cover image People Change

People Change

Vivek Shraya. Penguin Books Canada, $16 (112p) ISBN 978-0-7352-3865-7

Musician and artist Shraya (I’m Afraid of Men) weaves savvy cultural criticism with raw personal reflections in this masterful investigation of reinvention. Even as change is acknowledged as inevitable, Shraya interrogates the negative connotations attached to the concept of transformation as something inherently superficial and unnecessary—pointing out that “the phrase ‘reinvent the wheel’ is generally preceded by the warning ‘don’t’.” Yet reinvention, she argues, has played a pivotal role in the histories of everyone from pop stars to gods, as well as her own. Looking to examples from her life, she celebrates the positive impact that change has had on her growth; her divorce from her partner, for instance, “unexpectedly allowed me to fall in love with her again and again,” and her coming out as trans, she writes, only reaffirmed her certainty “that I want to keep changing.” As she gracefully flits from meditations on the self to Krishna (the embodiment of “multiplicity”) and Madonna’s 1998 “comeback” album, Ray of Light (a symbolic victory over the “shadow of controversy... that landed on her career during her Sex book era”), she offers a poignant exploration of identity and the ways it can be transcended as an act of resistance. This makes an enlightening case for embracing change during a time that needs it most. (Jan.)