Guwahati: Queer Literature Finds Place Of Pride At Book Fair

Jennifer Shaheen Hussain

We are queer, We are non-conforming and fluid, We have a lot of conflicts, Within us and with this world, But we always celebrate our identity, We are filled with colors of the rainbow, Don’t consider us different, we are among you…

We are free to be queer and infinite

Indranee Kalita expresses through a poem in Queerscape, a compilation of queer narratives that would charmingly hold a reader’s attention until the very last page.

The much-longed-for Guwahati Book Fair had its curtains closed on December 10. Bibliophiles had access to a wealth of stalls and book release events featuring writers, artists, and publishers. However, in a first, the city witnessed the launch of queer literature at the 33rd edition of the book fair..

On December 9, avid readers who stepped into the bustling crowd of the fair had a chance to listen to the heart-to-heart chinwags of the authors and publishers during the book release of ‘Queerscape’ and ‘Her Lockdown Story’.

Queerscape surfaced from a creative writing workshop on stories about queerness organised by Mayuri Deka and NEthing.

The book which has been edited by Mayuri has a collection of 23 stories and poetry about the personal experiences of living as a queer individual from Assam.

Mayuri reflects about the book that the most common thread that connects the queer community with each other is their shared experiences of the “pain of invisibility, non-acceptance, loneliness, and depression”.

“Every day we come across people from the queer community through messages, social media, calls and get to deal with them, talk to them, know their lived experiences, struggles, and stories…the queer community has suffered since their childhood and the baggage of non-acceptance and social taboos becomes really hard,” Mayuri said.

“LGBTQIA+ people deal with all kinds of bullying, homophobia, transphobia, avoidance, ignorance, and trauma. This led to the idea to conduct the workshop and compile the participants’ narratives into a book,” Mayuri added.

Have they yearned to be free? Like Kiruni does now, in every, short-breath of hers. It never occurred to Kiruni to ask them, “How do you feel, my Love? How is it to be locked down…day after day…after…day…after?”

Bhaotina Mushahary narrates in her story Locked Down, one of the six short stories featured in the book “Her Lockdown Story”. Various grassroots women leaders working with Women Leadership Training Centre (WLTC) have contributed stories from their regions. The stories are on the experiences of resilient women in Assam during the COVID-19 lockdown.

The stories have been compiled by Shreejata Gupta and edited by Banamallika Choudhury.

“Women, in particular, are experts in adapting to adversities. They pull out resources from each other, from earth and water and sometimes from thin air…These stories had to be told…As we drift away further every day from any support from the system, as the state fails us with planned regularities we have to tell our stories, raise our resources, and reach out to each other,” Banamallika Choudhury reflects about the book.

“This book is the story of despair, hope, and action. Every penny raised from the book will go into supporting the resilient of the women and their communities,” she added.

ABOUT Women’s Leadership Training Centre & NEthing

Women’s Leadership Training Centre is a feminist organisation based in Assam, working towards gender and social equality. WLTC focuses on enhancing women’s capacities and creating space and opportunity for women (cis and trans) to take decision making and leadership positions within families, communities, in governance and politics.

NEthing hosts a creative collective for diverse expressions using writing, poetry, music, dance, theatre, art, and other forms. In Guwahati and Jorhat, NEthing has two books and local products stores, event space and small cafés, and shared working space. The spaces are run by women from difficult and diverse backgrounds.

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