by Vivek Shraya
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Pub Date 07 Apr 2020 | Archive Date 03 Dec 2019
Everyone talks about falling in love, but falling in friendship can be just as captivating. When Neela Devaki’s song is covered by internet-famous artist Rukmini, the two musicians meet and a transformative friendship begins.
But as Rukmini’s star rises and Neela’s stagnates, jealousy and self-doubt creep in. With a single tweet, their friendship implodes, one career is destroyed, and the two women find themselves at the center of an internet firestorm.
Celebrated multidisciplinary artist Vivek Shraya’s second novel is a stirring examination of making art in the modern era, a love letter to brown women, an authentic glimpse into the music industry, and a nuanced exploration of the promise and peril of being seen.
“The Subtweet takes the topic of online life and allows it to become simply part of the lives of its fully human, complex characters. What emerges is a deeply moving tale about the relationships between artists and friends. Biting and beautiful, it’s written with heart by an essential voice.” — Jonny Sun, author of Everyone’s a Aliebn When Ur a Aliebn Too
“The Subtweet is a smart, funny, incisive, heart-crushing interrogation of art, race, friendship, social media, and the music industry. These characters and their self-destructive self-doubt are compelling, real, and vivid. I wanted to live-tweet my reading because I’m just obsessed.” — Andrea Warner, author of Buffy Sainte-Marie: The Authorized Biography
“So engaging. I can’t think of anything I’ve read that has captured Twitter culture so well. There is something special in this book that really touches on the absurdity and pressure of social media and art. I couldn’t put it down.” — Sara Quin, of Tegan and Sara
“A subtle mystery — it captures the adrenaline-filled strange alienation and over-visibility of social media, the sedimentations of racism, and the vicissitudes of female friendship. This is a literary novel as well as a hyper-contemporary one. I literally gasped.” — Erin Wunker, author of Notes from a Feminist Killjoy
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 13 members
This is my first time reading Vivek Shraya -- I've been off nonfiction for the last while, so I was excited to see that she had a novel coming out. I requested and received an advance reading copy of The Subtweet from ECW Press via NetGalley.
This is a book about women, friendship, music, race, social media culture, and Toronto. I read it quickly and really enjoyed it. The story contains a lot of dialogue and moves fast, partly by jumping over periods of time. I *loved* that there was no love interest, not once in all of the connections and conversations between the individual women here (main characters Neela and Rukmini, and secondary characters Sumi, Kasi, Malika, Zuhur, and Hayley). These women, like actual IRL women, have other things to talk about. Refreshing.
For the record, I'm a white cis woman who is closer to fifty than thirty. I appreciated the ways Shraya raised and addressed issues that face women of colour in the music industry as well as in the workplace, the classroom, etc., and I'm looking forward to reading own voices reviews of this book by other women of colour. I'm also curious to see whether The Subtweet appeals to readers who don't have a background in feminist theory and gender/women's studies, as it's heavy on name-dropping from the feminist canon. I hope readers who aren't familiar with these names aren't put off or made to feel like they're not booksmart or educated enough to read it.
Finally, when I got to the end of the book, I was happy to find a link to a soundtrack, because of course I had been wishing I could hear the music that was at the centre of the story.
THE SUBTWEET is the perfect novel for our time. Obviously, thanks to the title, the plot and relationships are rooted in social media and now technology affections our communication. But the story is also about culture clashes, women of color finding their place in a white-dominated music industry, and prejudice and jealousy from all types of people. I loved following the main characters, Neela and Rukmini, as they develop a friendship and deal with the consequences of artistic and professional jealousy. The fact that many of the plot's twists and turns happen on social media made the story all the more delicious, and I love curling myself into the pages and the world Shraya created.
The book is set in Toronto among the indie music scene there (something I know very little about). One of my only complaints about this book is that I wish I could have heard the music Neela and Rukmini made! The descriptions of the songs are so vivid and imaginative, it made me wish I could flip over to Spotify to hear them myself. I also loved that this one of those few books solely about female friendships; there was truly no romance in this story and I didn't miss it. The story is so grounded in reality it easily seems like the story is something you read about on Twitter yesterday. The writing is fresh, the book is solid, and my rating is 5 stars!