warnings: Major character death, death of a child, grief/loss, explicit sexual content, incest, homophobia and transphobia.

Synopsis

The Death of Vivek Oji begins with a mother discovering her son’s dead body on her front doorstep. In life Vivek was an elusive character and in death he is a mystery. Incorporating present day with flashbacks, Vivek’s loved one’s piece together the fragments of Vivek’s life in an attempt to understand who the real Vivek was and uncover the cause of his death.

What I liked

  • The writing style and use of language
  • Exploration of sexuality and gender identity
  • The cultural and historical depiction of 1990s Nigeria
  • The character dynamics
  • Narrators of the audiobook (Chukwudi Iwuji and Yetide Badaki)

What I disliked

  • How Vivek’s identity was used as a plot device
  • The predictable ending
  • Too many POV characters
  • The portrayal of incest
  • Vivek’s limited POV

Plot and Structure

I enjoyed the plot and the way in which the mystery of Vivek’s death was interwoven with an exploration of his life. Suspense was steadily built throughout, but for me, the ending did feel predictable and anti-climatic. I also found aspects of the plot distasteful in regards to the way that Vivek’s sexuality and gender identity was played with to create intrigue and mystery.

The structure followed the threads of multiple characters and wove them together into the tapestry of Vivek’s life. I liked this approach to unravelling the truth of Vivek’s death and getting to know him through the eyes of those closest to him. Unfortunately, I did find the structure jarring at times and it felt like the narrative was jumping around rather haphazardly.

Writing Style

Akwaeke Emezi’s writing style was one of my favourite aspects of the book. She has the most wonderful way of describing complex emotions; metaphors that so aptly conveyed loss and love. One of my favourites was the description of the fruit tree growing at the head of Vivek’s grave:

Did she look forward to the day when it would actually have star fruits hanging from its branches? Would she pick them and eat them as if she was absorbing him, bringing him back inside where he’d come from? It would be something like Holy Communion, I imagined, body and blood turned into yellow flesh and pale green skin, bursting with juice. Or maybe she would never touch the fruit—maybe no one would—and they would fall back to the ground to rot, to sink back into the soil, until the roots of the tree took them back and it would just continue like that, around and around. Or birds would show up and eat the fruit, then carry Vivek around, giving life to things even after he’d run out of it himself.

Characters and Relationships

The characters were flawed and their relationships nuanced and authentic. I appreciated that time was taken to provide each character with a personality and that none of them felt like cardboard cut-outs. Similarly, each relationship was nuanced whether between lovers, friends or relatives. Unfortunately, I did find the depiction of incest uncomfortable, mainly because I felt it was romanticised and wasn’t addressed within the text.

Sometimes I did feel lost amongst the characters and struggled to gauge who was who or how they were connected to each other (although I think this would’ve been less of an issue if I’d read the physical text along with the audiobook).

Of all the characters in the book, I connected with Vivek and his mother, Kavita the most. Vivek remained elusive throughout, but the vibrancy and intruige of his character paired with his tragic end drew me to him. I wish there’d been more of Vivek’s POV and the lack of his voice throughout the story is one of my biggest criticisms of the book. I deeply sympathised with Kavita. She was courageous and compassionate, and the love she had for her son knew no bounds. Her commitment to uncovering the truth and honouring Vivek touched my heart.

Finally, I have to mention how much I adored Chukwudi Iwuji and Yetide Badakithe’s narration of the audiobook. They brought the characters to life so vividly and conveyed the emotionality of the story beautifully.

Concluding thoughts

The Death of Vivek Oji has left me with mixed feelings. On the one hand, it was a beautifully written, powerful, heart-wrenching tale which hit on important themes around identity and what it means to be LGBTQIA+ in an unaccepting society bound by tradition and conservatism. The multi-culturalism provided fantastic representation and the characters were diverse and authentic. On the other hand, the structure was disorientating, there were too many characters and the ending was anti-climatic. Whilst I appreciate that having a wider cast of characters and telling Vivek’s story primarily from their perspective was an intentional choice from the author, the book would’ve been much more impactful to me if Vivek had had more of a voice within the story.

I’d recommend The Death of Vivek Oji if:

You’re interested in an emotionally heavy literary fiction novel with complex relationship dynamics and an exploration of sexuality and gender identity, particularly in the context of multi-cultural Nigeria.

There we have it – my first book review on this blog! 😊 I took a lot of time to think about the structure and format of my reviews by reflecting on the elements of a book that are most important to me when I’m deciding to pick up a book. I hope you like it and I’m looking forward to posting more reviews in the future.

Have you read The Death of Vivek Oji? If not, are you planning to read it? Let me know in the comments!

Stay safe, my lovelies and keep reading.