My PSM Cat posted a “Be Better” book challenge for 2017. There are 15 challenge items on her list (although I can, in good faith, only complete 14 of them…I’ve never done cliffs notes for anything, although I’m considering combining 14 & 15 and doing the original and the cliffs notes for War & Peace when I get to that).
I’ve already knocked out a couple of the books on the list, and in the interest of accountability (and maintaining regular blog content), I’m going to review every book I read for this challenge.
The first one I read was from #12 on the list: A Lambda Award winner.
For those of you who don’t know:
Lambda Literary Awards (also known as the “Lammys”) are awarded yearly by the US-based Lambda Literary Foundation to published works which celebrate or explore LGBT themes. Categories include Humor, Romance and Biography.
- Wikipedia contributors, “Lambda Literary Award,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia,https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Lambda_Literary_Award&oldid=748325653 (accessed November 7, 2016).
I chose the 2016 winner for Gay Fiction – “God in Pink” by Hasan Namir.
A revelatory novel about being queer and Muslim, set in war-torn Iraq in 2003. Ramy is a young gay Iraqi struggling to find a balance between his sexuality, religion, and culture. Ammar is a sheikh whose guidance Ramy seeks, and whose tolerance is tested by his belief in the teachings of the Qur’an. Full of quiet moments of beauty and raw depictions of violence, God in Pink poignantly captures the anguish and the fortitude of Islamic life in Iraq.
This isn’t the first book I’ve read where the main characters are gay. Nor is it the first book I’ve read where the main characters are religious and struggling with their faith or pleasing their families. However, this is the first book I’ve read where the main character was gay and struggling with faith (he’s Muslim living in Iran) and family.
I thought the pacing of the book was problematic. There wasn’t enough time to get to know anyone but Ramy (and Ammar, the sheik). Even their families seemed a bit two-dimensional.
However, even with the pacing issues, the story in all its simplicity was devastatingly poignant at times. Although I no longer identify with any religious beliefs, I was raised Christian and strongly identified as such when I was younger (much, much younger). I am fortunate that I was never forced to choose between who I was and who I should be according to my faith. It was enough of a struggle to reconcile my beliefs with the teaching of the church – there was really nothing that went counter to who I was.
ANYWAY – this isn’t about me. At all. With the political climate in America being what it is, I sometimes fear that we will regress to an era where people have to hide who they are (if they can) to survive.
I wish I could say that it’s difficult to imagine living in a world where someone would rather commit suicide than be gay; where they would need to choose between family and self; or cannot exist within the bounds of their chosen religion. It’s not. For everyone I know who had family embrace them regardless of their sexual identity and orientation, I know others who feel that they must hide who they are and who they love if they also want to maintain familial relationships (never mind fitting in at church).
The message of the book struck me more than just a heart-wrenching tale set in Iran – i.e. a far away land with none of our sacred ‘murices rights – but a warning that without diligence, we are on our way back to living in a country where the government and its most vocal supporters argue for small government as well as regulating who we can love and who we can be.
The message of the book far outshone the writing and pacing, and for that I gave it four stars (- 1 for my mild critique noted).