2021 Dublin Literary Award Finalist
2021 Lambda Literary Awards Finalist for Transgender Fiction
2020 Toronto Book Awards Finalist
“The Subtweet is affecting, unnerving, empowering, and often truly LOL.” — Foreword Reviews, starred review
“A beautifully crafted novel about race, music, and social media.” — Booklist
Includes an exclusive free soundtrack
Celebrated multidisciplinary artist Vivek Shraya’s second novel is a no-holds-barred examination of the music industry, social media, and making art in the modern era, shining a light on the promise and peril of being seen.
Indie musician Neela Devaki has built a career writing the songs she wants to hear but nobody else is singing. When one of Neela’s songs is covered by internet artist RUK-MINI and becomes a viral sensation, the two musicians meet and a transformative friendship begins. But before long, the systemic pressures that pit women against one another begin to bear down on Neela and RUK-MINI, stirring up self-doubt and jealousy. With a single tweet, their friendship implodes, a career is destroyed, and the two women find themselves at the centre of an internet firestorm.
About the author
Vivek Shraya is the author of the young-adult collection God Loves Hair, the novel She of the Mountains, the poetry book even this page is white, and the children's picture book (with Rajni Perera) The Boy & the Bindi (all published by Arsenal Pulp Press), as well as I'm Afraid of Men and What I Love About Being QUEER. She is editor of the Arsenal Pulp Press imprint VS. Books, dedicated to work by young black, Indigenous, and writers of colour. Vivek was the 2014 recipient of the Steinert & Ferreiro Award for leadership in Toronto's LGBTQ community, the recipient of Anokhi Media's inaugural Most Promising LGBTQ Community Crusader Award in 2015, a 2015 Toronto Arts Foundation Emerging Artist Award finalist, and a 2015 recipient of the Writers' Trust of Canada's Dayne Ogilvie Prize Honour of Distinction. Originally from Edmonton, she now lives in Calgary, where she is an assistant professor in the University of Calgary's Department of English.
- Nominated, Lambda Literary Award
- Long-listed, Dublin Literary Award
- Long-listed, Toronto Book Award
- Nominated, The Queerties
Excerpt: The Subtweet: A Novel (by (author) Vivek Shraya)
Neela Devaki was an original.
She was reminded of this fact shortly after she stepped out of her cab and into the Fairmont Hotel, the main site for the North by Northeast Festival. Zipping through the masses of musicians, fans and industry reps, she felt sorry for the chandeliers, which loomed above like golden flying saucers, forced to light up the dull networking that buzzed beneath them. But a conversation between two art students, draped in curated thrift wear featuring strategically placed rips and holes, brought Neela to a reluctant halt.
“I was totally working on something like this for my final project. I guess originality really is dead,” one of the women sighed, taking photos of herself, duck-faced with a pop-up art installation.
Neela skimmed the artist’s statement. The frosted toothpick statues of penises were “a comment on the current global epidemic of white demasculinization.” Why not just hang a red and white flag that said Make Art Great Again? Brevity was the true endangered species.
“You should still do it. All the good ideas are taken anyways. Isn’t that kind of freeing?” replied the other.
Neela snorted. She would never offer that sort of “comfort” to a stunted peer. No wonder she was bored with most of the art she encountered.
She considered sharing with these young women that she always knew she was on the verge of invention at the precise moment when originality felt impossible. That instead of surrendering to despair, she would needle in and out and through her brain until an idea surfaced — naked, stripped of predictability and familiarity. That this process often required her to sing a phrase over and over for hours until the syllables carved their own unique melody out of hollow air. She was certain that the reiteration planted the words in her vocal chords so that when she sang them, they carried the imprint of her body. By embedding herself into her song, she muted any risk of passing off mimicry as art. Why wasn’t fully committing to creation more desirable than observing what everyone else was doing and doing the same?
But defending the sanctity of originality to strangers at an art exhibit would make her seem like an egomaniac. And no one listens to a cocksure woman.
“A beautifully crafted novel about race, music, and social media … In this timely novel, Shraya speaks to a modern audience with bold cultural insight, confronting the difficulties of being a brown artist and the drastic impact social media can have on pop culture.” — Booklist
“With the freedom that fiction provides, Shraya took The Subtweet deep into the topics of hate-liking, social media friendships, and Internet celebrities. And the plot, as fast-paced as life on the Internet, shows clearly the way that jealousy and obsession can take shape within the open borders of the online world.” — NPR Books
“Vivek Shraya’s The Subtweet is a sharp, encompassing story … A piercing satire played out against diverse creative energies, The Subtweet is affecting, unnerving, empowering, and often truly LOL.” — Foreword Reviews, starred review
“It is clear that Shraya is pouring everything she’s learned from years of writing and making music into a text that combines rhythm and deft technique in bitingly original ways. It is equally clear in The Subtweet that Shraya is using the vehicle of fiction to hash out many of the valid frustrations she’s accumulated over years of navigating the Canadian culture scene … Shraya skilfully shows this complexity by depicting characters who are frequently ridiculous, petty, and even malicious, while simultaneously pushing readers to understand the underlying systemic factors driving their frustrating actions.” — Quill & Quire
“Writing with all the zippy thrill of good gossip.” — O, Oprah Magazine