Book Review ~ Colonies of the Heart

This book was a recent selection for discussion by the Gay Book Discussion Group, sponsored b y Infinite Edge Productions and Center One. The group meets on the third Wednesday of each month at 7:30 at Pride Factory, located at 400 North Federal Highway. For more information call David Lydon at 537-4111 ext. 143.

COLONIES OF THE HEART
A young Indian is torn between his mother and his English lover in this poignant tale of East and West.

By Tom David

Here in South Florida in our mish-mash of races, cultures and life-styles, it would be rare indeed for a gay man not to have come up against some seemingly insurmountable cultural differences. In the traditional boy meets boy scenario, it is usually assumed that both men are more or less on the same wave length and either assimilated or working towards assimilation into the Western "gay" lifestyle. The conflicts in the dramas deal with coming out to parents, siblings, or friends; searching for self-acceptance and/or definition; coming out in the workplace, or plain old soft-core porn. Deeper issues such as caring for parents in their old age, making choices between living an "out" or and "in" lifestyle, coping with deeply rooted desires to marry and parent children, or dealing with the juxtaposition of cultural views of sex in general are less commonly dealt with in books currently on our shelves.

Colonies of the Heart, by Jeremy Seabrook, takes up these issues head on. An Englishman visiting Delhi for an aid organization befriends a young athlete in the Indian police force. Prakash's affection for him proves genuine enough. But trouble ensues when Frank seeks to press their relationship into Western ideas of a gay lifestyle. In a world of hard work and drastic insecurity (India), the claims of family still pull more strongly than sexual passion. This book explores the dependence of mother and son, and the conflicting loyalties of two kinds of love.

Many a tourist to a foreign land (often third world) has fallen prey to the pretty boy who offers to show them around and perhaps "a bit more." Within moderation, there is nothing wrong with this and both parties benefit. But occasionally something more happens. Either on one side or the other, deeper feelings develop, often so rapidly as to totally obliterate rationality. Promises are made and, sometimes, a relationship is formed. Usually this involves the other party moving to the US, but occasionally it is the other way around. It is now that the party is over, so to speak, and the process of learning to live with someone from another culture begins. An issue like leaving home, perhaps permanently, which seemed so manageable in the early days, suddenly turns into screeching arguments and hurt feelings. The lucky couples work their way through all of this, a process usually taking many years and lots of patience and hard work. The other relationships disintegrate into a morass of hurt feelings and sometimes legal problems.

In Colonies of the Heart, Frank and Prakash spent all their time courting in India. Frank makes journeys to and from England. Frank gives Prakash a substantial sum of money for his sister's operation. They visit Prakash's strong-willed mother and Frank is dismayed to learn that an arranged marriage is in the works. What will Prakash do? Which life style will he choose? He clearly loves and respects Frank and is hungry for a better life. Of course, dear reader, you

must buy the book to find out. You won't be disappointed. Colonies of the Heart is one of the most satisfying novels I have read in some time. It is not overly long, the emotions are raw and to the point, and the resolution, seemingly permanent.
 

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