Mithu Sanyal’s fast-paced debut novel IDENTITTI is pop, soul and rock ’n’ roll all at once.
For Nivedita, who blogs about breasts, vulvas, and identity under the pseudonym IDENTITTI in Conversations with Goddess Kali, her world comes crashing down when she learns that her favorite professor Saraswati, has told a huge lie to the public. The charismatic Saraswati, who performs on international stages as an activist and Person of Color, is actually white! Her name is Sarah Vera Thielmann and she is from Karlsruhe in Germany. This is a huge blow, not only for Nivedita, but for the entire community, which had finally found unity and a voice through Saraswati.
Does everything that Nivedita learned from Saraswati no longer have any meaning? Why did Saraswati do this? What impact does her behavior have on the lives of her fellow human beings and on society as a whole?
Nivedita wants to find answers. The book does not simply condemn Saraswati’s deception, even in the huge shitstorm that rages online after the revelation, multi-layered voices and opinions become evident. The world is complex. There is not just one truth, but always multiple points of view that change over time.
It is great to read the self-understanding and openness of the young student Nivedita’s thought processes. The book also shows that desire and sexual feeling are not limited to romantic or physical components, but can also be found and fueled in spiritual bonds, as between Nivedita and Saraswati.
Mithu Sanyal moves with refreshing ease between reality and fiction, conveying knowledge of racism, sexuality, colonialism, and cultural appropriation through Nivedita’s everyday life with humor and irony.