Non-Fiction at a Glance

The Love Queen of Malabar

The Love Queen Of Malabar
Merrily Weisbord

McGill-Queen`s University Press
$32.95
paper
286pp
978-0-7735-3791-0

The Love Queen of Malabar is a biography of the later years of celebrated poet and writer Kamala Das and a chronicle of a 14-year cross-cultural friendship between the Canadian author Merrily Weisbord, and Das.

Throughout her life, Das incited controversy with her sensual poetry, her honest writings about her life and husband, and her bold opinions on almost every subject. Unexpectedly, in 2000, Das converted from Hinduism to Islam. This decision rocked her universe. Both Hindu and Muslim fanatics fought over Das, wishing to have her as their religious representative. Death threats were very much a part of this episode. It is distressing to read Weisbord’s account of this vibrant woman struggling to deal with the repercussions of her conversion. At the same time, Das is propelled into stardom in the Muslim world, a role she relishes and is well suited to.

Weisbord’s deftly recounts this part of Das’s life, but in other parts of the book, in an attempt to create a rapport with her readers, she reveals too much about Das’s personal life, particularly her sexuality. Still, it is clear Weisbord respected and cared for Das, and genuinely struggled with how to communicate who she was. And, for the most part, she has succeeded in writing a compelling and varied portrayal of a complex, contradictory, and brilliant woman.

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