Throughout 2020, All Lit Up-er Tan Light is participating in BookRiot's
Read Harder Challenge—a reading task designed to expand readerly boundaries—and doing so with an indie twist. Each entry in this series will highlight one or two completed challenges along with a list of books from All Lit Up to have you reading harder, too! This month's challenge includes a duo of books—a poetry collection and a play—by authors of colour.
About the book: The story of Layla and Majnun, made immortal by the Persian poet Nizami Ganjavi in the 12th century, has been retold thousands of times. Against the backdrop of this story, to the sound-track of modern hip-hop, and amid the struggle of an immigrant family to instill an old faith under new conditions, Irfan Ali's Accretion hurtles towards an unsustainable, "greater madness.
Tan's take: You know of Layla—yes, the one Clapton sang about. I think she's probably the better known half of this mythic duo here in the west. Accretion instead explores more of Majnun's plight, his obsession/possession by love, and ties this ancient tale to modern issues of mental health, identity, and connection.
For more classic works reimagined by authors of colour, try...
Challenge #10: Read a play by an author of colour and/or queer author
Acha Bacha by Bilal Baig (Playwrights Canada Press)
About the book: Acha Bacha is a play that boldly explores the intersections between queerness, gender identity, and Islamic culture in the Pakistani diaspora.
Tan's take: This play was hard hitting emotionally, and an interesting reading experience: a lot of the dialogue is in a language I do not speak, and the playwright includes explicit instruction that the Urdu not be translated for the audience. Most often exchanged between loved ones, it adds a bit of intimacy to the dialogue by making it feel "private." The lines are peppered with just enough English for meaning to be conveyed, and I imagine that in the context of production, meaning would be clear.
For more dramatic works by queer authors of colour, try...
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