Sunday, March 22, 2015

Moving Forward Sideways like a Crab by Shani Mootoo

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 312

Series: NA

Source: Library

Genres: Canadian Literature, LGBTQ Literature

Publisher: Doubleday Canada (Penguin Random House)

Publication date: April 22, 2014

Someone who hadn’t tried to make him into who he wasn’t, but rather helped him to become who he already was

First impression

I read this book for the Hello Hemlock book club and I have to say at first I was a bit confused as to why this one fell in the CanLit category, since the author is originally from Trinidad and most of the story takes place in there. However, as I read along it made sense, at least to me. The biggest transformation for Syd takes place in Canada and the whole subject of immigration (to Canada in particular) is a constant in here. It was a beautiful story to read, full of emotion and discovery, not only by Jonathan but for me too. Dealing with being gay and being transgender and how this affect the main character and others around, particularly in a culture as conservative as Trinidad seems to be, the book also touches the subject of family and the feeling of belonging somewhere. And off course, it deals with love; love for our parents and children, love for our friends and love for ourselves.

Of course, the past is never erased, and is even always present

Final thoughts

The story stars with the voice of Sid/Sydney struggling with how to tell his son, Jonathan, all of the things that he couldn’t but wishes he had. Born Sid in Trinidad, he became Sydney with a gender reassignment surgery; as Sid she dated Jonathan’s birth mother, and loved him as her own child, but when things started falling apart in that relationship, Sid left their home. Jonathan did everything he could to find his lost second mom, and when he got a clue that brought him to Trinidad he discover that Sid was now Sydney and with this a whole path of discovery and understanding starts for both men.

This was a heart wrenching story for me; not just the part of Sydney transitioning and what he had to deal with, with his family and his past, but also because of all the very complicated dynamics taking place around him. His beloved friend Zain and the thing she had to deal with; Jonathan’s feeling of abandonment, disconnect with his mother and his girlfriend, and finally, his own experience as an outsider when he is the one outside of his country.

While I haven’t had a 100% similar journey than Sydney, the feelings Mootoo express to him, about being an immigrant, about feeling there is always something missing…about winter! Those feelings where the first ones to grab my attention, being also an immigrant. And then, captivated as I was, I was able to get into the whole story and perceive all the pain and all the joy that Sydney represented.

The pace of the story might feel a bit slow to some, but I think the rhythm is perfect for all the sorrow and transitions taking place. It is always slow to accept big changes, and it is even slower to tell people about them, for we want to add all of the shades of our feelings. Hence for me, the rhythm Mootoo uses is just ideal. She has a very beautiful, delicate and embracing style that carried me away, making me almost feel the sweet breeze in Trinidad’s shore.

I would recommend this book to anyone wanting to read a magnificent book about transitions, might it be gender or immigrant related.

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