After years in the making, local writer Debotri Dhar’s latest book, Love is Not a Word: The Culture and Politics of Desire, was supposed to be released in May. In August, Dhar had yet to see it. Covid-19 has broken supply lines, leaving the book in limbo.
Dhar, a U-M women’s studies professor, says she’s “always wanted to do a book on love.” She started curating and editing the collection of essays that “analyze the politics of love” back in 2016, and the book should have been for sale in local bookstores by now. Instead, it’s currently only available on Kindle in North America. Anyone looking for a physical copy will have to go to India, where her publisher is based. Normally, Dhar says, “you know when a book is out,” as there are launch parties and other in-person publicity events. This time, she wasn’t even properly aware the book had been released until she started getting requests for interviews.
Essays by Dhar and eleven other writers “juxtapose the personal and political” to pay tribute to all the different forms of love. While many of the essays in the book are written from an Indian point of view, the themes are relatable worldwide; topics range from fighting for LGBT+ rights to the ethical dilemma of writing love letters to trees on paper made from wood pulp.
Dhar compares the feeling of releasing a new book to what she imagines parenthood must feel like, saying holding a new book is “even better than a baby.” Now, it’s as if she’s had a five year gestation and nothing to show for it.
Back in January, when the pandemic was barely making headlines, she was just happy the book was finally getting released. Now she’s wondering if she should have waited longer. “It doesn’t usually feel like borders are stopping books,” she says. Publishing in a pandemic, however, is changing that. Dhar is hoping to finally touch a copy sometime in September.