cover image She of the Mountains

She of the Mountains

Vivek Shraya. Arsenal Pulp (Consortium, dist.), $18.95 trade paper (128p) ISBN 978-1-55152-560-0

Multimedia artist Shraya’s playful debut novel mixes the story of a young, gay Indian-Canadian man in Edmonton with Hindu mythology. As a boy, the nameless protagonist was teased by his classmates and was a social liability to his few male friends. The phrase “you’re gay” is continuously hurled at him before he knows what it means—when he trips, when he sings Vanessa Williams songs at a school assembly, or when he loses a race. He comes out after high school and finds that the gay community has a whole set of rules and norms to which he must conform, such as going to the Only Local Gay Bar, wearing tight T-shirts, and not talking about women. As foolish as he finds many of these things, he is grateful to have finally found a place where “it was possible to be liked,” and he tries hard to fit in. So when he falls for an unnamed woman at work, his self-identity is thrown into confusion once again. The two fall in love quickly and deeply, and he sees her as the first person “he had ever liked outside of his needs.” But the world still taunts him with “you’re gay,” and he must struggle to define himself both inside and outside his new relationship. This modern-day love story is interwoven with a retelling of the myths of the great goddess Pavarti; her husband, the god Shiva; and their son, the elephant god Ganesha. The Hindu gods, with their constantly shifting personas and manifestations, add a clever and thoughtful layer to the novel and highlight the intricacies and power of a love that eclipses gender, time, and conventions. Strikingly illustrated by Raymond Biesinger, this is a lyrical ode to love in all its many forms. (Oct.)