The Subtweet by Vivek Shraya
Everyone talks about falling in love, but falling in friendship can be just as captivating. When Neela Devaki’s song is covered by internet-famous artist Rukmini, the two musicians meet and a transformative friendship begins. But as Rukmini’s star rises and Neela’s stagnates, jealousy and self-doubt creep in. With a single tweet, their friendship implodes, one career is destroyed, and the two women find themselves at the center of an internet firestorm.
Celebrated multidisciplinary artist Vivek Shraya’s second novel is a stirring examination of making art in the modern era, a love letter to brown women, an authentic glimpse into the music industry, and a nuanced exploration of the promise and peril of being seen.
Neela Devaki was an original.
I am not ashamed to admit that I read The Subtweet solely based on the cover- I mean, look how amazing it is! Thankfully, the story itself lived up the its cover, and maybe even surpassed it.
The Subtweet reminded me why I am so drawn to books that center around art and music. There is something about that world that makes for the perfect backdrop to a story. Neela and Rukmini are two of the most dynamic, flawed, and realistic characters that I have ever read. The complexities of their friendship was compelling, and I understood both of their perspectives. I cannot imagine how difficult it would be to maintain a friendship when both parties are fighting to make it in the music industry. There is a lot of jealously and miscommunication that happens, and it felt extremely true to life. Women, especially women of colour, are often pitted against one another and the media thrives on that. That is certainly highlighted in this book, and it leads to some interesting discussions and reflection. The character growth in this story was refreshing to read.
The Subtweet brought up an interesting discussion around cultural appropriation. It is something I have been thinking about since I finished the book. I also thought that the use of social media was fascinating. Subtweets are definitely something I often see on Twitter, even in the book community. It is a phenomenon that I don’t quite understand myself, and I thought that Vivek Shraya has done an excellent job at pointing out the ripple effect that one tweet can have. Once you put something on the internet, you cannot take it back.
This is more of a personal thing, but I loved that this book was set in Toronto, a city I am very familiar with. I have since followed Vivek Shraya on social media, and I look forward to seeing where her career goes from here. I have already purchased her memoir, I’m Afraid of Men.
All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson
In a series of personal essays, prominent journalist and LGBTQIA+ activist George M. Johnson explores his childhood, adolescence, and college years in New Jersey and Virginia. From the memories of getting his teeth kicked out by bullies at age five, to flea marketing with his loving grandmother, to his first sexual relationships, this young-adult memoir weaves together the trials and triumphs faced by Black queer boys.
Both a primer for teens eager to be allies as well as a reassuring testimony for young queer men of color, All Boys Aren’t Blue covers topics such as gender identity, toxic masculinity, brotherhood, family, structural marginalization, consent, and Black joy. Johnson’s emotionally frank style of writing will appeal directly to young adults.
The story of how I entered the world was a foreshadowing.
Before reading All Boys Aren’t Blue, I watched a livestream where George M. Johnson was interviewed about his memoir. He has such an interesting perspective, and I found myself instantly drawn to him. I started the audiobook as soon as the livestream ended, and it was incredible.
All Boys Aren’t Blue is a YA memoir, which I think is fantastic! There are not enough YA memoirs out there, especially ones like this that are so deeply personal and honest. I strongly believe that a book like this could be life changing for some people, and I want to do a small part in helping to get it into the hands of readers who need it. I was sad to see that it is not available at my local library, so I have emailed them about donating a few copies. The only other book I have done this with is Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams, and it is something I am committed to doing more often!
All Boys Aren’t Blue is a series of essay, each one being more powerful than the next. Each of these essays touches on Johnson’s personal experience as a Black, queer man living in the US. There are moments that are difficult to read, and others that are touching and sweet. There is a section of the book where Johnson writes letters to the people in his life, and they all moved me to tears.
While All Boys Aren’t Blue is targeted towards young adults, I think it is a book that people of all ages will take something away from- I know that I did.