cover image God Loves Hair

God Loves Hair

Vivek Shraya, illus. by Juliana Neufeld. Arsenal Pulp (Consortium, dist.), $18.95 trade paper (92p) ISBN 978-1-55152-543-3

Hinduism and its institutions can heap shame on gay adolescents just as effectively as the Judeo-Christian world, Shraya's collection of short stories shows. Originally self-published in 2011, this terse, honest account of growing up gay in an East Indian family living in Canada explores layers of identity%E2%80%94immigrant, male, cultural consumer, sexual being. "Maybe you should dress me up in a sari and see what I would look like as a girl," his young narrator tells his Indian aunts coyly, reveling in the jewelry and makeup that go with his costume. Later, in his teens, the boy tries to manage amorphous and confusing desires by dedicating his life to God at a religious summer school. An older adherent follows him back to his room: "Just sit next to me for a second." Caution and excuses are no help: "He grabs my face with his hands and slams his chapped lips against mine." Shraya's stripped-down prose has documentary force, and Neufeld's illustrations, with their intersecting planes of translucent color and their linoleum block-style images, add humor and bite. It's an important addition to the library of coming-out literature. Ages 12%E2%80%93up. (Sept.)