The Man Who Was a Woman and Other Queer Tales from Hindu Lore

Review :

This book is much more than a folktale collection. It is an academic study of queer elements in Hindu lore, but one that reads like a novel - I enjoyed the writing style tremendously. There are dozens of fascinating stories in the book, selected from scriptures or oral tradition, and all of them come with extensive commentary on their symbolism, meanings, and connections to Hindu mythology as a whole. In fact, this book clarified a whole lot of things for me about Hindu lore that I got wrong before; the author has vast and detailed knowledge, and he is capable of presenting it in an entertaining and yet educational way.
The book also does not attempt to interpret the traditions of India in contemporary Western terms of queerness. Instead, it explains the stories within the context of Indian traditions, society, and belief. This way, tales that a westerner might have simply read as 'queer' reveal the meanings they have within their own cultural context, adding complexity to the whole discussion. It does not try to make the claim that any specific story would prove that Indian culture is more accepting than others, and neither does it say it is less. Stories are explained within their own cultural context, and through that the reader is educated not only on topics of gender and sexuality, but also Indian literature, spirituality, and society.
Storytellers who work with mythology, and educators who teach Gender or Culture Studies, should definitely read this book.


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