Sunday, April 18, 2010

Gay men in grey tales

Rahul Mehta's debut collection of short stories, Quarantine, launches in India this month. In simple, fluid prose, Mehta weaves intimate tales of ‘ordinary' Indian-Americans trying to find meaning in their lives and relationships. Many of his characters are gay men, who appear to have come to terms with their sexuality a long time ago. Thus, ‘gayness' is part of every story's normal landscape. Mehta, the son of Gujarati immigrants from Mumbai, was born and bred in Virginia and teaches English at Alfred University in New York state. He talks storytelling and sexuality with Amit Bhattacharya by email. 

Your stories portray family dynamics among Indian immigrants in the US with great intimacy. How autobiographical are they?
The work is certainly shaped by personal experience (but) I would definitely resist any attempt to characterize it as "autobiographical". The work is definitely fiction, not memoir.

Gay relationships are a common thread in your stories. In some of them, parents are comfortable with their son's homosexuality. Does that accurately reflect attitudes within the Indian-American community?
I'm not sure the Indian-American community as a whole is any more accepting of homosexuality than similar communities in India. In fact, in some ways, Indian communities in America might be even more conservative than in India. There is a perception that many Indian immigrants from the first big wave of immigration in the 1950s and 1960s still cling to an idea of "Indian values" that is essentially 50 years out-of-date. However, I've been very fortunate that all of the people in my life – my parents, my brother, my uncles, aunts, cousins, and my parents' family-friends – have been incredibly supportive, not just of my being gay, but of my being a writer, my choosing a path that may be different from the standard stereotype of the Indian-American doctor or engineer or banker.

Full interview here Times of India

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