Valmiki's Daughter-Existing Wholly as Yourself in a Culture that is Weighed down by Transphobia.
-She had no map of her future, but she knew who she was. She would not be diminished because of it- Viveka. This is a story of finding, acknowledging, and living freely as yourself, when the country and culture to which you belong, view your sexual identity with scorn and as deviant.
In the opening scene of Mootoo's story, one gets such detailed descriptions, that streets, statues and buildings seem to emit such a presence as to build the very atmosphere of the book, and one does wonder, with an opener like this, will there be anything left? But there is much to be discovered: a father afraid of his desires and identity – fearing his eldest daughter may experience sexual confusion or exposure to a sexual identity as he had and although he has had encounters, and continues to do so – does not want for her.
Valmiki is oppositional in his views of how Viveka carries herself, she is strong-willed which he abhors and admires and is worried by the fact that her intelligence and willfulness may make her unattractive to men. Viveka feels trapped, unable to freely express her desires for fear of retribution and being shunned by her family; she is further hindered by her parents' views and also knows that the body she exists in does not have the latitude as that of a man.
Mootoo along with outlining the slopes, dips, and curves of the island, paints a stark rendition of the classist leanings of the society. The disdain for the manual labourers, the attitudes held by the wealthy and educated, and how each plays into the societal structure of Trinidad.
It is very clear that Mootoo is making a statement when it comes to the roles that are played by her characters, whether it be because of their station in life, the status they hold in society, or the resulting shift in perception and respect from friends and family, and how those roles can be the detriment to self-actualization, self-hood, and self-identity.
The exploration of the families makes this saga engrossing: the marriages, friendships, affairs, desires, misunderstandings, hypocrises, and self-debilitating thoughts make it ever easier for readers to commiserate with these characters.