In Sensorium: Notes for My People by Tanaïs
Pub Date: 2/22/2022
Thank you to Harper for the free finished copy in exchange for my honest review.
GoodReads Synopsis: Fragrance has long been used to mark who is civilized and who is barbaric, who is pure and who is polluted, who is free and who is damned—
Focusing their gaze on our most primordial sense, writer and perfumer Tanaïs weaves a brilliant and expansive memoir, a reckoning that offers a critical, alternate history of South Asia from an American Bangladeshi Muslim femme perspective. From stories of their childhood in the South, Midwest, and New York; to transcendent experiences with lovers, psychedelics, and fragrances; to trips home to their motherland, Tanaïs builds a universe of memories and scent: a sensorium. Alongside their personal history, and at the very heart of this work, is an interrogation of the ancient violence of caste, rape culture, patriarchy, war, and the inherited ancestral trauma of being from a lush land constantly denuded, a land still threatened and disappearing because of colonization, capitalism, and climate change.
Structured like a perfume—moving from base to heart to head notes—IN SENSORIUM interlaces eons of South Asian perfume history, erotic and religious texts, survivor testimonies, and material culture with memoir. In Sensorium is archive and art, illuminating the great crises of our time with the language of Liberation.
Review: In Sensorium is a memoir that weaves in themes of South Asian perfume history, the history of Bangladesh, and personal reflections. This memoir is told through a Bangladeshi Muslim femme perspective. Tanaïs has such beautiful and lyrical writing that discusses extremely heavy subjects ranging from survivor’s trauma, rape culture, psychedelics to ancient history of violence to name a few. A couple of the aspects that I really loved about this book was learning more about history of perfume along with learning more about history of Bangladesh. I wasn’t really drawn to the personal reflections in the novel from the author, but I understood why they put that in there and the connection/relation to scent and history which made sense. I had a difficult time reading and rating the book as there were some very polarizing views that I didn’t necessarily agree with, but as difficult as it was, I had an open mind learning more about. This isn’t a book I would recommend to everyone as there are some very heavy subjects addressed, but it’s definitely a book that needs to be amplified and we need more books like these out in the world so we can better understand perspectives outside ours.