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Antiman: A Hybrid Memoir

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Winner of the Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing, Rajiv Mohabir’s Antiman is an impassioned, genre-blending memoir that navigates the fraught constellations of race, sexuality, and cultural heritage that have shaped his experiences as an Indo-Guyanese queer poet and immigrant to the United States.

Growing up a Guyanese Indian immigrant in Central Florida, Rajiv Mohabir is fascinated by his family’s stifled Hindu history and the legacy of his ancestors, who were indentured laborers on British sugarcane plantations. In Toronto he sits at the feet of Aji, his unlettered grandmother, listening to her stories and songs in her Caribbean Bhojpuri. By now Aji’s eleven children have immigrated to North America and busied themselves with ascension, Christianity, and the erasure of their heritage and Caribbean accents. But Rajiv wants to know more: where did he come from, and why does he feel so out of place?

Embarking on a journey of discovery, he lives for a year in Varanasi, on the banks of the Ganges, perfecting his Hindi and Bhojpuri and tracing the lineage of his Aji’s music. Returning to Florida, the cognitive dissonance of confederate flags, Islamophobia, and his father’s disapproval sends him to New York, where finds community among like-minded brown activists, work as an ESL teacher, and intoxication in the queer nightlife scene. But even in the South Asian paradise of Jackson Heights, Rajiv feels like an outsider: “Coolie” rather than Desi. And then the final hammer of estrangement falls when his cousin outs him as an “antiman”—a Caribbean slur for men who love men—and his father and aunts disown him.

But Rajiv has learned resilience. Emerging from the chrysalis of his ancestral poetics into a new life, he embraces his identity as a poet and reclaims his status as an antiman—forging a new way of being entirely his own. Rapturous, inventive, and devastating in its critique of our own failures of inclusion, Antiman is a hybrid memoir that helps us see ourselves and relationships anew, and announces an exciting new talent in Rajiv Mohabir.

ISBN-13: 9781632062802

Media Type: Hardcover

Publisher: Restless Books

Publication Date: 06-22-2021

Pages: 352

Product Dimensions: 5.80(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.30(d)

Rajiv Mohabir is the author of Cutlish (Four Way Books 2021), The Cowherd’s Son (2017, winner of the 2015 Kundiman Prize) and The Taxidermist’s Cut (2016, winner of the Four Way Books Intro to Poetry Prize and finalist for the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry in 2017), and translator of I Even Regret Night: Holi Songs of Demerara (1916) (2019), which received a PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grant Award and the Harold Morton Landon Translation Award from the Academy of American Poets. His essays can be found in places like Asian American Writers Workshop’s The Margins, Bamboo Ridge Journal, Moko Magazine, Cherry Tree, Kweli, and others, and he has a “Notable Essay” in Best American Essays 2018. Currently he is an Assistant Professor of poetry in the MFA program at Emerson College. His debut memoir, Antiman, won the Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“Rajiv Mohabir achieves a gorgeous, passionately lyrical ‘hybrid’ of a memoir-mosaic, sojourning through straightforward narrative, multifold geographies and legacies, and evocative (and provocative) vulnerable reflections, all infused with a deeply yearning poetical heartbeat. Antiman lives, breathes, and dances in unbridled joy.”

—Thomas Glave, author of Among the Bloodpeople

“In this highly-saturated and multi-textured memoir, Rajiv Mohabir invents a mode to encompass the complexities of his existence as an Indo-Guyanese poet who is ‘queer sexually, queer religiously, queer by caste, and queer countried.’ With an intergenerational life story marked by various migrations—and some may say, transgressions—Mohabir, here, carves a vessel to contain his multitudes using the instruments of prose, song, poetry, and prayer. Authentic and defiant, this memoir responds to erasure with assertion, to derogation with reclamation, and to fragmentation with relation. Fans of Ocean Vuong, Alexander Chee, and Saeed Jones will adore this book!"

—Serena Morales, Books Are Magic (Brooklyn, NY)

“Rajiv Mohabir’s Antiman is a powerful portrait of the artist as a young, brown, immigrant, queer man and is my favorite kind of book, prose written by a poet. Mohabir’s writing is stunningly beautiful and profoundly moving. Aware that his grandmother’s voice and the ‘broken’ languages she speaks will soon disappear forever, he records her songs and dedicates himself to transcribing and translating his grandmother’s words, this careful attention and pleasure in language birthing his life as a poet…. This book stops time to celebrate voices worth remembering.”

—Grace Talusan, author of The Body Papers

“With highly engaging prose poetry, Mohabir’s hybrid memoir is a rhythmic and tantalizing beat of exploration, longing, and yearning. Having grown up under the mystical beauty of his grandmother’s Bhojpuri as well as her Guyanese Creole, he sets off on a journey that will change his life forever. Told in sentences charged with beauty and rage, we get an unapologetic account of a life that thrums in our veins, building to a drumbeat that starts in the Caribbean and explodes into the world.”

—Krystal A. Sital, PEN award finalist author of Secrets We Kept: Three Women of Trinidad

“In this searing, unflinching investigation of diaspora, heritage, and personal evolution, Rajiv Mohabir has fashioned a blues that blurs the boundaries of genre, a book-song that haunts and resonates. Antiman is a potent, lyrical fusion of harmony, dissonance, and recognizance. Music lives on every page.”

—Jabari Asim, author of We Can't Breathe: On Black Lives, White Lies, and the Art of Survival

“A confluence of poetry, narrative, song, and history, Antiman is a dazzling show of literary prowess. Through the memoir, Mohabir not only strives to reclaim his intersecting identities in the face of erasure and violence—he seeks to reunite with his grandmother and extended community across time and space. In doing so, he breaks and reinvents the mold of memoir. A compelling and moving masterpiece.”

—Anna, White Whale Bookstore (Pittsburgh, PA)

Table of Contents

Author’s Note

Open the Door

Home: Prolepsis

Aji Recording: Bibah Kare

My Eyes Are Clouds

South Asian Language Summer

Aji Recording: Dunce

Evolution of a Song

Bhabhua Village


Ganga Water\



The Last Time I Cut: A Journal


Aji Recording: How Will I Go

Eh Bhai

A Family Outing, Alternative Ending 1

A Family Outing, Alternative Ending 2

A Family Outing, Alternative Ending 3

Amazon River Dolphin

Aji Recording: Song for the Lonely Season

Leaving Florida

Ardhanarishvaram Raga

Mister Javier’s Lesson Plan

Islamophic Misreadings: Some Queens Definitions

American Guyanese Diwali

Aji Recording: Love Beat Handsome

Sangam / Confluence

The Lover and the Chapbook

The Outside Workshop

Brown Inclusion: Some Queens Definitions

E Train to Roosevelt Ave Making All Local Stops in Queens

Ganga and the Snake: A Fauxtale / Ganga aur Saamp

Aji Recording: Asirbaad, Blessing

The King and the Koyal: A Fauxtale / Raja aur Kokila

My Veil’s Stain

Barsi: One Year Work


Open the Door Reprise


About the Author