As a bony little kid studying in an Islamic country (the UAE, if you must know), I rarely had stories that spoke to me about me. My barbies were all white, their clothes were glittery (something my parents wouldn’t buy me, let alone let me wear), my friends were talking about boys (yes, even in the 2nd grade), but who could blame us? It’s all we saw everywhere around us. In cartoons, advertisements, movies, accidental pornography- everywhere. And so we all boxed up our brains into the roles we were assigned; the things we could do, the people we love. The hopes for our future too were very much like this- gendered.
Although my sexuality was not something I discovered and understood until my twenties, my gender identity was pretty clear to me as a 7-year-old. I liked many things but didn’t understand why those things were boxed up. For me, it was all one huge box that I could play with- all depending on how I felt on that day of that month of that year. Much like Guthli, in the book that I recently received to review. Guthli is a child who has hopes and dreams of being a fairy, and she doesn’t see frocks as girls’ clothes until her mother tells her that they are. The book provides a lesson to parents about socialisation without even using the word. “It’s just the way things are”, Guthli’s mother says just like a thousand other mothers around the world say to their children. Just like my mother said to me. Every action has a ‘like a boy’ or ‘like a girl’ following it, and 7-year-old me just wanted to be happy and comfortable wearing whatever that day, much like 24-year-old me, now that I think of it.
That is probably why I was so happy to have received this book to review; Guthli has Wings, written by Kanak Shashi. A simple book, with vibrant illustrations, the colours taking you through the many emotions that Guthli, a child, like any child with hopes, has! Even before I read it, I made my mother read it. She, as a school teacher, and a mother who had struggled to understand her child’s sexuality and gender identity, smiled slightly at the end of the book. We didn’t talk about it, but it’s a book I wish I could have given her when I was little and when she was angrier. Perhaps, it would have helped her understand what I could not make her see.
Guthli brought back memories of the first time I told my mother that I didn’t feel completely like a girl, or like a boy either, and asked her for an option beyond the two. My mother, who hadn’t thought the daughter she had prayed for so badly, wouldn’t want to be a daughter anymore. She was unprepared and dismissive of my plea. My mother now understands, and even though it took so many years, the Guthli in me has the wings that I’ve always wanted.
Book: Guthli Has Wings
Published by: Tulika Books
Author: Kanak Shashi