Across the Page: Bisexual Literature

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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