Identity crisis

So, this March, let's talk about identity (gender, race and otherwise). This March, it's not only about women, although we have some great reads by and about women, too. This time, we also propose books that look at what it means to be a man in the 21st century, what it's like to be a queer person in a society that marginalises queerness and what it's like to pretend to be part of a marginalised community while you aren't. Plenty to think of!

"Middlesex" by Jeffrey Eugenides is an ambitious novel that seamlessly blends elements of family saga, coming-of-age story, and social commentary. Set in the 20th century, the novel follows the intersex protagonist, Cal Stephanides, as they navigate the complexities of identity, gender, and sexuality. Stephanideses story - as Greek refugees in the U.S. - intermingles with the broader historical narrative, exposing the rift between multiple ideas - nature vs. nurture, white vs. black, old vs. new. While it’s a long read full of characters and often conflicting ideas, it’s also funny and masterfully written.


Mithu Sanyal is a German-Indian writer, journalist, and activist. In this debut novel, she offers a bold exploration of identity, race, and cultural appropriation in the age of social media. In “Identitti” we follow a scandal around a white professor faking her origin and skin color to appear more Indian than she really is. The story is told through the lens of one of her students, a self-proclaimed “Mixed-Race Wonder Woman”, and blends the real and the fictional by quoting real intellectuals and bloggers, presenting these quotes as tweets in the ‘race fake’ scandal. Treating a serious subject - race and identity - with humour and great knack for insightful dialogues the novel will likely make you laugh more than once.


In "All That Man Is" we follow the interconnected stories of nine men at different stages of their lives. Szalay offers a raw and unflinching portrayal of contemporary male identity, exploring themes of alienation, ambition, and existential angst. Each character confronts their own vulnerabilities and desires, navigating the complexities of love, ambition, and mortality. Szalay's prose is incisive and haunting, capturing the essence of the human condition with remarkable clarity. As the narratives unfold, a collective portrait emerges, revealing the universal struggles and contradictions that define what it means to be a man in the twenty-first century.

"Happy Stories, Mostly" by Norman Erikson Pasaribu is a poignant and evocative collection of short stories that navigates the complexities of identity, love, and longing. Drawing on their own personal experiences as a queer person of Batak descent in Indonesia, Pasaribu invites readers to confront the challenges of living authentically in a society that often marginalizes difference.



Bernardine Evaristo is the first black woman to have won the Booker Prize. The book is written in a mix of poetry and prose that Evaristo calls “fusion fiction” and features 12 characters, most of whom are black British women. For Evaristo, this book is almost an activist novel, her mission being to write about the African diaspora, to address its invisibility and show its heterogeneity. Class, age, gender - Evaristo’s protagonists are different in many ways but inhabit intertwined worlds. And despite these differences, her characters are relatable thanks to her witty and accurate observations on the human experience.

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