Across the Page: Bisexual Literature

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The three books featured this month represent bisexuality in

different ways: Galaxy Craze’s new book

Tiger, Tiger
is a coming of age story about a bisexual teenager who moves

to an ashram with her family; Slavenka Drakulić’s new novel, Frida’s Bed, imagines the last days of

bisexual artist Frida Kahlo’s life; and bisexual poet Sapphire covers a range of issues in

her new poetry collection Black Wings

& Black Angels.

Tiger, Tiger by Galaxy Craze (Black Cat)

In Tiger, Tiger, the

follow-up to her critically acclaimed novel By

the Shore
, Galaxy Graze returns to the family of Lucy, Eden and May. It is not necessary, though, to

have read the first book to enjoy this absolutely beautiful novel about a

family that is struggling to stay together.

Tiger, Tiger

follows May as her mother Lucy leaves her father once again, this time taking

May and her young brother Eden from England

to California.

Though May imagines returning to school after this summer holiday with tanned

skin and stories of swimming in the ocean to impress all of the girls in her

school who don’t seem to know that she exists, Lucy has decidedly other

plans.

Instead of a relaxed beach vacation, the three end up at an

ashram in the middle of the desert. Lucy believes the sect’s leader, Parvati,

will help heal her wounds and offer a place where she can find peace.

May’s skepticism and homesickness soon vanish when she meets

the beautiful and impressive Sati. The two quickly develop an intimate

relationship, one that captures all of the lust, fear and excitement of first

love. Craze never tries to define or qualify May’s fluid sexuality, though her

interest in boys is abstract compared to her very real and powerful

relationship with Sati:

“I felt her tongue in my mouth. I had kissed boys before,

but still I was not sure how or if I kissed well.  I remember feeling swallowed by them, but

Sati’s lips were the same as mine and this kiss felt gentle, tingling.”

Before long the summer has ended and May realizes that her

mother has no plans to return to England anytime soon. At about the

same time Sati sets her eyes on a new conquest, her mother gives birth to

another baby girl who she offers as a gift to the childless Parvati. Sati’s

mother had planned to do this all along, but once she sees the child her

initial altruism is called into question.

Though Parvati tries to separate the mother and daughter,

the infant’s refusal to take a bottle rather than breastfeed complicates her

efforts. When May’s mother secretly steps in to help, the family’s position at

the ashram is put into jeopardy as is May and Sati’s relationship.

Craze’s writing is smooth and lyrical, offering an intimate

look at a unique girl from a unique family in a truly unique setting. Yet May

is also highly relatable in her search to reclaim power despite her age and the

burden of both familial and romantic love. Tiger,

Tiger
is intensely engaging, a must read.

Frida’s Bed by Slavenka

Drakulić (Penguin Books)

Slavenka Drakulić’s new novel, Frida’s

Bed,
is the harrowing account of the bisexual Mexican artist Frida Kahlo’s

last days. The book begins with Frida in her bed, reminiscing about her

life.

At this moment, her body is finally failing her after a lifetime of

pain caused by a childhood case of polio and a horrendous accident where she

was struck by a streetcar as a young adult. Both experiences left Frida feeling

like a prisoner in her own body and having to endure over thirty operations.

Drakulić deftly and meticulously analyzes how a “deformed body” can

determine one’s fate from Frida’s perspective—a perspective that shifts

throughout the novel from the first to the third person point of view, and

often speaks directly to another character.

Frida’s pain filters into and affects nearly every aspect of her

life: her relationship with her parents, who were financially and emotionally

drained by their daughter’s two misfortunes; her art, which she began to

produce as a way to distract herself from the pain; and her complicated

marriage to the love of her life, fellow artist Diego Rivera, whose inability

to be monogamous was one of Frida’s greatest sorrows.

Drakulić, a celebrated Croatian novelist and journalist who has also

suffered from chronic pain, explores the impact of illness from many different

perspectives.  Some of the more

interesting sections of the book include Frida’s descriptions of the experiences

or emotions that influenced her paintings.

When Frida finds her beloved sister and caretaker, Kity, having an

affair with Diego, she finally divorces her husband.  She has affairs with both men and women, and

begins to wonder if her intense loyalty and passion for Diego is because she

fears no one else in the world could possible love her ailing body.

Frida finally returns to her Diego and Kity because, she now

reflects, they are all she has in the world. Though she is fiercely independent

as an artist, as a person “she could not cut either Kity or the Maestro [Diego]

out of her life, it would be like self-amputation.”

 

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