Blue Boy, by Rakesh Satyal
January 1, 1970
My editor at HarperCollins, Rakesh Satyal, has recently published his own debut novel, Blue Boy. Here's the link to the Amazon listing, where you can see the four excellent customer reviews.
I don't know the ethics of a writer reviewing her editor's work, so for now I'll just say this: Satyal has achieved what he set out to do, as explained in his Q&A at the end of the book: write a "humorous" and "playful" account of growing up Indian (Punjabi)-American in Middle America (Cincinnati).
Blue Boy is what is often called a "coming of age" story, about a boy's recognition and acceptance of his homosexuality. But this book, like the best of these, is so much more than that. Everyone who knows Satyal or works with him uses the same word to describe him: "brilliant," and this characterization is what distinguishes Blue Boy from so many similar stories. Satyal's voice is witty, sharp, somewhat cruel—the marks of a, dare I say it? —very masculine style.
While the author's focus on his Indian heritage and his "differences" from the other children give the book a unique flavor, it's important to stress, as other reviewers have said, that the story's appeal is universal. A middle-aged, white-bread, New York woman, I was drawn in and captivated from the beginning, made just uncomfortable enough by the acerbic humor, the critical but affectionate look at Punjabi culture and the minutely observed descriptions of people 's physical appearance to know I was reading the work of a master.
Satyal will be reading at the Lincoln Triangle Barnes & Noble (Broadway at 66th St.) on Tuesday May 26 at 7:30 (sorry for short notice).