By Anila Akram @mailatale
By Rakesh Satyal
There are many children, tween, teen and adult stories dedicated to the challenges associated with adjusting to North American life as a second or first generation immigrant. But I find that no matter how many of these kinds of stories I read, they never get boring. There is usually something unique or compelling that changes the nature of the story. “Blue Boy” is top on that list. I should preface with a warning: it is controversial. It’s not easy to digest. But it’s brilliant nonetheless. It’s not a traditional immigrant story – it has less to do with migration and cultural upheaval and more to do with connecting with one’s heritage – or, connecting with any heritage or culture that speaks to who you want to be.
Kiran is a sixth-grade boy in Cincinnati, Ohio. By all accounts, he’s a normal boy – smart, high achieving and respectful. His parents are what you could call “classic” immigrants: his mother is an observant homemaker and his father a well-meaning, though cheap and authoritative figure.
Kiran has secrets: homosexual feelings that he can’t seem to suppress, despite his best efforts. He has an affinity for make-up and dress, and when his mother catches him cross-dressing with her things, he comes up with a valiant defense: he was costuming himself as the blue-skinned Hindu god-prince Krishna, for a school project.
The teasing at school – about his background and his “flamboyance” – become worse, and Kiran falls deeper and deeper into the fantasy that he is in fact the long awaited 10th reincarnation of Krishna. He becomes fascinating by religious studies and starts to see more and more similarities between himself and the blue-skinned god.
This is not so much a coming of age story as it is a screenshot of a young boy’s life. The author treads water carefully, and is aware that the main character, though struggling with his identity, is only 12. He has a long way to go before he can find answers, but he is certainly not too young to start asking questions.
Anila Akram is co-founder at Mailatale.ca,
a monthly subscription service for great children’s books