When you know an artist personally, it’s hard to look at their work without their shadow hovering over you. It’s hard because every word that you read/image that you see, seems to remind you of your personal experiences with them. My short journey with Faerie started like this: I began turning the pages curious to see where the childlike choices of Lila, our protagonist, were taking her, but I went back constantly to the things Eisha, the author, had said to me in person. But by the time I was at page 20, maybe 25, I was in Lila’s little world, a world that was tumultuously frightening, affirming at times, a world seen through the eyes of a young girl. I had forgotten my connection with the author. For the rest of the 150 pages I found myself sitting on a stool in the space that Lila inhabited, a witness to her tenacious and fragile surrender to her struggles.
Faerie is a first person narrative of this young girl who is burdened by the realities of growing up and the expectations that come with it. The world is not a child’s dream, where all is well and the gushing wind in the meadow brings cackles of life and poetry to lull you into slumber. A young person’s life is full of anxiety to fit it, anguish of not being able to live up to the family’s expectations and the fear of not being able to finally take ownership of one’s life. Faerie is this and a whole lot more, but essentially it’s about a young person’s struggle to just be.
We meet Lila in the room of psychiatric ward where she is consumed by her struggles with anorexia. We dive right into Lila’s daily, hourly trauma of hiding food that she is forced to eat to add few pounds, to her disappearing physical self, to her emotional crises of this constant obsession with her weight, all a product of the world forcing her to fit into strange, mindless boxes. The world of socially normative nurses and doctors is only a constant reminder that Lila is alone on this journey. From there we go back to how it all began and peek into Lila’s life, as she grows up within the confines of family expectations, her marginalized ethnic realities and the nudging exploration of her sexuality. The book also shines a critical light on our society’s constant attempts at trying to medically “fix” everything.
Dabbling in realities of the protagonist’s South Asian background and stereotypes of femininity, the pressures of growing up around a ‘normative’ sibling and parents that present burdening versions of traditional values finding their feet in a more liberal (emigrated) society, writer Eisha Marjara brings all these complexities to life with finesse, probity and lots of heart.
Faerie is marketed as young adult fiction. However, in a world where everyone is struggling to find themselves in the dynamic of persistent conformity, Faerie is a journey that has something for everyone.
Paragraphe Bookstore (2220 avenue McGill College) will host a book read for Faerie with writer Eisha Marjara on Sunday, February 21, 2016 from 2 – 3:30 p.m.