I think it’s safe to say that our names play a big part in how we define ourselves and how others perceive us. This seems true whether a) people get your name right every time, b) you conduct a lesson on pronunciation each time you meet someone new, c) you go by a nickname, e) you go by your Starbucks name, or e) [insert your story here]. In a rhythmic reflection on his name called Ache In My Name Vivek Shraya asks “Is a name how it’s pronounced or how I pronounce it?”
If Shraya’s name sounds familiar then maybe you’ve heard his music or read his short stories. His alterna-electropop musical history includes collaborations with members from the groups Tegan and Sara, and Marcy Playground. Shraya, who grew up in Edmonton, self-published his first book last year, God Loves Hair, an illustrated collection of short stories about a queer desi youth growing up “as he navigates complex realms of sexuality, gender, racial politics, religion, and belonging.” It’s on the American Library Association’s Rainbow List and was selected as a finalist for the 2011 Lambda Literary Awards. Given that his music includes a collection of devotional songs called Bhajans for Mom, which can be heard here or downloaded here, I was interested to read his comments–which are a small part of a longer interview–about his experience with male and female roles in South Asian culture:
What stands out to me about South Asian culture is the places where those lines blur. There was always room for me to do things that in a North American setting are generally feminized, like cook with my mom, or sing at the religious organization I belonged to. In that space, strength wasn’t about muscle but about how devoted you were.
Read an excerpt from God Loves Hair: Eyebrows
Listen to a reading:
Or watch the video teaser:
Previously on SM: What’s in a name?