When my mom tires of me constantly borrowing hers, we head down to Zellers [...] She splurges on the fancy gold-plated ones. She hands them to me in the parking lot. Thanks, Mom. This passing of the torch has to be a sign. A sign that she knows my secret and loves me just the same.The intimate curiosities of the young narrator are revealed in “Lipstick” (19), a deeply personal description of a child blinded by the colors of lipstick in his mother and aunt’s makeup collections, comparing them to tools used for art –his face a canvas, the lipstick his oil paint. His inquisitiveness, and the repercussions that follow, gesture towards his struggle for an outward identity that is both socially acceptable and yet coherent to an inner perception of self. The dominant social norms render being queer and being Hindu as problematic, and since the public sphere is crucial to Hindu life, the text asks, how can our protagonist reconcile these selves? How does anyone? There is a tension between falling off the grid, not belonging anymore, and staying truthful to one’s self. “Who does God love?” As a Hindu boy coming to terms with his sexuality through devotion and religion, he questions his own worth constantly—most prominently through God’s eyes:
Maybe if I was white, maybe if I was a girl, maybe if I was younger, maybe if I was older, maybe if I was prettier, maybe if I was troubled, maybe if I was more kind, maybe if I fasted, maybe If I recite the Gayathri mantra 108 times, maybe if I didn't lie to the woman selling flowers yesterday […]. (20)The strength of this collection lies not in asking you to feel pity, sympathy, love, anger, revulsion, sadness, or a familiar nostalgia, but rather it lies in an easy trust that readers will be able to return to a place of childhood learning, a place of disappointment and loss, discovery and revelation—a place filled with the minute details of growing up painfully, little by little, and then suddenly, all at once. Bukem Reitmayer is currently completing an Honours degree at Concordia University in English & Creative Writing. She is an assistant at Lemon Hound.