The offending portions of Section 377 are history and we can all take heart in knowing that it’s another step towards a more inclusive society, a society that will be kinder to the next generations. In these troubled times, that is no insignificant achievement. We wish we could celebrate by splashing Goodbooks with a riot of rainbows, a list of LGBTQ+ fiction for children from India.
Alas, that is not to be. That is to say, youngsters in our country, who had thus far believed they were “criminals”, have few books in which they see themselves represented in their own contexts or have their feelings validated. In fact, we were able to come up with only two young adult novels: Talking of Muskaan by Himanjali Sankar and—excuse us for being immodest enough to list the book of one of our staff—Slightly Burnt by Payal Dhar. As for younger kids, the only book close to home we found was My Chacha is Gay by Eyinah, a Pakistani author/illustrator (but who is based in Canada). And it is notable that in none of these three books does the gay person get a voice.*
On the bright side, things can only get better. After all, children’s publishers in India have been quietly pushing the boundaries and advocating for diversity for years. The trouble comes in the form of gatekeeping by parents, schools, shopkeepers and other well-meaning but ignorant adults who steadfastly refuse to let books reach their readers. In fact, this account of how a children’s author (Shals Mahajan, writer of the award-winning Timmi in Tangles and Timmi and Rizu) was elbowed out of a lit fest because the organisers felt their bio was inappropriate is the heartbreaking ground reality we live in.
That said, now that 377 is no more, schools and festivals refusing entry to queer authors or authors of gay-themed works (and their books) do so at the risk of looking like intolerant bigots. We’ll be keeping a close eye on things. Watch this space!
* We would LOVE to be proved wrong about this list. Please comment below if you know of more LGBTQ+ fiction for children and young adults published in India.
(Photo courtesy chezbeate)