Originally self-published in 2011, God Loves Hair, by Vivek Shraya, is a Lambda Literary Award finalist and critically acclaimed coming-of-age story. Published this year by Vancouver house Arsenal Pulp Press, Shraya’s short and sweet memoirs are accompanied by the visuals of artist Juliana Neufeld. Her illustrations turn the stories into a liquid reverie. God loves hair because it flows!
The book tells the story of a boy growing up in Canada with first-generation South Asian parents. The thread of Hindu spirituality throughout the funny, heart-wrenching and beautiful prose makes it a soulful read without being the least dogmatic. You don’t have to believe in God to believe in these stories.
“The more ‘religious’ or spiritual stories were the hardest to write because they are the most personal and detail experiences I don’t often share,” says Shraya, “but it felt important to show how sometimes we find safety or comfort in the most unlikely spaces. As a queer kid looking for signs of normalcy, I really identified with the male Hindu gods whose masculinities were infused, not diminished, by their dancing, singing, long hair, etc. What has surprised me is that these stories are the ones that readers often connect to the most, versus the more broadly themed stories.”
The fragments of Shraya’s life he shares include the transformative effects of being dressed up in his mother’s sari, being bullied in middle school, his gym teacher’s bubble butt, Bollywood idols, “es ee ex,” his suicide genes/jeans and the almighty power of hair.
The lesson in God Loves Hair is that God loves you — so maybe you can start loving yourself.