Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Review: The Fish Eyes Trilogy by Anita Majumdar

The Fish Eyes Trilogy by Anita Majumdar; Illustrated by Maria Nguyen

Publishing Date: February 22, 2016
Publisher: Playwrights Canada Press/Banff Centre Press
Pages: 128

The Premise from the Publisher: "Fish Eyes is the story of Meena, a classically trained Indian dancer who, despite being obsessed with Bollywood movies and her dance career, just wants to be like the rest of her high-school friends. When she develops a massive crush on Buddy, the popular boy at school, Meena contemplates turning down an incredible opportunity to pursue him, even if he barely notices her. Boys With Cars follows Naz, also a classically trained Indian dancer, who dreams of getting out of small town Port Moody to attend the University of British Columbia. But when Buddy causes a stir over Naz at school, Naz’s university plans begin to crumble quickly. Let Me Borrow That Top centres on Candice, a girl who appropriates Meena’s Indian dance skills and bullies Naz after a nasty rumour spreads through the halls of their high school. But like her two enemies, Candice shares a passion for Indian dancing, and has just been accepted to the Conventry School of Bhangra. Will she leave behind the comforts of home to pursue her dreams?" (PCP)

My overall thoughts and review: I was browsing BookExpo at Congress 2017, and I came across the Playwrights Canada Press booth, where my lovely friend, Jessica, was working. We got to talking about my research interests since I was there presenting a paper. For those of you that don't know, I've worked on a few projects looking at consent and trauma. Authors that address it and handle it in a good way have a special place in my heart. I've always believed that we should draw attention to issues regarding consent and bring it into discussion so that we can prevent issues like that. Jess recommended this trilogy of three plays which follows three different female characters and one of the plays has a case of sexual assault and consent. The stories incorporate Indian dance which is something I'm unfamiliar with and was glad to learn about and there are illustrations done by Maria Nguyen. The illustrations were a nice touch to go alongside the play because some of them include the dance moves. I'm going to review them in the other that they appear in the text.

Fish Eyes was definitely my favorite of the three. I found myself relating to Meena a lot, with the struggle of doing what you want and what you have to do. She has a crush on Buddy which gets in the way of her relationship with her dance teacher, Kalyani Aunty. It was really nice to see the parallels between Meena and Kalyani and how they both experienced love and disappointment. In the end, it wrapped up quite nicely. One aspect that definitely made me cringe and uncomfortable was the character of Candice and how she would appropriate Indian-culture. What Majumdar presents is real and there are people that appropriate different cultures and that is extremely problematic. I liked that Meena did not stand for that. I'll get back to the Candice character shortly.

Boys With Cars follows Naz who wants to escape to UBC, but falls in love with a character named Lucky along the way. What Majumdar does that is incredibly unique is that across the three plays, the characters stay the same? Whereas, the next play is about a character that runs in the same circle, so to speak. Lucky is best friends with Buddy, who is Candice' boyfriend. The story follows Naz after an event that rocks her to the core. At a dance event, while Candice is performing, Buddy grabs Naz's hand and places it on himself during an event. What happens after is Candice bullying Naz for "going after Buddy" and Lucky lashes out and does not want to hear Naz's side of the story. The play once again gives us a series of events that feel really "real" and authentic to the situation. Naz takes control of the situation in the end and fights back in her own way which I really appreciated. But the feelings of self-doubt in her apology to Lucky, about how she should've done more felt incredibly authentic because the victim in some cases may often blame themselves which is really unfortunate. It definitely made me sad to see how Lucky reacted to the situation and it pissed me off even more that Buddy faced no consequences for his actions.

Let Me Borrow That Top follows Candice, the girl who was trying to appropriate dance culture and also bullied Naz incessantly. There's an authors note that states this play should never be performed in isolation and I would say the same can be said for when reading it. You have to read it in order to get a full sense of each and every character. I know that this play was meant to give some ~humanity~ to Candice and show her struggles as a character. You see her presenting a make-up tutorial for her youtube viewers while talking about the events. She is holding up a pregnancy test while telling her viewers that she broke up with Buddy and has aspirations to attend the Coventry School of Bhangra dance. The reader learns a few things regarding Candice's sister and Buddy, and you see her struggle between choosing her future, or if it is already chosen for her. I did not like Candice even by the end of this, but I did appreciate the way she handled Buddy and stuck it to him at the dance.

Overall, I really did enjoy this trilogy of three plays. I liked how it was done in a unique way, where it wove together various narratives within the same environment. I liked that you really got a sense of a character's voice through every play. Each play explores the struggles each girls face in terms of future and love. Also, I really appreciated how the author handled the issue of consent and sexual assault in the second play. If you are a fan of female coming-of-age stories, I would definitely recommend this trilogy of plays!

My rating of the book: ✮✮✮✮ (4/5 stars)

Available for purchase at:
Playwrights Canada PressChapters/IndigoKobo Books, and Amazon 

Disclaimer: A copy of the play was sent by Playwrights Canada Press in exchange for an honest review. All opinions of the book are my own. 

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