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Moving Forward Sideway Like a Crab, Shani Mootoo.

January 4, 2017

Moving Forward Sideways Like a Crab, Shani Mootoo.  Akashic Books, 2017.  FORTHCOMING MAY 2017.

5 stars—FAVORITE

An amazing book by an Indian woman from Trinidad and Canada providing insights into the lives of transgendered individuals and those who love them.

Moving Forward Sideways Like a Crab introduced me to the complex life of a person who was transgendered.  For the first time I was able to understand at a visceral level how a person makes and lives with decisions about gender that I do not encounter in my own life.  The book’s subject, and how well that subject is handled, make it an important and unique publication, especially for those of us living in limiting traditional communities.

This book however is much more than its treatment of sexual minorities.  Appropriately, characters are much more than their sexuality.  A variety of themes are interwoven: loss and re-connection, migration and cultural difference, inter-generational relations, secrecy and death.  . The writing is graceful and compelling.  The landscapes of Trinidad and Toronto, where the book is set, are lushly portrayed both in terms of their physicality and of the differences of the people who live in each. One of the main characters is part of the Indian community that has long been a part of Trinidad. Hindu life and ritual is described.

The plot is unusual and an excellent vehicle for the story.  Jonathan grew up in Toronto, cared for primarily by his mother’s partner. When the couple split, Jonathan’s caregiver disappears, only to be rediscovered after Jonathan is a young man.  Jonathan is intensely curious about the fact the person has changed gender, but holds back questions out of respect.  Gradually Jonathan and the reader come to learn the full story.

Shani Mootoo was raised in the Indian Trinidad community and moved to Canada as a young adult.  Initially she devoted herself to creating films and videos, some of them widely praised.  She has claimed that her interest in visual storytelling seemed safer to her than words after she was punished for telling about the sexual abuse she received as a young child.  In writing her novels she displays both her visual and verbal gifts.  In addition to her work in film, she has published several books of short stories, poems, and fiction.  Her writing often focuses on issues of migration and sexual diversity.

I strongly recommend this book to those interested in learning to appreciate those who are transgendered—and to anyone who is curious about people, or simply cares about excellence in writing.  Akashic Books is to be congratulated for making available yet another excellent and important book.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 4, 2017 12:41 pm

    Oh thank you for reviewing this, I have one of her books on my list to read this year, Cereus Blooms at Night, I can’t wait, I wasn’t aware she had a new one coming out, it sounds really interesting.

  2. January 5, 2017 12:26 pm

    Yes, I think you will like her books. As you can see, I am currently looking for a copy of her earlier writings and I would love to see one of her videos. I hope you review Cereus Blooms at Night. I am curious.

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