Vivek Shraya’s God Loves Hair is a 90-page collection of 20 short stories about a confused Indian boy living in Canada. The same main character narrating in the first person links each short story together. An illustration begins every story depicting a key point or image involved in each story. The book itself is about the size of a postcard and each story is two- to six pages in length, not including the accompanying illustration.
Some of the illustrations aren’t clear until after reading the story, which is not a bad thing. Admiring the illustrations after reading the stories they belong to offers a fun way it offers a fun way to reconsider their purpose within the story.
The stories themselves offer a semi-chronological account of a young Indian’s boy’s life. The first story is an informational account of the boy’s conception and the Indian culture that goes along with conceiving male children. The boy faces new challenges as becomes progressively older with each story. The boy himself is a mixture of innocence and sexual confusion right through to junior high where the chronology cuts off by the end of the book.
Because the boy is confused and innocent, the challenges he faces with his culture and school life dealing with bullies and girls is either met with heartfelt humour or sympathetic tragedy depending on each situation. Feelings of humour and sympathy are easily conveyed because the boy’s narration is exceedingly innocent, and maintains that innocence even when he gets to junior high.
The boy’s narration welcomingly often describes and explains Hindu culture for an unfamiliar audience. These moments of cultural education are integrated well with the boy’s search for answers during his confusing moments. The pop culture references also add another element to the boy’s delightful humour of innocence.
Because each story is linked together by the same narrating boy, the stories don’t work nearly as well as stand-alone stories as they do combined together. Each story feels more like a chapter with a jump in time expressing the boy’s next infatuation or obstacle.
Overall the book was fun to read. Each story conveys a large amount of emotion for such small pages. Using italics instead of quotation marks in moments of dialogue present a congenial feeling of reflection in the narration, even during moments in present action. The postcard size and feel of the book keeps things fun and lighthearted, even during more serious moments.
Hear Vivek Shraya read from God Loves Hair at the 10th annual Winnipeg Pride Coffee House, happening at 7 p.m. on Friday, June 4 at Crossways-in-Common (222 Furby St.). It is a free event, with donations accepted at the door for Camp Aurora, a four-day sleep-away camp that focuses on building and nurturing the leadership potential and resiliency of LGBTT and allied youth.