Ali and Nino, with a Romantic Twist
In my poking around for information about Ali and Nino, I came across this gem, a twist on the story involving a homosexual and cross-border romance that would be forbidden in this region on so many levels. That is not something I expected to find. I haven’t talked much about homosexuality here, probably because nobody here ever talks about it besides Peace Corps Volunteers. I won’t go too in depth here, but it’s fair to say that homosexuality is not something that is accepted here, if people even know what it is. I’ve heard a friend tell me that before she went to the US to study for a year in high school, she didn’t even know that was a possibility. And another who has said that his first reaction to seeing two homosexual men together was utter disgust, and he attempted to intervene before another friend stopped him to explain.
Homosexuality is more taboo here than I’ve previously witnessed. Especially different from the attitude in Thailand. This comes from a society where same-gender contact is widely accepted. It’s not uncommon to see boys with their arms wrapped around each other, or maybe one is leaning on the other’s shoulder, or they may be sitting in the park on a bench and one has his head in the other’s lap. In other words, there’s a lot of activity here that in America would get stamped as homosexual, but here is just normal friendly behavior. Eli’s host brother, Səbuhi, regularly puts his arm in mine if we’re walking somewhere. If he ends up going to America in the FLEX program, he might have to end that practice while there. As for people actually being gay here, that certainly could not be!
So what’s going on with Artuş və Zaur? I haven’t read or found this book. I’ve just come across it on the web, and from first glance it looks like the book is trying to take on at least two huge issues in the region: Armenia and homosexuality. I’m pretty sure that these two topics are too big for one book, and trying to approach both at the same time is a herculean task. Kudos to the author for having the courage to attempt discussing both issues at the same time. The reviewer notes some reaction amongst the internet crowd:
“Who f**ked who?” – this is one of the first and apparently principal questions being discussed in forums and blogs (both Azeri and Armenian), each side wishing for ‘his guy’ to f**k ‘the enemy’. I got an impression that this question worried them more than even the fact of the main characters being gay. They are kind of ready to ‘forgive’ and ‘forget’ gay part of the story, as long as ‘their guy’ is ‘the man’ meaning he is ‘doing the enemy’. For them, it’s only black or white.
This is a pretty standard reaction to hearing about homosexuality in Azerbaijan. The underlying meaning being that he who is “giving” is not gay, while the “taker” is, and nobody wants their guy to be the gay one. And they’re obviously missing the point.
So there you go. The “Family” rating on my blog just went kaput. And unfortunately, my Azeri nor my Russian will be good enough for a while yet to be able to read through this thing. Hopefully it will fall into the hands of some mold-able minds who can take up the cause and express some real efforts toward opening minds in so many ways.