Hello and welcome to our monthly Read the Rainbow discussion spotlight!
Read the Rainbow is a spotlight for queer books, authors and readers. Every month, I’ll be hosting an interview or discussion centered around a queer book. The interviews will be conducted with authors and the discussions will take place with #ownvoice readers for each book. Every month, I’ll be announcing the book of the month for Read the Rainbow so that everyone can read the book before the spotlight, although it is not a necessity.
Our May BOTM is The Subtweet written by Vivek Shraya featuring a transgender character with own-voice representation as well as poc representation.
Everyone talks about falling in love, but falling in friendship can be just as captivating. When Neela Devaki’s song is covered by internet-famous artist Rukmini, the two musicians meet and a transformative friendship begins. But as Rukmini’s star rises and Neela’s stagnates, jealousy and self-doubt creep in. With a single tweet, their friendship implodes, one career is destroyed, and the two women find themselves at the center of an internet firestorm.
Celebrated multidisciplinary artist Vivek Shraya’s second novel is a stirring examination of making art in the modern era, a love letter to brown women, an authentic glimpse into the music industry, and a nuanced exploration of the promise and peril of being seen
I’m delighted to have Enne and Neha on the blog today to discuss The Subtweet 🙂
As per usual the discussion remains spoiler-free.
Enne (they/them) is an avid reader of all things YA and a book blogger over at Our Worlds of Words. They also love writing and baking. Some of their favorite reads include Radio Silence, Wild Beauty, and I Wish You All The Best.
Neha is a Queer Trans Nonbinary multi-blogger of all things bookish, otaku, gaming, and Asian cinema related over on BiblioNyan. Additionally, they passionately discuss the importance of self-care and mental health awareness with Self-Care Sunday postings. When they aren’t working 40+ hours as a professional book/anime reviewer and blogger, They attend Uni for Asian Studies (Japanese focus) and Creative Writing, and work on collecting languages. Their life is ruled by four demonic kitties and the power of masala chai!
1. Just from reading the blurb and looking at the cover what were your thoughts or expectations from this book? Did your expectations hold?
ENNE: I’m honestly not sure what I was expecting from this book aside from a discussion on how social media affects relationships, and I definitely feel like it delivered in that regard. I don’t usually gravitate towards books that are set in the entertainment industry because it’s not something that tends to appeal to me, and I think that’s part of why I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I wanted to. Overall, I think while my expectations held in some regard, I was also expecting to enjoy this a lot more than I did.
NEHA: To be honest, the snippet initially didn’t appeal to me too much. I’m not someone who naturally gravitates towards contemporaries, especially if there is a social media aspect to it. That being said, I was curious to see the development and then the destruction of a friendship due to the toxic culture surrounding social media. That is such a relevant subject to today’s digital environment and that was ultimately the biggest draw for me. Expectations wise, I didn’t have much. The premise is so different from anything I’ve encountered before, so I didn’t know what to expect specifically. All I really wanted was good writing, at the very least, and it delivered in that regard.
2. Which of the main characters did you relate more to, Neela or Rukmini?Which side characters was your favourite?
ENNE: I think I related a lot more to Rukmini. I was definitely able to empathize with her a lot more. To be honest, a lot of the throwaway comments that Neela made in the first half of the book bothered me, so I wasn’t a huge fan of her until about the halfway point, when she grew on me. I really appreciated Rukmini’s courage and her desire to make friends and connect to someone was extremely relatable for me. I also appreciate that while Rukmini’s confidence is on full display, we also get to see the other side of that and explore her insecurities.
While I definitely didn’t relate to that part of Rukmini’s character, as I’m a very anti-social person, but it was definitely nice to see!! As for the side characters, I honestly can’t recall much of them. I think they weren’t really a huge part of the story and definitely not as developed as they could have been. I wish we could have seen more of them and their relationships with Neela and Rukmini, but as it is, I don’t really remember any of them, so I can’t pick a favorite.
