Vivek Shraya, multi-talented Canadian artist and darling, has given us another gift through her latest book, People Change. Transformation, change, and reincarnation are reoccurring themes in Shraya’s work, and in this slim volume that would pair nicely with I’m Afraid of Men, she shares her nuanced meditations on what it has meant for her as an individual to change, as well as our cultural relationship to change itself.
There are a million cliches when it comes to people changing: its unavoidability, its painfulness, its discomfort – and all of these things can be true, but I love how Shraya has mythologized her own fixation on change and transformation, and shows no judgment on her past, present, and future selves, only a keen observational eye.
Shraya says in regards to the cultural negative connotations of change: “Reinvention is framed as a wasteful and even foolish action, akin to another saying: ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’… is being broken the mother of reinvention?”, her poetic and clear prose shining in this long form essay format.
I particularly love the way Shraya writes about her relationship to pop culture, religion, and her queerness, and how fundamentally individual those societal experiences can shape who you are.
Reading People Change reminded me of one of the many reasons I also fell in love with Torrey Peters’ Detransition, Baby – another book by a brilliant trans contemporary author who understands how fluid one’s identity can be, and that it is a fundamental human experience that shouldn’t be morally charged by onlookers. It is both a cultural and individual experience, and our lives may be a whole lot easier if we could hold these contradictions at the same time and just be kind to each other!
Relationships changing, identities changing, and wants and needs changing are all natural things that we can struggle with immensely. But do yourself a favour and read this book to give you a helping hand! Not only that, People Change shows us there is also so much humour, hopefulness, and many chances for community to be found in embracing change.
This book is not self-help – I would say its part cultural criticism, memoir, philosophy, and gender studies. I highly recommend checking out any of Vivek Shraya’s projects, including her books, visual art (I think about this project about her mother, Trisha, and the stories that live in our family photographs all the time), and musical projects. She is unbelievably skilled at communicating her emotional world, allowing us to hopefully better understand our own selves and transformations too.
People Change is one of our current Late Winter 2022 Featured Reads. To view our full selection of 24 fiction and non-fiction reads, visit wpl.ca.