Here is another young adult book on my summer reading list. It is actually a collection of short short stories by Vivek Shraya.
In this collection, Vivek Shraya moves from childhood into adolescence and all of the shocking and confusing and inspiring things that come along with becoming an adult. In this case, Vivek explores “sexuality, gender, racial politics, religion, and belonging” (from Vivek Shraya’s website). I cannot relate to wanting to shave my face, but I can certainly relate to wanting to shave my legs. The pain of being bullied in Junior High is very real in Shraya’s stories. I love his description of Junior High: “Junior High has marked the sudden death of sweat pants. They have been replaced by name-brand denim and name calling which will continue every day for the next six years” (55). Almost every one you talk to has similar memories of Junior High. It almost seems like a test: if you can survive Junior High then you can survive anything life throws at you.
Throughout the collection of stories I couldn’t help by think, YES! to some of his descriptions. When his friends tries to get him to dye his hair red, Shraya’s reaction is perfect: “This is my induction, my own episode of My So-Called Life. I am Angela Chase to her [Vicky’s] Rayanne Graff” (71). My favourite TV show!!
I went to England for a summer to stay with my cousins and aunt and uncle. While there, my cousin and I got into a routine: ham sandwiches, The Crystal Maze TV show, and always My So-Called Life. Then an ice cream sandwich. Glory days! What more could a 13-year-old girl and her cousin of the same age want?
My So-Called Life was an important show, especially if you were tired of Degrassi. My So-Called Life looked at so many issues that face teens and it never trivialized them. I feel like Shraya’s God Loves Hair is the same: it looks at growing up in an honest, humorous, yet respectful way. He writes about depression, suicide, gender identity, puberty, sexuality, faith, and just being human.
This is an important collections of stories for teens to read to know that it is ok to be different and to ask questions. Shaya’s ending is fabulous; after finding a picture of Ardhanaraeeshwara, a half male and half female deity, he writes: “I am not invisible anymore” (pg 110).
Every teenager needs that message: they are not invisible!
“The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17)
“This project [film What I Love About Being Queer] is about celebrating our resilience, that we find ways to love this part of ourselves in spite of—and sometime through—the struggle.” (Vivek Shraya interview)