NEHA: Both characters have things about them that are equally likeable and unlikeable, so I didn’t have a particular favourite per say. However, I did prefer Neela a tiny bit more over Rukmini because I could relate a lot to her negativity and tendency to be self-loathing. As someone who feels immensely vulnerable in social situations or when trying to formulate new friendships (and someone who can be hard on themselves because of it), a lot of her insecurities and pessimism was close to home for me.
With Rukmini, her strong presence, particularly in social situations, was something that I always admired because of how incapable I am of being as such. So, when her own insecurities were shown throughout the story, it was nice to see the other side of her confidence. Witnessing her vulnerabilities and how similar they were to Neela’s in many respects helped balance her out and give her more depth. For side characters, I didn’t really have a favourite at all. I wish the side characters were a tad bit more developed. Overall, they were kind of forgettable once I put the book down.
3. Without giving any spoilers, tell us about your favourite parts or scenes in the book.
ENNE: I honestly think my favorite parts of this book were all of the parts where we get to see Neela and Rukmini slowly opening up to each other and becoming closer friends. I adore seeing friendships develop in books, so those parts were always a joy to read. I also loved those scenes because they really showcased how complex friendships can be and it set up for later scenes in the book very well.
NEHA: My favourite scenes were the more intimate exchanges that Rukmini and Neela had. They were sincere and wholesome while also highlighting a lot of the cracks that would impact the story later on. It was written well and the flaws of their connection were subtle without being obtuse.
4. This book explored multiple themes like feminism, friendships, appeasing white people etc. Which one did you like reading about the most?
ENNE: I honestly loved so many of the themes explored in this book. I think my favorite would have to be friendships, though, just because that one felt like it was given the most space to grow and develop. Neela and Rukmini’s friendship develops really quickly and I thought the book overall did a really good job of exploring how those fast friendships aren’t always as cemented as they seem to be.
I specifically liked how it touches on the way social media affects friendships and how significant of a part of it has in people’s interactions. I think that’s a theme that was also great, but that I wish had been explored more: the way social media affects our interactions with others. Not only in the case of friendships or relationships, but also with professional relationships, especially in the entertainment industry, which relies a lot on the engagement from social media. Additionally, I really liked the way feminism was discussed in this book and the way that discussion tied into the theme of artists and musicians of color appeasing their white audiences. However, I do feel like the author could have gone a lot more in detail with her discussion on feminism, which I would have liked to see more of. Overall, though, I definitely think that the themes explored in this book were one of my favorite parts of the novel.
NEHA: I liked the exploration of friendships, especially in the digital age. In current times, it’s far easier to feel an immediate kinship to another person based on an exchange of similar experiences, even if there are red flags that arise, particularly if they’re done online. It’s like five minutes of having a shared history of pain or suffering with another person creates this instant bond with the instant gratification it provides; a special camaraderie that gives us tunnel vision to other things that may be a problem later. This unique exposition of fast-paced friendships and judgments is an excellent allegory for social media culture. Having a great chat with someone over Twitter or Discord that flows easily and comfortably can make us feel like we’ve found a new best friend. Yet, when things take a negative turn, the fallout can feel like a slap in the face we never saw coming, even if the signs were there, if that makes sense.
I also appreciated the commentary on appeasing White people, yet I felt this wasn’t really fleshed out as well as it could have been. The cause-and-effect of what POC bending over to the White masses looks like is something that desperately needs more attention, but it’s a difficult and uncomfortable subject that can be challenging to dissect. While the core elements of how it’s problematic and why the representation of those acts is harmful was highlighted, I felt the author was also playing it safely, which left me feeling unsatisfied and wanting much more from it.
5. What were your thoughts on cover artists and album covers before reading this book? Did your opinions change?
ENNE: I didn’t really have any strong opinions on covers prior to reading this, mostly because I don’t really listen to them. They’re not really the songs that catch my interest when I’m looking for something to listen to, aside from a select few. I had never looked at covers as a way to create a bigger platform for aspiring musicians or how the original artists might feel to see their songs made more popular by a different person. Ultimately, I think there is a lot to be said for covers, both negative and positive, and I think it needs to be a larger discussion than it is right now. There are definitely positives to covers in how they benefit smaller creators, but I think the cost of those positives also needs to be discussed.
