Fiction Fix: If You See Me, Don’t Say Hi
Whenever a guy’s Hinge profile says “We’ll get along if... you love to read books” (surprisingly a lot say this), I always slightly shudder from embarrassment because my honest response is, “Do short stories count??”
I’m an intelligent person but truth be told, it took me about 6 months to finish the last novel I read. And that was over a year ago. Not because I didn’t like it. It was actually one of my favorite books I’ve read in awhile. It’s simply because novels are hard for me to finish because I have a v short attention span.
I read an article a day (watch my IG stories for daily links) and non-fiction is my jam, but fiction is really hard for me to fully get into. As an actress, I know the importance of reading, storytelling and stimulating my imagination so I’ve been challenging myself to read more fiction. I recently discovered short stories and I am THRILLED they exist as a genre. I find short stories punch-drunk with meaning, purity (no room for fluff) and captivating intrigue that is much more palatable for my fast-paced brain.
Onto the Good Stuff
This week’s post is dedicated to a collection of short stories I finished by Neem Patel called If You See Me, Don’t Say Hi. Patel is such an honest and sharp writer, showcasing the fucked-up realities of growing up as what many would deem as a less-than-perfect young adult who 1) didn’t meet the expectations of their parents, 2) may or may not have a drinking problem, 3) has major intimacy issues and 4) ghosts or is ghosted on one too many occasions.
Can you relate? I sure can. 🙋🏾♀️
His characters’ point of view are especially enticing because they all star an Indian-American protagonist (or in some cases an anti-hero/heroine). His subjects challenge the stereotype of the “model minority” that South Indians tend to be viewed as: i.e. doctor/pharmacist/attorney who marries a fine fellow Indian-American to appease their immigrant parents.
The challenge of living up to high expectations is fleshed out in such an intimate manner that you really get into the head of someone who was raised with an intense amount of pressure to be a stable, successful member of American society. His characters consistently suffer heartbreak that is not only painful but also shamed by family and community members. Homosexuality is a common thread showing how secrets are kept to maintain a straight facade out of fear of being disowned, shunned and unaccepted. And as I mentioned earlier, the fine line of alcoholism is questioned in plain sight for several of the characters. When does someone have a drinking problem versus drinking to merely survive the stresses of every day? That’s definitely a question I know many people struggle with.
And beyond heartbreak, Patel examines love: romantic love, familial love but most powerfully, self-love. Self-love, or lack thereof, is bleeding all over the page in such a beautiful and striking way that will pain your heart and make you reflect on how you manage self-love amidst tragedy and disappointment.
Overall, I feel like I was gifted with a glimpse into a straight man’s brain, a gay man’s brain, an insecure man’s brain and saw pieces of my own brain reflected throughout in both male and female characters. I too, have found the path to discovery as a young adult confusing and exhausting. I have had to accept that I am not a perfect person and that it isn’t my fault but I do have the ability to make choices and create my own identity outside of my family’s view of me (thank you therapy for those lessons!).
In short, you’ll enjoy/be challenged by these stories if:
you grew up in the 90s
love old school hip-hop references
feel your parents don’t get you
are the black-sheep of your fam
have a sibling who is the black-sheep of your fam
you question your drinking habits from time to time (it’s good to think about!)
you’re confused by love but also hopeful in finding it
you have a young lost love and remember every detail
you’re a young adult who is just doing their best to figure it out without losing your shit