www.ambiente.us  APRIL | ABRIL 2009

Blue Boy |(Kensington, 2009)| by Rakesh Satyal
review by Charlie Vázquez

Rakesh Satyal’s debut novel Blue Boy is a hilarious and upsetting tale of a young
queer boy’s relationship with his suburban Cincinnati Indian-American family and his
rite of passage into adolescence, where fascinations with MTV pop stars shift to
nocturnal obsessions with sex and the painful genesis of queer identity; a second, and
more spiritual, birth. The fault-line between Kiran’s enchanted inner-world and the
pressures thrust upon him by his well-to-do family is an endless source of frustration,
humor and heartbreak. Blue Boy will resonate strongly with those of us who have made
such parallel journeys ourselves—to those of us who shook off the shackles of
convention to create our own unusual space in the world.

While visiting with other Indian kids in other suburban homes, Kiran realizes that he is
not like them (save for his appearance) and that their interests and pursuits seem, if
anything, ludicrous and dull. As these boys and girls flesh out their roles as hetero-
normative suburbanites, Kiran dives into a world of porn magazines and the
simultaneously frightful and fascinating emotions they stir. When he accidentally
witnesses a teenage three-way in a park at night, Kiran’s passage
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into the realm of sensual delights peaks, as he is forced to acknowledge his own
desire against the heterosexual world of smut he has unearthed. A friendly park ranger,
Rodney, discovers him and assumes the role of macho fantasy archetype. But Satyal’s
most impressive achievement is his connecting queerness with deity. Kiran aspires to
become Krishna, the most beautiful of all Indian gods—with his blue skin, thickly
applied kajol (eyeliner) and magical flute. As the date of a school talent show creeps
closer, Kiran choreographs a routine which stars him as his favorite god, complete with
blue cosmetics, a recorder (flute) purchased at a garage sale, and clothing retrofitted
from Indian garments stolen from his mother’s closet.  When his parents forbid him
from participating in the talent show, Kiran deftly sneaks around them and manages to
take his act to the stage anyway, where the text reveals unspoken family truths and
secrets; where Kiran is relieved of the boulder of emotions he has been carrying on his
shoulders.  









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