NEHA: I don’t typically listen to covers. The only covers I used to listen to were done by my favourite band. Even so, it never occurred to me how the popularity of the cover artists performances could hinder or snuff out the career of the original artists. This is something that I think deserves much more attention and discourse. For the original artists, having that happen to their work can make them feel like victims of theft. It’s something that happens often with artist creators who make fanart for books or media, and then companies steal those images for their products without permission. While I was reading the book and watching the negative implications of cover artist popularity being portrayed, that was all I could envision (artists having their products stolen) and it broke my heart for the original content creators.
6. How would you describe this book in just three words?
ENNE: Digital Age Friendships
NEHA: Exploring Twitter Toxicities
7. Lastly, if you were to write a short letter to either this book or the author, what would you write?
ENNE: I’m honestly not sure where I would begin. I think I would thank her for writing a book that features friendship at the center, as we don’t see a lot of those and I really appreciated that aspect of this one. I would also thank her for shining a light on the way social media affects relationships in the digital age and how those relationships are not always what they seem to be. I would also ask her what her inspiration was behind the lyrics because I’m very curious about how they came about. And I would ask her what made her want to center this book around the music industry, specifically.
NEHA: My short letter would ask the author not to include a short mumble of a sentence about one of the character’s being Trans if there isn’t going to be a proper representation to go with it. There are enough token Trans people in the media as it is that to have such a tiny little teasing of it is disrespectful and utterly useless. I would also like to thank them for shining a light on a subject that is uncomfortable but extremely vital in today’s technology-centric social culture with sharp witted writing and dynamically fallible characters. It was a pleasure reading this book and I’d love to see more discourse about the culture of appeasing White masses and why it’s so hurtful and disrespectful.
Thank you Enne and Neha for such a wonderful discussion!
I hope you all enjoyed the Read the Rainbow discussion for this month 🙂 Before you go, I would like to announce our next book of the month for June. Since June is Pride month we’ll be having two wonderful books instead of one!
The Henna Wars by Adiba Jagirdar which features a sapphic relationship between aBangladeshi-Irish & Lesbian Muslim MC and Brazilian-Irish & Bisexual MC. We also have Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender featuring a bisexual transgender MC and a demi black MC along with other queer characters.
Here are the blurbs if you somehow haven’t come across these wonderful gems yet.
When Dimple Met Rishi meets Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda in this rom com about two teen girls with rival henna businesses.
When Nishat comes out to her parents, they say she can be anyone she wants—as long as she isn’t herself. Because Muslim girls aren’t lesbians. Nishat doesn’t want to hide who she is, but she also doesn’t want to lose her relationship with her family. And her life only gets harder once a childhood friend walks back into her life.
Flávia is beautiful and charismatic and Nishat falls for her instantly. But when a school competition invites students to create their own businesses, both Flávia and Nishat choose to do henna, even though Flávia is appropriating Nishat’s culture. Amidst sabotage and school stress, their lives get more tangled—but Nishat can’t quite get rid of her crush on Flávia, and realizes there might be more to her than she realized.
Felix Love has never been in love—and, yes, he’s painfully aware of the irony. He desperately wants to know what it’s like and why it seems so easy for everyone but him to find someone. What’s worse is that, even though he is proud of his identity, Felix also secretly fears that he’s one marginalization too many—Black, queer, and transgender—to ever get his own happily-ever-after.
When an anonymous student begins sending him transphobic messages—after publicly posting Felix’s deadname alongside images of him before he transitioned—Felix comes up with a plan for revenge. What he didn’t count on: his catfish scenario landing him in a quasi–love triangle….
But as he navigates his complicated feelings, Felix begins a journey of questioning and self-discovery that helps redefine his most important relationship: how he feels about himself. Felix Ever After is an honest and layered story about identity, falling in love, and recognizing the love you deserve.
Have you read The Subtweet? If yes, what are your thoughts on it? If not, is it on your TBR?
Do you often read books around musical themes? This was one of the few books I picked up where music was a central aspect.
What are your favourite themes to read about in a book?