Guapa

Ralph Haddad
Editing by Toby Sharpe

Cover art by Emanuele Ragnisco

When I first read Guapa, I was taken aback by how relevant the book was to my own life. The narrative follows a queer Arab protagonist, as he navigates a day in his life in an unnamed Arab country. The opening scene sees the main character, Rasa, the morning after his grandmother – with whom he lives – catches him in bed with another man. This opening scene sets the tone for the entire narrative – themes of anxiety, self-doubt, tension, hopelessness, and shame come to dominate the story. It was the first book I read where I thought to myself: “Yes. This is it. This guy understands it.” The author, Saleem Haddad, is a self-identified queer man of various heritages – among them Lebanese, Iraqi, and Palestinian. The book itself follows the fairly conservative form of the conventional English novel; it does not claim to reinvent the wheel. It is not the most experimental work with a queer element that was published in 2016, but it is exceptional and refreshing in its content. Guapa was published originally in English under a publisher based in New York. The novel quickly received wide acclaim from contemporary Arab authors, such as Randa Jarrar, and ended up on many end-of-year lists on media platforms such as BuzzFeed and the Guardian. Haddad himself ended up on Out magazine’s one hundred most influential people of 2016.

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Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

Snigdha Koirala
Editing by Avani Udgaonkar

Art by The Ink Wave http://www.theinkwave.com/index.html

I first came across Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies while in search of more female South Asian voices in literature. And since first reading her collection, my relationship with her work has developed into one of communion – one of personal and emotional resonance. Lahiri explores the lives of Indian immigrants, attempting to bridge the gap between two places that are simultaneously foreign and familiar – places that are of belonging and of isolation. And given my own history of such attempts (having been born in Nepal, raised in Canada, and now living in Scotland), it didn’t take long for my aforementioned communion to develop with Lahiri’s stories.   

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Gilmore Girls

Nadia Mehdi
Editing by Vicki Madden

Art: ‘Young Mother Sewing’ by Mary Cassatt

Gilmore Girls is a charming, idyllic television show with a large millennial fan base. The series focusses on mother-daughter duo Lorelai and Rory and their lives in the quirky New England town of Stars Hollow. Lorelai conceived Rory as a teenager and fled both her boyfriend and her wealthy, overbearing parents to raise Rory alone whilst living and working as a maid at an inn. At the outset of the show, we find Lorelai reaching back out to her parents, who have never quite forgiven her for cutting them out of her life, to ask for a loan to pay for Rory’s new private school (Rory is an archetypal brainiac with ambitions of studying at Harvard). From there onwards the show explores themes of family, friendship, work, love, ambition and all the small things that add up to make a life. Viewers most often describe the dynamic between Lorelei and Rory as more like best friends than mother and daughter – which is in fact the way creator Amy Sherman Palladino originally pitched the show (Lockett 2015) – and the Gilmore girls do indeed support each other through their individual and shared problems as best friends would. But the show is also a more general exploration of women and their relationships of all kinds, good and bad.

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