This is the penultimate review for my Asexual Fiction from Riptide Publishing Month.
What is this story about?
Rachel is recovering from anorexia and also has a pile of student loans burdening her finances. Pari is a lesbian from Tamil Nadu who wants a green card (she would rather have U.S. citizenship, but she will settle for a green card). In order to get a green card, Pari needs to be married to a U.S. citizen for at least two years, and it has to look like it is a marriage based on feelings rather than, say, trying to get a green card. So many people know that Pari is a lesbian that the INS will be suspicious if she marries a man, but since her romantic/sexual relationships have generally been unstable, she does not trust a marriage to another lesbian to last two years. Thus, the solution for her is to marry a straight woman who has an entirely nonromantic reason to stick with her for years. And as it so happens, Pari can help Rachel with her ongoing student loan debt.
Of course, this is all based on the assumption that Rachel is straight. Which she is, of course, because she has only had sexual relations with men, even though she was never very into sex with men, and she hasn’t had any sexual relationship for years. Yeah, Rachel is even more heterosexual than Heterosexual Jill.
What sexual and/or violent content is there in this story?
There are long very detailed sex scenes in this story. IIRC, there is no violence.
Tell me more about this novel.
Yeah, it’s one of those stories where a marriage of convenience conveniently turns into a marriage based on romance. As such, I did not feel it was particularly skillful. Okay, yes, demisexuality is a plausible mechanism for how someone who is not sexually attracted to someone else at first becomes very sexually attracted to them later. It was Pari’s side of the equation which I had trouble buying – though we are told that Pari does not want to marry a lesbian because she wants to avoid romantic/sexual drama in her marriage, I don’t know … it felt like the writer was forcing the character’s behavior. I think that it would have been more convincing if we had actually met one of Pari’s ex-girlfriends, and if the story had shown why the relationship was so dysfunctional that Pari would want to avoid sex/romance in a marriage.
Generally, I thought there were many parts of the story, not just the motivation for Pari pursuing marriage the way she does, which were not sufficiently developed. And generally, things work out too conveniently for the characters – rather than overcoming obstacles, the obstacles generally just disappear for a while.
My favorite part of the story was Pari’s mother, Niharika. I don’t know enough about Tamil culture to know how plausible Niharika’s behavior is, but this is one of my favorite bits of the story:
“When will the wedding be?” Niharika crosses her arms over her chest and asks with an extra handful of displeasure sprinkled over the top.
Pari squeezes my hand, and I can feel my hope as if it were a radio wave between them. “We aren’t going to make a big deal of it. We’re meeting at the courthouse on Wednesday.”
“No! Absolutely not.” Niharika slashes a hand through the air so decisively that the camera wavers. “Already this will be . . .” She lets the sentence fade, and I breathe a sigh of relief for Pari’s heart. There are only so many words that a daughter’s feelings can ignore. “You will have a real marriage.”
“A traditional wedding?” Pari seems doubtful. “I don’t think that’s wise.”
“You would ignore even more of our traditions?”
Yes, Niharika thinks that her daughter getting married in a courthouse instead of having a traditional Tamil wedding is even more scandalous than her daughter marrying a woman. From her perspective, it’s bad enough that ‘America’ made her daughter want to marry a woman, but foregoing the traditional wedding would be taking things too far. Therefore, Pari is going to have a traditional Tamil same-sex wedding.
Niharika’s wedding preparations are generally entertaining. There is also this bit:
“And red,” Niharika adds. “We must have red. It’s for fertility.”
Pari rolls her eyes, but only facing me, where her mother can’t see it. “We’re two women. Fertility is going to be difficult.”
“You have double the fertility.” She nods decisively, as if this is how she’s come to grips with the concept of her daughter, the lesbian. “It’s good luck.”
I also could not help but notice that Pari’s aunt is called Aishwarya. The only Tamil movie I have ever seen (yep, I’ve only seen one Tamil movie, which gives you an idea of just how shallow my knowledge of Tamil culture is) is Kandukondain Kandukondain, which stars Aishwayra Rai. I wonder whether the writer named the aunt specifically after Aishwarya Rai, or whether Aishwarya is simply a common Tamil name.
On the asexuality content scale (1 = least asexual content, 10 = most asexual content), I rate this story as a 2.
This is the key passage:
“Damn right.” Nikki spins again. “Do you ever see anyone, boy or girl, walking down the street and think, ‘Gee, I’d like to bone them’?”
“Thanks for that descriptive phrase, but no. I don’t.” I bounce my knees. “I think my sex drive is defective.”
“It’s not defective to be demisexual,” Skylar offers.
“What?” I sit up. “What is that?”
She stops what she’s doing with the autoclave and looks at Nikki. “I thought you were going to talk to her?”
“What?” Nikki’s eyes are big, and she throws her hands up. “It’s not my job to be her sexual counselor.”
“Um, yes, it is.” I wish I had something to throw at her. Just like pillow level or something though. I’m annoyed, but not murderous. “It’s in the ‘best friend’ description.”
“I missed the description. Was that in a memo?”
“It was carved on the back of the locket I gave you. You know, the one that was half a heart?”
“Didn’t happen. You’re making things up again.”
“Maybe.” I look at Skylar instead. “What is a demisexual?”
“It’s a descriptor. Like queer or bi, except this one means on the sexual to asexual spectrum. You’re somewhere closer to asexual, but not all the way there. Demisexuals usually only want a sexual relationship with someone they already have an emotional connection with.”
“That doesn’t sound so bad.”
“Totally isn’t,” Nikki says. “And I didn’t tell you because it’s just a word. You do you, ya know? But it seems like maybe that’s you. I mean, I can’t remember you ever just locking eyes with anyone and thinking they’re droolworthy.”
“No, that doesn’t sound like me.” Part of that’s because I start worrying that sex would mean them seeing me at my ickiest, though.
So here is the Allo Savior Complex again, though at least in this example Nikki is pushing back against Skylar taking it upon herself to label someone else.
Rachel’s discomfort with sex is tied with her experiences with anorexia. I’m no expert on anorexia, but it makes sense to me that it would be difficult to sort out whether her lack of inclination can be attributed to anorexia, and what can be attributed to possibly being under the ace umbrella.
However, like other parts of the story, I felt the demisexual storyline was underdeveloped.
Was this written by an asexual?
I don’t know.
Hey Sara, do you like this novel?
I like the scenes with Niharika, but other than that, this novel is a solid ‘meh’ for me.